Gardening for wildlife

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!
  • Difficult decisions in the wildlife garden

    Sometimes in gardening you have to make tough decisions. For me in my new garden, the difficult choices are in having to lose some of the overcrowded trees, and right now I've got an excellent team of tree surgeons in, making dramatic changes.

    Losing the 60-foot high leylandii trees was perhaps the easiest of the decisions, given that some toppled in last year's gales narrowly missing the neighbour's property. The others have just got to go before they do real damage, although the Goldcrests who wander along them and the Wood Pigeons that roost and presumably nest there won't be too happy.

    A couple of deciduous trees are having to go too, as they were planted much too close to the cottage and are threatening the foundations and smacking against the brickwork despite being only about a third of their eventual height.

    Losing trees means that some wildlife will lose out, but the exciting thing is that much wildlife will gain too. The extra light will be a boon to ground flora and that will then mean much more habitat for bees and butterflies.

    And there's something else I'm doing which I've never had the chance to do before - leave tall stumps rather than cutting the trees to the ground.

    My hope is that, eventually, these will become nesting sites for woodpeckers as well as skyscrapers for hole-boring beetles.

    I'm also refusing to let any waste tree material off-site. The tree surgeons are chopping the fallen trunks into logs for me to create log piles, and the branches are being shredded to create mulch. Mountains of it!

    So the grand transformation has begun, and with a year's worth of wildlife data already in the bag before the work began, I'll be able to measure if I am really giving more nature a home in future. It won't be for lack of trying!

  • Garden nature to engage children

    Hi everyone, here I am after two weeks' absence as I went through the dubious pleasure of moving house. NOW I can really get going on the big garden restoration programme ahead of me.

    But, for today, as I sit among a mountain of unopened boxes, I thought I'd just share a couple of photos of leaves from the last few weeks.

    The reason for such a seemingly mundane subject is that one of the things that has been playing around in my mind is how to engage children with nature. I was fortunate to grow up in a village where there wasn't even a play area so the fields, woods and streams were my playground.

    A love of birds came later (I was maybe about 10). Before that came a love of Lions, Tigers, Cheetahs and particularly the 'forgotten' wild cats of the world such as Ocelots and Jaguarundis (yes, such a thing actually exists).

    But before that I remember just a general fascination with everything from butterflies to leaf shapes in and around my childhood garden.

    My new garden has some of the more unusual leaf shapes, such as this:

    It's a Ginko, the most primitive of trees. I also have this:

    It's the Tulip Tree, Liriodendron, from North America, with I think the most curious shaped leaf.

    While this was the glory of an autumn Acer at RSPB The Lodge at the end of November:

    It is simple things like this that I think can all help fill children with a sense of connection and wonder with the natural world, as well as the birds, bees and beetles. Doing that through gardens and urban spaces is surely going to be ever more important.

    What do you think?

  • Birds clearly know their berries

    I thought I’d do a quick ‘photo audit’ of what is in flower and fruit in my new garden at the moment and the answer is…not a lot!

    Of course, that makes me very happy because I know I can make a huge difference in the years to come.

    On the flower front, White Dead-nettles are having a late flush of flower.

    Notice the leaf-mine in the big lower leaf, looking like a wiggly pale trail. I suspect this is an active mine, in which the larvae of a tiny leaf-mining fly is munching the narrow layer between the upper and lower surfaces of the leaf.

    There is a bit of Feverfew.

    And that’s it flower-wise!

    On the fruit front, the Kiwi fruit are resolutely rock hard.

     While the Tutsan berries don’t seem to be flavour of the month for wildlife.

    But the thing that intrigued me was this: a red-berried Pyracantha heaving with berries.

    Yet next to my driveway is an orange-berried Pyracantha that has almost been stripped bare by Blackbirds and Blackcaps. These were the last few berries I could find still on the large bush.

    What do the birds know that we don’t?! The literature might suggest that, in general, red berries are taken before orange on all sorts of plants. But clearly in my garden there is something quite distasteful about the red-berried kind, even though they look perfectly ripe.

    I’d love to hear your theories as to what might be putting the birds off. I will be watching with interest to see if and when the birds finally deign to eat them!