June, 2013

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!
  • Have I mentioned 'Giving Nature a Home'?

    It's at this time of year that I seem to have hundreds of things I want to share about gardens and their wildlife. Will it be Giving Nature a Home, our new campaign where we're hoping everyone will be inspired to help wildlife in their gardens? Well, you'll certainly be hearing a lot more about that over the coming months. Or will it be something such as the glorious rose I found last week which is ADORED by bumblebees? (You'll have to wait until next week for that, but I think you'll want one!).

    But no, before the memory of Gardeners World Live fades, I just thought I'd share a last look at what was a really lovely event where we met so many RSPB members ('old' and new) and blog readers, and chatted about what inspiring things they get up to into their gardens.

    For example, I loved hearing from the man from Grimsby who has had success with building artificial bumblebee nestboxes using a length of hose and a buried terracotta pot half filled with straw. (It made me realise I must try harder.)

    And I really enjoyed chatting to the sisters from Wormwood Scrubs (the place, not the prison) who sound like they do marvels in their garden, including leaving the aphids for the sparrows.

    And the lady with the 30-foot high bank of slate that she wants to plant with wildlife friendly flowers - now there's a challenge!

    The Giving Nature a Home gardens we created seemed to go down really well with the public and the judges (who I'm delighted to say gave it 'Highly Commended', their top award). What I tried to do was create evocations of the wonderful diversity of RSPB nature reserves using some of the plants found there, from Ynis Hir as featured on Springwatch with its Pied Flycatchers, ferns and Welsh Poppies...

    to Bempton Cliffs with its seabird colonies but also its Thrift and Sea Campion...

    and our Sumatran work, using lots of tropical plants I grew from seed this year...

    Plus a wetland scene, a heathland scene, and a huge area showcasing our Flatford Wildlife Garden. In total, we grew about 500 plants for the stand, all in peat free compost.

    Thanks very much everyone who dropped by - it was a wonderful prelude to the following week's national RSPB launch of Giving Nature a Home. 'Giving Nature a Home' - I must remember to tell mention that some time!

  • What happens when you look a bit harder

    I hope many of you had a bash at the Garden Bioblitz the weekend before last. The simple idea was just to see what wildlife you could find in your garden, even if you didn't know what it was, and then submit your sightings online.

    I was working that weekend, but fitted in a couple of half hour sessions, and it was fascinating. Too often I'm just 'too busy' in the garden to really take notice of what is going on, but now I forced myself to follow every movement, the see if I could get closer to every insect that buzzed by, or turn over every leaf.

    I'd seen this hoverfly over the pond regularly, and admired its tiger-striped back, but never stopped to find out what it is:

    It turns out to be Helophilus pendulus. As my hoverfly book says, "Common and very widespread...Adults may occur around the shallow margins of ponds."

    Or how about this little hoverfly, which I never saw settled but which I manged to photograph in flight in my 'woodland garden':

    With his little yellow 'rucksack', I thought he's got to be identifiable. It turns out he's called Sphaerophoria. I won't remember the Latin name for longer than a minute, but it's nice to put a name to him and find out why he is in my garden. There are several species that look very similar, but these are insects of dry grassland and woodland rides. The larvae are aphid eaters.

    And then I found this:

    Yes, a ladybird, but a small one, with a polka-dot head and ten spots on its back. Ah, at last, a name I can remember! - the 10-spot Ladybird. This is a woodland species, so I was thrilled that he/she had decided to visit my woodland garden. And another aphid eater too - I've got a little army out there it seems doing my pest control for me.

    And all of it a reminder that we're surrounded by such wonderful diversity...and so much of it just beyond our back door.

  • The RSPB’s Gardeners World garden becomes reality at last...

    Hello, the below is direct from Adrian at Gardeners World Live!

    You only really learn about something by doing it, and I can now say I’m that much wiser about what it takes to build a wildlife garden for a public show. I’m at BBC Gardeners World Live, the garden I designed last autumn has finally turned into reality, and I’m glad to say it actually looks exactly like what I had planned.

    Already several hundred people have wandered through the garden, and the signs are that they’re loving what they see.

    The whole premise of the garden is to give people a flavour of the huge variety, beauty and value of RSPB nature reserves where we create amazing homes for nature. They get to see a condensed version of flowering heathers at Arne, the Springwatch woodland at Ynis Hir, irises flowering at Middleton Lakes, Bempton Cliffs complete with sounds and bird-filled cliffs, and a humid evocation of the RSPB’s Sumatran jungle project.

    But they also get to see a much more familiar garden as epitomised by our Flatford Wildlife Garden, with the aim that visitors are inspired to make their own home for nature in their own garden.

    I need to thank to a whole host of people, as it took fifteen of us – nine staff and six volunteers – two long days to set up the stand.

    • Claire Hoskins-Blount from The Lodge masterminded the logistics.
    • A wonderful team of volunteers – Chris, Ken, Graham and Alan – turned all my vague drawings of structures into three dimensional reality (including a 3-metre high tardis), and Malcolm and Pam came to help them set it up.
    • And Shirley Boyle and her team of volunteers at Flatford grew most of the hundreds of flowers for her section of the stand, with Shirley designing the planting layout.

    The toadpoles survived the journey from my pond; the plants are all labelled, watered and looking surprisingly happy still under the artificial lights; and I’m just off for a lie-down on the gorgeous Flatford timber bench. Just give me a shake when you pop by...

    Gardeners World Live at the NEC in Birmingham is open until Sunday 16 June.