Encouraging wildlife into your garden

Encouraging wildlife into your garden

Encouraging wildlife into your garden

Bonnie Davies is an award winning garden designer who works at Burnham's family-run, Davies Brothers Nursery. Welcome to her blog where she shares her thoughts on all things green.

Nothing makes me want to get out into the garden more than the carefree sound of birds singing, as they dance between the shrubs and trees and search the area for a decent meal. It is sad then to think that many of our native species of birds, insect and some of our mammals are endangered due to loss of habitat: Of course there is not much we can do about the commercial farming practices that see our hedgerows disappearing or the ever increasing demand for housing. Just like us, birds, bees and other beneficial insects need food and shelter too.

I think as a community we could help our feathered friends by converting parts of our own back garden into a wildlife haven. Your garden doesn’t have to be big and your plans don’t have to be grand, so don’t worry because you don’t have to turn your back garden into a meadow to do your bit. 

 Hedges are a fantastic boundary and evergreens add year round interest. They give a splash of colour, and add valuable texture as well as giving the garden a sense of maturity. If all that’s not enough to convince you to swap your tired old fence for a lush hedge, they are also nature’s answer to bird boxes and some of them such as Berberis, many Conifers and Photinia ‘Red Robin’ come with a built in food supply…what a tw-eet (couldn’t resist!). If you have a cat is worth putting a bell on its collar so that the resting birdies can hear him coming.

If you don’t want to go the whole hog with a new hedge why not simply train some wall shrubs up your fence? Pyracantha is an evergreen climber which is a favourite of many birds and bears juicy berries for a fast food snack.

Wildlife ponds are home to newts, frogs, and toads who help us in our gardening quest by eating insects that are harmful to our plants. Ponds double up as a bird bath and can look stunning when surrounded by marginal planting.

Birds aren’t the only wildlife our gardens are missing; bees, hoverflies, and butterflies are all beneficial to our environment. There are so many beautiful plants that attract them; you will be just as pleased to have them in your planting scheme as the insects. Here are my top ten beneficial

Birds love: Pyracantha, Berberis, Cotoneaster, Lonicera (Honey suckle), Hedera (Ivy), Crateagus monogyna (Hawthorn), Ilex (Holly), Cornus florida (flowering Dogwood), Sambucas ‘Black Lace’ (Elderberry), Parthenocissus (Virginia creeper)

Insects love: Campanula (Canterbury Bells), Digitalis (Foxgloves), Buddleja (there are now dwarf varieties for small gardens), Aster, Armeria, Papaver (Poppy), Verbena bonariensis, Scabious, Coreopsis and Lupinus.

Wildlife loves: Alyssum, Salvia, Ageratum, Cosmos, Heliotrope, Zinnia, Verbena, Petunia,Tagete and Calendula

Ok, so we don't all have room for a wildflower meadow, but why not create a mini meadow? If you have got an old shed or any out buildings you could bring the roof to life by laying a matting of wildflowers. The matting is easy to install and designed to be instant and low maintenance…many wildflowers thrive in an exposed, sunny site so where could be better than the roof? It’s like a helipad for insects guiding them into your wildlife haven.

 Even if you are a keen gardener, I’m sure there are some days that you just can’t be bothered to get outside and do the weeding, especially when you have to tackle an overgrown wilderness of stingy nettles. Well, now you have the perfect excuse to leave the nettles where they are because together with long grasses they are a breeding ground for butterflies.

Similarly, don’t get too hung up on having the ‘perfect lawn’, because it turns out what looks perfect to us does not look as appealing to butterflies. Butterflies feed from the buttercups and other weeds that spread themselves around the lawn, and many butterfly species prefer the grass to be a bit longer as opposed to closely mown.

I know that when you see your prized Hosta devoured by greedy slugs it is hard to resist the urge to reach for the slug pellets, but it’s not just the slugs and snails that are harmed by them. They are considered a gourmet meal by many birds, but sadly, in some cases eating a poisoned slug is their last meal. It is very important that we cut down and ideally completely stop using harmful pesticides, because they may damage our hardworking bees and garden good doers as well as the bad guys. Bees are vital to our eco system because they cross pollinate our flowers so without them and their hard work we would not be able to grow the crops that sustain us. 

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the odd aphid is not much to worry about but losing nature’s helpers is. We need to understand them and work with them, out of gratitude for all the vital work they do for us. 

Happy Gardening, Bonnie x

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