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!
  • A garden with nature everywhere!

    A couple of weekends ago, when staying with my mum in the Midlands, I offered her the chance to be chauffeured to places she couldn't otherwise get.

    She chose to visit a cousin she hadn't seen for four years, near Warwick, a rather fine choice for me given that Margaret has a gorgeous garden heaving with wildlife. For starters, any garden that has Nuthatches visiting the feeders is going to get me excited.

    It was also an experience having to navigate the Honeybees as they entered and exited the roof cavity above the kitchen: now there's something you don't encounter everyday! It was fascinating to see them queuing up, hanging patiently in a sort of mid-air queue like planes coming into Heathrow, waiting to get in the tiny entrance under the drainpipe. The colony has been there several years, so goodness knows how much honey is in the roof!

    Margaret also has a perfect pond, with plenty of submerged and emergent vegetation for the dragonflies and damselflies.

    And I was very taken with Margaret's old Berberis nana, a compact, thigh-high shrub covered with typical little lozenge-shaped Berberis berries.

    Looking closely, I could see that something was taking a fancy to the foliage too. They were little caterpillars, looking rather like those of Large White butterflies that you find on cabbages, but these were of the Magpie Moth.

    Margaret loves her wildlife, but is first and foremost a gardener. It reaffirmed for me how the two just go wonderfully hand in hand  ΜΆ  if you put in flowers, trees, shrubs, a pond and feeders, and if you stay calm when nature moves in (even if it comes in swarms!), you'll have a wonderful home for nature.

  • Come on kids - win your school a wildlife-friendly mini garden!

    I'm convinced that the time to engage people with nature is from the very start. Kids have a natural love of wildlife, and even if they wave it goodbye when the hormones kick in, most will come back to it.

    So I was delighted to be asked to play a part in a competition that Aldi has set up with the RSPB in which 25 schools will be able to win a mini wildlife-friendly garden.

    "Adrian, would you like to help design and make the prototype of the garden?" Well, try and stop me!

    Working with my brilliant colleague in RSPB Urban Policy, John Day, we came up with what we wanted, sourced all the materials and plants, and then it was down to me to see how easy it was to turn our idea into reality in my garden.

    Here is the space I chose with my morning's work about to begin. Every school must have an unloved gap like this somewhere.

    I even got to film its creation, which was slightly unnerving as I'm not the world's best carpenter and there was always the chance it could go terrible wrong making the raised bed.

    I'm pleased to say it was child's play! The bed is superb quality, the little pond that goes in it contains 55 litres of water which makes for a really decent wetland home, the plants are all peat-free from Cave's Folly and I chose ones that I hope will attract bees and butterflies, and the ton of compost the schools will get to fill it is of course peat-free, too.

    For your chance to win a wildlife garden for your school, simply get your teachers to post or tweet a photo of where your mini garden would go on Aldi Facebook or @AldiUK. Tag your photo #AldiwildlifeWatch.

    But they need to do so by 11 October. After that it's just 'luck of the draw' with 25 winners being pulled out of the hat.

    I have to say I'm loving my 'little garden in my big garden'. Here I am yesterday, getting it a little water, and it's coming on a treat!

  • Michaelmas brings out the best of autumn

    This week we had the autumn equinox on 23 September, the day when there are 12 hours of daylight and 12 of night.

    While the prospect of longer nights is sobering, at least it is the prelude to Michaelmas on 29 September. As well as being a Christian festival, it was the date in Medieval England that marked the end of harvest, while for me it is a big, brightly-coloured flag that it must be time for Michaelmas daisies. Hoorah!

    So, on a well-timed trip up to my mum's last weekend, I took the opportunity of visiting the national collection of Michaelmas daisies at the Picton Garden in Colwall in the lee of the beautiful Malvern Hills.

    You never know quite what to expect with a national collection, but this blew me away.

    It only opens from August to 20 October, so all the planting is designed to be at its glorious best right now.

    As well as Michalemas daisies (which they've been growing since 1906), there are a host of other choice autumn perennials.

    But it is the Michaelmas daisies that shine...

    ...and with them come the insects that love them, including many bees and hoverflies but also autumn butterflies such as this Red Admiral.

    The garden is quite bijou and the car park even more so, but if you are in the Midlands and fancy a treat,then grab your chance.This is the kind of garden I love - one that revels in being a beautiful garden but which gives nature a home at the same time.

    And if you can't go, then just grow a Michaelmas daisy in a sunny spot and enjoy the life it brings.