August, 2015

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!
  • It's all gone fruity

    I'm heavy with cold at the moment (it's probably better than being heavy with child, I guess), but that's not stopping me taking my 'morning constitutional' - a leisurely walk around the garden.

    In fact, with the sun shining this morning after seemingly days of heavy rain, it was probably the best therapy going - and I need to get better because there's a large pond that needs digging before the ground really turns to mush.

    The sun soon brought out the Speckled Wood butterflies, eager to warm up and start their sparring.

    Blackbirds have been few and far between at the feeding station of late, but the reason was all too evident further up the garden. The apples are just dripping off the old fruit trees, and there are countless plums, pears and elderberries to go at, too.

    It's no wonder at this time of year that bird feeders can sometimes seem quite abandoned when there is so much fruit and so many seeds and insects for birds to naturally forage for.

    This is my favourite apple, Spartan, which won't ripen for another few weeks. I don't mind the odd beak-hole - at least I know exactly where the fruit came from and who I'm sharing it with, and there's plenty to go around.

    There are also beautiful red berries on the Cornus mas, looking like drop earrings.

    Yes, my garden is one heaving fruit-salad, and the fruit peckers are very welcome.

  • Magnifico. Splendido. Perfetto!

    Back in April, I had the huge pleasure of visiting Alessandra and Steven Towell and their plant-stuffed (and wildlife-filled) garden in Hemel Hempstead.

    I hope you enjoyed the photos (and maybe even the text!) in the recent issue of Nature's Home.

    While I was there, enjoying traditional Italian Easter cake, Alessandra and Steven asked me about whether I felt they should make another pond. Well, it's a huge weight of responsibility to go advising any such change - they are the ones who would have to build it and then live with it.

    But I did say that I had never regretted any pond I had made, and that the pleasure and the wildlife that resulted was always huge.

    I did have an inkling that Steven was champing at the bit to do it, but even so I was flabbergasted when, just one week later, I received this photo in my inbox, with the following message:

    "We have followed your advice and created a new wildlife pond at the bottom of the garden! It is quite big (about 2.6m x 2.3m) and it will hopefully give a home to more frogs, newts and dragonflies.

    "We started making it the weekend after your visit and it is now almost completed, apart from the water having to clear and 'settle', and some more planting needed around the edges (an opportunity for even more plants...:-))

    "We have attached a few photos, hope you like it!"

    Well, I loved it! What an astonishing creation in just a week.

    I'm delighted to say that I have now received some follow-up photos:

    Isn't it glorious (even shy, old Baro, the cat, thinks so).

    "We feel it is amazing that a pond just three months old is already so full of wildlife!" Alessandra wrote. "Large Red Damselflies have been flying over since the first days it was created, and yesterday I spotted an Emperor Dragonfly patrolling just above it :-)  

    "We have planted Water Mint, Water Plantain, Water Forget-me-not, a Caltha, a couple of irises and a water-lily and I am now in search of a Flowering Rush."

    In my life, I'm a firm believer that if you want to do something, then start it now. Here is the living proof. What can I say? Alessandra, please excuse my paltry Italian, but magnifico, splendido, perfetto!


  • Guaranteed to make you go 'Ahhhhh!'

    Sometimes my aim of getting a blog out every Friday goes for a burton - life just gets in the way. It's that time of year when I get home from work, rush a meal through, and then get into the garden until the last vestiges of light force me in to flop.


    Never mind - what there is at this time of year is just no end of stories to be told from the garden. And I don't just mean from MY garden.


    For example, I was sent these photos by Caroline French from her garden in Emsworth in West Sussex.


    And there is not only one. There is a whole family of them, with the youngsters (below) looking a really good size already, which bodes well for their survival this winter.


    I asked Caroline what she does to help her Hedgehogs.


    "I feed them. I have been putting out two flat saucers with dried mealworms and broken pieces of peanut (not whole or salted!) I also sometimes put out some meat-based (not fish) cat or dog food.


    "I understand that food should be out in moderation as hedgehogs can become overweight! Apparently high-protein, low fat is key, as this most closely replicates their natural diet - so mealworms and meat-based cat/dog food are probably best.


    "The most important thing, though, is a shallow bowl of fresh water.


    "We're surrounded by fences so we cut holes, only about 12 by12cm, at both sides of the garden. Although the garden is only about ten metres square, I don't use any pesticides in my garden and I do allow a few areas to get a bit 'wild' with Ivy, Woodruff, Enchanter's Nightshade, clovers etc.

    "And we have a simple but solid Hedgehog House, which is well hidden underneath a Viburnum. It feels really important that it is tucked away somewhere shady and quiet."

    Here is a picture of Caroline's box, taken when not in use, of course!


    Given the terrible decline in Hedgehog populations, it's good to know that gardens can still be a haven for them, if we do the right things. For me, just waiting for one to pass through is the first challenge, given how scarce they are these days, but if and when they do, I'm inspired by Caroline to be ready for them, with everything they need to encourage them to stay.