Hedges encourage wildlife, particularly
hawthorn, which produces berries that are
a rich source of food for birds. Ivy is another
good wildlife plant as it produces nectar and
pollen in the autumn after many other flowers
have died, and has berries that ripen in late
winter when there are few other fruits and
seeds available to birds.
All photographs © Richard Burkmar
Top to bottom
A tortoiseshell butterfly and
a male siskin on peanut feeder
According to the Wildlife Trust, there are
15 million gardens in the United Kingdom,
covering around two million acres. Gardens
are more than just a collection of plants.
They can also provide food, shelter and
breeding sites for a wide range of animals,
and represent an extremely valuable
resource in providing habitats for wildlife.
One of the best ways is to install a pond,
preferably in a sunny place away from
trees. At least one side should slope, so
that amphibians can escape onto land,
and preferably have a muddy border in
which bog plants can grow.
It should also have a shallow margin to
provide a drinking and bathing area for birds
and other animals, and it does not have to
be lavish. It could be a do-it-yourself version
or a preformed structure bought from your
local garden centre. However, the larger
the pond, the wider the range of wildlife
and plants that can be encouraged into it.
Early spring is an ideal time to start a
pond so that it is available to be colonised by
amphibians and pond insects as they emerge
after the winter. There are also native plants
that can grow near water, such as lady’s
smock, which is a food plant of the orangetip
butterfly. Dragonflies develop as nymphs
in water, but they need tall vertical plants
to climb up, so that when the adult
dragonflies emerge, they can expand
their wings properly.
Although ponds need maintenance
for weeding, do not go to the extreme of
cleaning it out completely to get rid of the
algae. This will only grow again, and in
the interim you will lose the wildlife .
Early Autumn is a good time to remove
excess pond plants, but when doing so, leave
the debris on the side for a day or two to give
any animals hidden in it time to sort
themselves out and go back into the water.
Not only are compost heaps useful for
recycling weeds and plant trimmings, but they
are also likely to be teeming with invertebrate
wildlife. Even the odd slug is better here than
eating your plants!
If you have any logs or indeed a woodpile,
these, particularly if kept in the shady, cool part
of the garden, will become a haven for wildlife.
Making holes of 2-8mm diameter
in the timber will provide nesting places for
solitary bees and wasps.
Trees with rot holes are also important
habitats. If you are thinking of cutting down a
tree because it has a deep cavity, you might
consider just lopping off the top above
the hole so that the remaining trunk is
no longer dangerous.
Plants growing in the lawn, although
often thought of as weeds, do have their
uses. Dandelions, for example, produce
nectar and pollen for bees. Nettles are food
for the caterpillars of three common garden
butterflies although, unfortunately, the nettles
need a prime spot in the sun to attract egglaying
Putting a nesting box in the garden will
provide endless days of pleasure observing
the goings-on in the box. However, this
needs to be strategically placed to avoid
the nests being raided by predators such
as squirrels, cats and magpies.
The Wildlife Trust’s guide to wildlife
gardening can be downloaded from their
website www.wildlifetrusts.org and a look at
www.wildaboutgardens.org will prove useful.
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