Amongst other significant contributions, Frances was fundamental in obtaining nearly £20,000 from the Big Tree Plant funding scheme provided by DEFRA (Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs) and the Forestry Commission to increase the number of trees planted in cities, towns and neighbourhoods, and organising the planting throughout the Borough. The aim was to involve as many local people as possible in planting and looking after trees in their neighbourhood. Between 2012 and 2015, 4,780 trees were planted in 15 separate locations such as schools, parks, nature conservation areas, open spaces and streets. Most of these trees were planted by local Tree Wardens as well as other voluntary groups and local people.
The Buckingham Palace Gardens, which date back to 1609, cover nearly 40 acres including a 3 acre lake and approximately 2.5 miles of gravel paths. They are managed by 8 full time gardeners and a number of part time ones.
The Gardens contain a wide selection of decorative flowering trees and shrubs, notably a 170 metre long herbaceous border. The rhododendrons and azaleas made a very colourful backdrop to the wide expanses of immaculate lawn and imposing trees. This colour will be replaced by the hybrid tea and floribunda roses in the rose garden later in the season.
There are more than 200 mature trees throughout the Garden including the magnificent London Plane, many of which were planted in the 1820's (commissioned by King George IV). Amongst the other interesting species of trees are silver maple, swamp cypress and Indian chestnut.
The Garden is a nesting site for many native birds and the great crested grebe has set up home on an island in the lake for the last few years. The lake also provides a refuge for water birds including coots, moorhens, shelduck, mallard and geese. Captive birds include ruddy shelduck together with red-breasted and emperor geese. A small waterfall installed in 1991 circulates the lake water. Looking over the serene lake it felt strange to see several very large cranes and towering modern glass office blocks so nearby.
This very special Garden is an oasis for wildlife in the heart of London with a wealth of flora and fauna. A survey of the Garden by the London Natural History Society revealed some quite rare species of flora and fauna. Two species of fungi new to science were discovered, including a small mushroom found growing in a bed of holly bushes.
The Queen's Garden is environmentally friendly. All grass clippings, prunings and leaves from the Garden, as well as some of the horse manure from the adjacent Royal Mews, are recycled on site. No herbicides are used at the Queen's express request.
In addition to the broad stretches of well managed lawns there is a long grass policy in certain areas to increase the diversity of habitats. At the base of the mature trees there were large circles of mulch which helps moisture retention and prevent compaction.
Frances and Peter had ample time to explore the delights and pleasures of the Garden before partaking in a cup of tea with delicious bite sized cakes and particularly tasty cucumber sandwiches with a sprig of mint and excellent organic strawberry ice cream.
With 8,000 people attending, there was a lot of craning of necks and standing on tip toes to catch a glimpse of the Queen but Frances and Peter were privileged to have been able to attend the event in this the year of the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations.