CONFIDENCE – I am lucky enough to live in a rural area within easy reach of various country footpaths, which take you through different natural habitats. There are woodland walks, a coastal path, grassland areas and one or two large ponds with all the associated wildlife. Each area has it’s own natural beauty and the wild plants can easily compete in shape form and colour with the cultivated varieties.
When planning a wildlife garden it is a good idea to visit any country walks or parks in your area, so that you can get an idea of what natural species grow there, and the type of wildlife that lives in your area. You can then plan your garden around what is found naturally in your neighbourhood.
To attract birds you need to provide plants that offer shelter, food and nesting spaces. Along with this you should incorporate water for them to drink. This can either be in the form of a pond, ornamental bird baths or simply tubs filled with water scattered around the garden.
There are plenty of plants that can be grown in your garden that are both attractive and good food sources for the local bird population. Mountain ash (Rowan) provides an abundance of berries in the autumn which birds love. Dog woods, pheasant berry, viburnum and cotoneasters will also provide your birds with berries. Perennials flowers provide seeds for other birds. Sunflowers are a good example of these.
Birds that visit your garden feed in different ways and levels, so you will want to provide plants of differing heights. Robins will scavenge on the ground looking for worms, grubs and insects. Finches and other seed eaters will be in amongst your perennials looking for seeds. Some birds such as woodpeckers prefer to be up in the tree tops.
Along with birds there is plenty of other wildlife that you can attract to your garden. Butterfly’s are no longer as common as they once were, so why not plant something like lavender, geraniums, hebe or a buddleja (Butterfly Bush) or two to attract them. These plants not only provide butterfly’s with food, but also produce attractive flowers, and in some cases a pleasant fragrance throughout the summer.
Bees are another form of wildlife that has been having problems in the last few years. Many people are nervous of bees, but they are in fact gentle creatures and will not sting unless provoked. Potentilla, penstemons, heathers, Lamium and ceanothus are always frequently visited by bees.
A pond in the garden will always attract a fair amount of wildlife. Frogs, toads and newts will always find your pond and move in. You will also attract a number of insects, some of which are quite beautiful such as dragonflies and damselflies. Other birds and animals will also visit the garden to grab a quick drink.
Maintaining a wildlife garden is a little less time consuming than some other garden styles. Trees and shrubs can be left to grow naturally. Shrubs only need pruning once or twice a year to encourage new growth. Perennials should be left to go to seed and tidied up in the spring before new growth starts.
Weeding can be less of a chore as well. I like to leave many of the weeds in place unless they are causing a problem and taking over. Many of the weeds have attractive flowers and provide food for the wildlife that visits your garden.
When designing your garden you want to create plenty of areas that your wildlife can take shelter in so that it feels safe from predator attack. Trees and dense shrubs are ideal for this. Try to use natural curves instead of straight lines, and don’t manicure you plants.