Planting up for Wildlife
Creating spaces for wildlife is something we should be thinking about all year around, but it comes to the forefront of our minds as the weather starts to improve and we start to spend more time outside in our gardens.
We tend to think about nesting birds at this time of year, as the weather begins to warm up, the birds begin to sing, announcing new territories and everything bursts into flower. It is in early Spring that most birds begin to think about nesting, but I’m thinking about it all year around!
If you are lucky enough to own a garden, then there are lots of things you can do to help nesting birds and not all of those are by putting up nest boxes.
Think about planting climbers and allowing ivy to grow up some of your walls. Ivy is fantastic for cover and also as a nectar source in the autumn when it flowers and has berries too. Many of these plants will also look great in your garden too, so definitely no sacrifices to create a garden great for wildlife, that looks great. Other climbers such as Oregon grape provide cover, berries and nectar as well and are a great way to cover an unsightly wall or building.
Feeding the birds is just one thing we can do to support and learn more about the wildlife in our patch and putting up nest boxes for them is another.
It can be quite daunting trying to decide which nest box to choose and then to decide where to put it, especially if you haven’t done it before. This guide concentrates on the species that are most likely to be in UK gardens and will guide you through some of the things to consider. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but if you spend a little time in the planning stage, you are more likely to be rewarded by a visitor. Nothing quite beats watching birds taking to your nest box and successfully raising a family there!
This time of year is great for planting perennials… these plants will come up each year, hopefully bigger and better than the previous year! Always good value for money, I rarely purchase annuals that may give a good show for one season but will not return the following year unless the seeds have fallen and germinated. The perennials may die right down in winter, but at this time of the year, the fresh new shoots are already showing and offering promises to blooms to come!
By planting perennials that are good for insects, you will in turn attract all sorts of other wildlife to your garden. Most of these are species that I have used and are available on the CJ Wildlife website. All will provide a great visual display and attract pollinators to your garden.
The Anise Hyssop is simply loved by the bees, especially the bumble bees. They grow well in pots as well as in the beds. The Sedums, sometimes called the Ice Plant, is another staple for any wildlife garden. The new, fresh green succulent foliage looks great int he Spring and then the flowers offer a fantastic nectar platform for insects in the late summer, right into the autumn.
One of my all-time favourites in the garden are the scabious family. There are lots of different species and you can quite easily grow these from seed as well. The bees absolutely love them, and their pretty pink flowers will continue to delight if you deadhead them regularly.
A classic for the garden and easy to grow and maintain is the lavender. I mix and match all different varieties and they are literally buzzing, in the summer, with insects. The bonus of the lavender is that, in the Autumn, when you cut your lavender back you can dry the flowerhead and make lovely lavender gifts!
My final favourite is the Verbena. Another insect staple, there are lots of varieties and they look fantastic planted amongst your other plants as many grow tall, their nectar rich flowers reaching up high and providing the perfect platform for insects. The butterflies love them! They will flower from early summer right through into Autumn and I have had then still flowering in October!
You may want to consider leaving a section of your garden to allow the nettles to flourish. I left a corner for nettles and, as well as trying to make nettle tea, I was treated to a batch of small tortoiseshell caterpillars. Nettle are the main food source for the Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Red Admiral butterflies, so a great way of helping them along.
You and your wildlife all enjoy plants such as this throughout the growing season, but don’t be too hasty in the Autumn to cut them back. Leave the floors to go to seed. In this way, the birds will have a source of food and. next year, you may have lots of new perennials to grow in your garden!