Encourage wildlife

What can we do in the garden.

Trees All native trees are likely to be good, but Fruit trees are very good value for wildlife of all kinds.

Important shrubs. To consider adding to your garden

  • The winter flowering honey suckle (Lonicera fragrantisima) and Sarcococca I rate very highly as on a warm day in winter it provides an important source of nectar for flying insects
  • Shrubs with berries such a Ilex, Pyracantha and Skimmia. (you might need male and female plants)
  • Mahonia, the flowers for the insects, (ours started flowering last October and it still has a few remnants in January) but also shelter for nesting birds
  • Buplereum an evergreen shrub which is incredibly tolerant of heat and dry conditions and flowers in August, insects love it
  • Budleia

Hedges can provide shelter for nesting birds and food for many animals

  • Plant a mixture of shrubs, especially native such as Cornus Mas,(Cornouiller) Holly, (Houx) spindle.(Fusain) Allow these shrubs to grow and don’t be too fierce with the cutting back especially not to be done during nesting time. Blackthorn(Prunier épineux) is very good, but does travel, so beware.
  • Willow (Saule) and hazel (noisettier) are both important additions as they provide an early source of pollen and the leaves are food for many caterpillars. To prevent them becoming too large, copice them every 3 years, at the end of winter.

Climbers

  • Honey suckle, the moths adore
  • Wisteria for carpenter bees
  • Simple roses which provide hips. The insects will feed from the flowers, the birds from the hips

Grasses They would seem to have a limited value as they produce nothing of interest for insects, but I suspect many creatures will pass the winter in the base of a clump of grass. I once found an overwintering hedgehog

Perennials

  • Go for a range of simple open flowers which flower at different times of the year, not just May and June
  • Pulmonaria grows wild here and I find it everywhere in my garden. If you don’t have it plant a garden cultivar as it is one of the earliest plants in flower and continues to flower over several months
  • Sedums are tough, don’t need watering and flower in summer for loads of insects.
  • Verbena bonariensis, a magnet for all butterflies and flowering even when it is hot and dry

Annuals. Many are very attractive to insects. The poached egg flower (limnanthus douglasii) sown under fruiting bushes is wonderful as a ground cover as it flowers early and then when you need to pick the fruit, it has gone over. It re-seeds and gets better every year

Bulbs .Simple early flowering are the best (crocus and anemone blanda) Many will naturalize.

Wildflowers, can be grown from seed or find a few small plants to introduce ( don’t dig them up from the wild) If these are growing locally stick with the wildflowers, else buy them from the garden centre, either as wild flowers or cultivars. Aquilegia species cross pollinate very easily so if they grow wild near you, don’t plant garden cultivars

  • Some make good ground cover, wild thyme, (serpolet) origano (origan) and sweet woodruff (gaillet odorant)
  • Some make good garden plants for shady areas. Hellebore viridis or foetidus, (Hellébore) pulmonaria, (Pulmonaire) Solomon seal, (Sceau de Salomon) Butchers broom (Petit Houx) and either cowslips or primroses (Primevère)
  • Annuals and bi- annuals such as teasel,(Caboret des oiseaux) honesty (Monnaie du pape) or evening primrose (Onagre) which are very easy from bought seed

Grass and lawns. Try leaving a few areas to grow longer. So many caterpillars need this long grass and probably, grasshoppers and glow worms. To make it look tidier and intentional, cut paths, or cut around it. Experiment as to when you finally do cut it, but it is always better to cut gradually, even over several months. Different heights of grass will suit different wildflowers and possibly different insects. The long grass can be raked up and used as a mulch under a hedge or some trees, it soon disappears

Waste ground. Some where quiet and out of the way is ideal to leave a few brambles (Ronces) and nettles (orties)

Walls. We don’t seem to be short of stones and walls give shelter to so many creatures. Obviously dry stone walls are better. If the walls are in good order, ivy (Lierre) can be left, the same for ivy on trees,( Ivy won’t kill the tree). It flowers late and produces flowers only on the taller higher growth. The birds will eat the berries, but it is a useful area for overwintering insects, especially ladybirds

Dead wood. We have made an insect hotel and the most used part is the logs where we have drilled holes. The holes need to be quite deep as the bees will lay eggs on top of the eggs already laid. If you have a tree that has cut down, try drilling holes into the stump horizontally. Any dead wood can be piled up in an out of the way corner for toads and other creatures which either eat the decaying wood or use it for shelter

Leaves and compost All needed to feed your soil, but they will also be places for creatures to overwinter

Soil. Ideally don’t dig your soil, just add compost, manure, straw, shreddings and let the worms take it down. For seed sowing this is not ideal, but sometimes it is possible to scrape back the mulch and then sow the seeds. Remember, seeds don’t germinate very well on fresh green mulch, such as a green manure. Try to keep the soil covered with plant growth or a mulch of some kind

Ponds and water It doesn’t have to be big, but it does need to be deep enough, so it doesn’t freeze solid in winter. It needs to have at least 1 sloping side or a way for animals to access the water and if they fall in, get out. If you have children cover it with wire mesh, the animals don’t mind. Fish are not a good idea and it isn’t necessary to have a pump to circulate the water. However you do need to shade the surface with waterlilies or something similar and have plants growing in the water or alongside for animals to hide into. An old bath can make a perfectly decent pond.

Birds. Birds bring the garden alive and they will be there if you give them food and shelter. Extra nest boxes are a good idea, but most of them are for tits. The other birds will make use of the trees, bushes and hedges you have planted. Feed them in winter and give them water in the summer.

Bats. Where you have insects you are likely to get bats. You can install bat boxes, but ours seem to take up residence in the cellar. They do occassionally get into the house, but leave them alone and they will find their way out. Sticky fly traps are not a good idea, you catch bats as well.

Solitary Mason bees/Mining bees .Make some simple bee hotels using hollow stems

Encourage earwigs. Place rolled up corrugated cardboard in jars or tins or flower pots in the trees

Leave ant hills. There are several kinds of ant and they are not all going to be invading your kitchen or your food

Hedgehogs Hedgehogs like to travel around so if you have fence allow a gap for the hedgehog to enter into your garden. Beer traps might seem a good idea to catch slugs but they must be inaccessable to the hedgehogs which can be poisoned by the alcohol.

Finally look at where you are.

  1. If you are surrounded by fields it might be a good idea to provide more tree and shrubs. Many farmers never get off their tractors so the field boundaries are just a barbed wire fence and either low cut hawthorn or brambles. In which case a a tree/ shrub area would really make a difference to wild birds.
  2. If you are surrounded by trees, some grass and flowering plants to provide nectar when the spring flush of wildflowers is over.
  3. If you are in a town or village surrounded by neat gardens, provide a wild area and more flowers, especially for pollinateurs

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