by Richard Jones

I'm on my way through the old city of Strasbourg, and gardens here are vanishingly small.

Car surrounded by foliage, StrasbourgI'm on my way through the old city of Strasbourg, and gardens here are vanishingly small. The occasional secret courtyard houses a giant ginkgo or has its walls swathed in lobelia and Virginia creeper. The breakfast patio at the Hotel du Dragon has a tight-pruned lime and a small cypress. Nevertheless, the city is splashed all over with natural colour as sills, walls, yards and railings are covered with pots and window boxes.

Some buildings in the rickety 'old quarter' are so bedecked they look as if they have erupted out of the ground, dragging cascades of geranium and morning glory up with them on to every available level surface. Even the bridges that clutter the L'Ill, a tributary of the Rhine that encircles the city, are lined with pots and planters.

I'm surprised, though, to see little sign of wildlife at any of these flower pots - just a lone honeybee and a couple of pigeons.

It is only down by the river's edge that I can see what I might call real wildlife in a garden. A tiny concrete balcony-cum-quay, the size of a single bed has been so enthusiastically decorated with plant containers that the table and chair are lost in herbage.

Several hoverflies and bumblebees are visiting the flowers. Chaffinches and sparrows flit noisily through the climbers, no doubt they take sustenance at the cafe/bistros in the square next door, but here is where they roost and maybe nest.

And hidden in a narrow side alley, thick with natural vegetation as well as garden escapes is something you might only find in the largest rural garden, but here has made their home in the smallest city corner - a pair of ducks.

Slightly untidy, overgrown, partially neglected and out of passing view, this narrow plot might be the most promising wildlife zone I can see. But like so many such plots in cities the world over, humans see little value in it and have parked a car there instead.

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Gardeners' World Web User 03/08/2011 at 12:27

And yet cities seem to offer more nectar and pollen for the bees and butterflies, or so researchers at Bristol university are hoping to prove. Perhaps the fields outside Strasbourg have a wider variation of food plants than our vast sheets of oil-seed rape. But it does sound very beautiful, Richard, and well done on finding the ducks. We were thrilled when a pair of mallards came to feed in our man-made lake at the Botanic garden.

Gardeners' World Web User 10/08/2011 at 21:03

Gracious, Richard, are we the only bloggers interested in going international?

Gardeners' World Web User 12/08/2011 at 08:41

I felt I was back in Kenya the other day when twigs with eucalyptus berries on kept dropping on my head as I was weeding in my fernery under my huge tree. It was a squirrel playing in the branches just like the monkeys used to do in Nairobi. The geckos up the walls in the foyers of hotels used to delight my children.

Gardeners' World Web User 12/08/2011 at 15:26

has anybody had problem with there busy lizzies,mine have died of already or they are very thin and small a very poor season,and i have used levington compost,any ideas?.

Gardeners' World Web User 12/08/2011 at 16:05

I too have rubbishy Bizzy Lizzies this year...

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