June, 2010

Homes for Wildlife

Homes for Wildlife
If you love the creatures in your garden, you'll love our Homes for Wildlife project. This is the place to ask and answer questions about making your backyard wildlife-friendly.

Gardening for wildlife

Follow the adventures of Adrian Thomas, our wildlife gardening expert, and be inspired to create your own wildlife haven on your doorstep. Adrian posts here every Monday and Friday without fail, so make it a date and drop by!
  • Blotched but beautiful

    There is just SO much I could talk about, it's such an amazing month for garden wildlife. It thought I'd do 'Plant of the Day', but events today have instead prompted me to be extravagant and go for 'Moth of the Day'!

    The thing is that I had the pleasure of visiting some friends this morning who had borrowed my moth trap overnight in their meadowside garden. And here was perhaps the pick of the bunch that it attracted (left).

    Now we don't have many green moths, and to find one with its wings outstretched like this shows that it is an 'emerald' moth of some sort.

    And those 'nibbled' markings, which are one of evolution's clever tricks of pretending to be a slightly damaged leaf, immediately pick this out as the Blotched Emerald.

    Found throughout much of England and eastern Wales*,it's mainly a woodland moth whose caterpillars feed on oaks. My friends have a lovely teenage oak in their garden, and it's nice to think that this could have been a homegrown visitor.

    Anyway, with the other 15 species in the trap to add to the haul, they were delighted and I was too. As we unearthed each moth hiding among the egg boxes within the trap, it gave us that exciting sense that gardens are so alive with all sorts of hidden wildlife.

    *Sorry Scotland, I've excluded you again. But at least you can keep an eye out for Common, Large or Grass Emeralds, which all reach up as far as you.



  • It’s all going on behind the butterfly scenes

    I promised that today’s blog would be a butterfly blog, but what a strange time to do it – there’s hardly a butterfly to be seen at the moment.

    The reason is that we’re in the ‘June lull’. The spring butterflies are largely over, and the summer ones are yet to emerge.

    But of course, while the adults may be nowhere to be seen, the butterflies are still out there, only in less obvious forms – eggs, caterpillars and, for many of them by now, chrysalises.

    And there lies one of the big challenges of gardening for butterflies. If all you do is provide nectar for the adults, then you are relying on some other garden or part of the countryside to be the breeding ground. Yes, you're leaving success in someone else's hands!

    Actually producing some home-grown butterflies is the gold medal performance – but requires more skill than just providing nectar plants.

    So here’s one plant for almost* all gardens to try and get butterflies breeding – Hop Humulus lupulus   This is a main foodplant of Comma caterpillars. It’s easy to grow, and will scramble vigorously up a high trellis or into a tree happily in a season, before dying down to ground level for the winter. It's also easy to grow from tip cuttings, so you can share it with neighbours and friends.

    The result?

    This (note designed to look like a bird dropping - cunning!).


    And then this.


    (*Sorry, Scotland - Commas are still rather rare up in your neck of the woods)

  • Massed passion at Gardeners World Live

    Well, that was good fun! Hello to everyone I got to speak to at Gardeners World Live in Birmingham this weekend, and apologies if I missed anyone as I gadded about through the crowds doing my various talks (and buying plants!).

    I'll add in photos for you to peruse of the RSPB stand and some of the show gardens once they're downloaded, but here were my headlines:

    * RSPB volunteers had done a brilliant job in growing most of the plants used on the Highly Commended RSPB stand (left). It was an 8 metre by 8 metre representation of the habitats on RSPB nature reserves (complete with 6 foot high Avocet). It might not have been as slick as the sponsored show gardens, but the RSPB team certainly showed how to do things with passion.

    * I always like to see which show garden is actually working hardest for wildlife, and interestingly it was the 'Best in Show' Girl Guiding garden. Their simple design stuffed with poppies, Corn Marigolds and Cornflowers was buzzing with bees and hoverflies

    * My favourite part of any show is the Floral Marquee, seeing amazing garden plants and people's response to them. So I felt extra privileged (and slightly daunted) to give a talk there about plants for bees and butterflies on the 'Ask the Expert' stage.

    * And it was great to be able to speak to so many people passionate about of gardening for wildlife, and to hear their tips. The recommendation that Photinia 'Red Robin' is great for bees, for example, has been duly noted...and is now passed on to you all!