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A Wildlife Friendly Garden

A diverse range of orange and purple plants for a wildlife friendly garden

A garden that favours plants and greenery over hard landscaping has a greater appeal to wildlife and makes us feel good too.

There is a misconception that a wildlife friendly garden needs to be unkempt, messy and untouched by us. Yes – the more unkempt and untouched by humans your garden is, the wilder it will be, but an organised and looked after space that is managed sensitively can also be beneficial for wildlife.

This is good news for my clients, the majority of who specify that they want a garden that welcomes wildlife. It makes me feel positive to know that people care about our natural environment and are trying to make a positive impact. Our natural surroundings are so important and our gardens make up a large portion of our urban green spaces.

A slow worm on bare soil in a garden

Gardening with wildlife in mind isn't difficult. No matter what style of garden you want or what size of garden you have, there is always something you can do to increase the appeal to wildlife. If you're feeling uninspired and unsure what to do get in touch with a professional (like me) or have a look at these handy guides produced by the Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB.

Both charities outline how important our gardens are for wildlife and in turn how this connection to the natural world benefits us too. By greening up our gardens and favouring real plants over hard landscaping and fake lawns we're making a positive impact on our local environment.

Green spaces in our urban environments also help us out in times of extreme weather. Excess rainfall is more likely to be absorbed into healthy soils filled with plants. Trees and shrubs absorb pollution and clean our air for us and greenery also helps to cool down our gardens and houses in times of excess heat.

On top of all this, green space makes us feel good and provides habitat and food for wildlife too.

But what steps can we take to green up our gardens and encourage wildlife?

The easiest thing to do to encourage wildlife into your garden is to garden sensitively. Avoid the use of harmful chemicals and provide habitat and food for as much garden wildlife as you can.

A mint moth on a Sweet Cecily leaf in a wildlife friendly garden

In a larger space you could create borders filled with a mix of shrubs, grasses and perennials. Plant trees with spring blossom and winter berries (rowan, crab apple, cherry and plum are all good choices). Build a log pile to create additional habitat. Build a pond or incorporate bird baths or other types of water feature. You may also have a section of lawn that you can leave unmown to encourage wildflowers such as oxeye daisy, clover and knapweed which all produce nectar for various pollinating insects.

For smaller spaces you can add a small water feature (even a bird bath will have an impact) along with a small selection of shrubs and perennials and even a small garden tree. A bird feeder can be hung from a tree or placed on a small lawn or courtyard. You can attach bird boxes to fences or walls.

In a small courtyard or balcony think about vertical planting. Climbers will happily scramble up a post or trellis. Set up a bird feeder or a bug hotel and put out pots filled with herbs and flowers for a passing bee or hoverfly to alight on.

My own garden is a space that I share with wildlife and I love nothing more than sitting quietly and watching the sparrows and other garden birds flit about. I am frequently mesmerised by the bumblebees and other insects that buzz around in search of pollen and nectar.

A small bumblebee on a Knautia macedonica flower

I've created levels and layers within my garden. I've factored in areas for wildlife to hide away and shelter in and have made provisions for food and water. I've prioritised green space over hard landscaping, installing a paved terrace for sitting and eating outside while giving the rest of the garden over to generous garden borders and smaller sections of lawn. I've added wild grass seeds to my lawn and leave patches to grow long each year.

In your garden or outdoor space ensure that anything you do will have a positive impact. Diversity is key so mix up your planting and include groups of perennials that will return every year. Choose trees and shrubs that will be good for birds, moths, butterflies and other insects. Use self-seeding nectar rich annuals to fill any gaps.

Be sensitive and mindful to the habits of the wildlife in your garden.

Even if you can only include a couple of shrubs and perhaps one small tree, plan and choose what you do decide to include well and you will be surprised at how much wildlife you attract. Birds will be encouraged in with a tree to perch in, nesting material to forage, a source of water for drinking and bathing and a filled bird feeder. If you have room for only a few pots – plant them up thoughtfully so that any passing bee can stop for a little rest and a feed.

Perhaps most importantly. Take your time. Plan. Don't rush. A garden is a space that constantly changes and it's important to sit back from time to time and simply enjoy it and the wildlife you share it with.


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