JENNY STEEL Create a Wildlife Friendly Garden




How to Create a Wildlife Friendly Garden - BBC Easy Gardening

Growing the 10 Best Plants for Wildlife in your Garden - BBC Gardens Illustrated

A Flavour of April in your Wildlife Friendly Garden - Country and Border Life

The Rural Craft of Hedgelaying in Dorset - The Countryman

Managing your Garden in October  - Country and Border Life

The Historic Welsh Gardens of Plas Tan y Bwlch - The Countryman

Looking after the Bees in your Garden - Daily Express

Making Wildlife Ponds the Easy Way - Daily Express

Wings over Mull - a Centre for Birds of Prey - The Countryman

A New Garden for Wildlife with Butterflies in Mind - Butterfly Conservation

The Wildlife Art of Ian and Richard Lewington - Limited Edition Magazine

'I went to Noke and Nobody Spoke' - Fascinating Otmoor - Limited Edition Magazine

Gardening on the Wild Side of Town - New Consumer Magazine

Peter Parks and the Great Rainforest Project - Limited Edition Magazine

The Countryside in January - Limited Edition Magazine

The Countryside in May - Limited Edition Magazine

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All around the country attitudes to gardening are changing.  With our new found interest in things organic many gardeners, especially first-timers, are looking at their outdoor spaces with new eyes.  A garden need not simply be a tranquil place to sit and chill out or entertain friends on a sunny day.  It can also be a habitat for all sorts of wildlife that enhances its interest throughout the year - a place for children to learn about nature and a valuable refuge for birds, mammals, amphibians and insects.  Gardens are becoming important mini-sanctuaries for all sorts of creatures.

 Making our gardens more wildlife friendly isnít difficult.  It simply requires making a few changes to the way you manage your garden and the things you plant.  Wildlife gardening can even reduce your work load and the smallest garden can contribute to this ecological revolution.  The single most important change you can make to encourage wildlife is to use fewer chemicals.  Once youíve made that decision, you will be well on the way to creating your own back garden nature reserve.  Try a few of the ideas below and your garden could soon be alive with bees and butterflies, hedgehogs and toads, warblers and woodpeckers Ė in fact all the really useful wildlife that helps to make our gardens healthy and balanced habitats.

 Hedge your Bets   Hedges provide corridors for wildlife to wander in safety from one garden to another and are major wildlife attractions.  Even a standard privet hedge, trimmed regularly to keep it thick, will provide nesting places for birds like greenfinches or dunnocks.  You can make privet more attractive by planting a wild honeysuckle or dog rose at the base, to add a scramble of colourful scented flowers to attract bees, bumblebees or moths. Honeysuckle berries and wild rose hips will also make a tasty meal for a thrush or blackbird.  Make sure your new climber is well watered while it is establishing, but once it is settled it will thrive in the driest conditions.

 If you have the space for a new hedge, go for a mixture of native wild shrubs to provide nectar and pollen for insects in spring, berries for mammals and birds in the autumn, and fantastic prickly nesting places for birds like song thrushes.  A tapestry of native shrubs looks great in the autumn when the leaves take on a range of colours from red and gold to buttery yellow.  Plant your hedge in late autumn or winter with bare rooted plants if you can get them.  They will grow away quickly in the spring and soon provide a colourful and varied boundary thatís teaming with life.  Leave the bottom of your hedge undisturbed, or add fallen leaves in the autumn to provide shelter for mammals.

Bees in the Borders There are places around even the smallest garden where a wildlife friendly plant or two can be squeezed in.  The odd plant here or there is a good way to start, but if you can find a bit more room, plant in blocks of 3 or 5 for greater impact.  Insects are attracted by colour and scent, so the more plants in a group, the easier they will be to find. 

If your garden is the size of a pocket handkerchief, plant wildlife friendly bedding or easy-to-grow annuals in pots on the patio or in a window box.  Insects will appreciate Violas, Petunias, French marigolds or Tagetes, or you can sow seeds of poached egg plant, baby

blue eyes or Californian poppy directly into containers in a sunny spot.

Shrubs, Trees, Insects and Birds  Hedges are great, but an ornamental tree or shrub can also have an important place in a wildlife garden.  Here again with some careful planning you can include an attractive feature plant that also encourages wildlife and gives structure to the garden.  Trees like ornamental crab apples (Malus), rowans and whitebeams (Sorbus) all provide food for birds, especially redwings and fieldfares (the migrant thrushes that visit our gardens in the winter) but they wonít grow too big for the average garden.  Most willows are bird magnets, and have many small insects living on them - food for bluetits, warblers and all sorts of smaller birds.  Willows can be cut back hard every year to keep them small if necessary.

Berried shrubs like Berberis, Cotoneaster and Pyracantha will also have the thrushes fighting over the fruit, especially if you choose varieties with red rather than yellow berries.  A good start would be Cotoneaster horizontalis, the Herringbone Cotoneaster which is an excellent wildlife shrub providing food and shelter.

Mighty Meadows Wildflower meadows are fantastic wildlife habitats.  Several species of butterfly including meadow brown and gatekeeper, lay their eggs on native grasses and wildflowers like field scabious and knapweed provide nectar and pollen for a whole range of insects and seeds for finches.  Meadows also provide shelter for lots of wildlife including moths, grasshoppers, grass snakes and baby frogs.  To make a really successful meadow you need to start by sowing a seed mixture into poor bare soil in a sunny spot, but even leaving an area of grass un-mown through the summer will make a habitat for many creatures. You may find this simple change provides a place for a hedgehog to make his day time nest.  At dusk he could be out and about searching your garden for the caterpillars, beetles and slugs that make up a large part of his diet.

Water for Wildlife Water in the wildlife garden is one of the absolute necessities, whether itís a small wildlife pond, or an upturned dustbin lid.   There is just one requirement that is crucial: there must be easy and safe access to the water.  If a proper wildlife pond is not possible then an old fashioned bird bath will bring the birds flocking to drink and bathe.  Many water features such as pebble fountains have shallow water and are quite acceptable to sparrows and starlings and even the odd frog.  For a full range of fascinating creatures though, a wildlife pond is an absolute must.  

© Copyright Jenny Steel 2017