A tree pit on Graham Road before and after ‘weeding’. Photographs: Clare Qualmann

Residents have challenged Hackney Council’s green credentials after tree pits they cared for were “weeded”.

Clare Qualmann said she was shocked to see that flowers planted by residents around London Fields had been pulled up.

She said: “I’m so upset that council contractors around London Fields and Hackney central today have been ‘weeding’ tree pits, clearing out the flowers and plants that local residents have planted to brighten up the streetscape and encourage biodiversity in our borough.”

She pointed out the apparent disconnect between the actions and pledges by local politicians to tackle the climate emergency.

Louise Brewood also protested when flowers were removed from a tree pit.

She asked the council: “Why destroy a beautiful little wildlife corridor alive with bees, planted by friend, bringing joy to all – so much so that residents were planning to do it for the whole street next year?”

Gerry Tissier of the Union of Hackney Gardens said people will get demoralised if the work they do to care for tree pits and boost biodiversity “gets demolished”.

Together with Kate Poland, who writes a monthly column for the Citizen on gardening, Tissier drew up advice on how to create mini-gardens in tree pits.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on climate and emphasis on energy use,” he said. “Biodiversity is the Cinderella to that. There seems to be less focus and interest in biodiversity and there’s a real need to focus on it.”

He pointed out the “massive decline” in species such as bees, bumblebees and butterflies.

“One of the things that we can do is help nature on our streets,” he added. “That’s why it’s important that the council does not go around pulling up flowers that we have planted.”

He said greening up streets helps create corridors for many species: “Residents have worked hard to care for mini-gardens that are also miniature nature reserves. They help to create green corridors.”

He said sparrows were busy feeding on insects in a tree pit near his home.

“They need that to feed their young and tree pits can help with that,” he added.

Caroline Woodley, cabinet member with responsibility for families, parks and leisure, tweeted in response to residents’ concerns: “Sometimes pictures do tell 1,000 words and in this case [they are] all opposite to the work we’ve been doing around green infrastructure.”

She told residents she was “advised that we have clear instruction with civil and tree maintenance not to remove flowering vegetation”.

“We’re keen to find out more about how this happened,” she said.

Hackney Council has been approached for comment.