February, 2014

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!
  • Golden treasure in the garden

    A little ring of gold sparkled in the border as I walked down the path one morning this week. I looked; it looked back!

    My Blackbird has certainly been full of the joys of spring for the last three weeks, singing from well before dawn. And it is a sound that I will happily doze to, it is so rich and soulful.

    And by the look of him, he is clearly in fine fettle too. His plumage is immaculate, and the yellow of the eye-ring and bill is striking - or would be had he not been rootling around in the damp soil.

    But whereas many male birds can flash bits of coloured feathering to their females to augment their display, there is very little a Blackbird can do with an all-black plumage... or so you might think. Because now is the prime time to see bits of Blackbird behaviour that you can't see during the rest of the year.

    In the absence of showy costumes, it is all to do with posture. Yes, in good Strictly Come Dancing style, the Blackbird has some moves that he likes to show off in spring.

    If a Blackbird is displaying from a tree branch, he will sometimes do some bobbing and swaying manoeuvres.

    But it is when he is down on a ground and the object of his affection is right in front of him that he goes into full swing. Now he will ruffle up his lower back feathers is a prominent hump, spread his tail, lower his head, and sing softly, before running to and fro in front of her, twirling with excitement as he goes.

    It's not something you get to see very often, but it is these little moments that just add that little extra bit of character to a familiar face, and remind you how special our garden wildlife is.

  • Do you have unusual pollinator plant suggestions?

    Amongst all the early bulbs that are beginning to flower in my garden weeks early (and which today got splatted by an immense hailstorm), there is one plant that has been merrily flowering for the last 12 months non-stop.

    Here it is, a gorgeous little fuchsia all the way from Mexico where the little candy-pink pendant flowers, barely a centimetre long, are visited by hummingbirds.

    Now in its homeland it is thought to be a spontaenously arising hybrid, which happens from time to time in the plant world. And it is called Fuchsia x bacillaris.

    As always, I'm not going to claim things for a plant which it is not, so this is not THE best pollinator plant ever for a UK garden. But I have seen it visited by bumblebees, and it has little black berries that 'go missing' although I've yet to catch whoever it is who is munching them.

    And although it is a plant that would need a bit of protection in colder areas, maybe coming into the greenhouse in its pot during snows and hard frosts, it does have this endearing habit of just going on. And on. And on. It sits outside my conservatory window where it brightens up many a winter's day.

    I'm always on the look out for more unusual plants that are pollinator friendly - have you got any 'left-field' suggestions you'd like to share?

    (Apologies for my blogging absence last week, due to the worst case of Man-Flu you've ever seen!)