Tag Archive: nectar


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A pond is a fantastic resource for wildlife

A pond is a fantastic resource for wildlife

Most gardens play an important part in promoting biodiversity and maintaining ecosystems – vital if we are to have a sustainable planet. You might want to further enhance your garden’s ecological value, or perhaps promote wildlife to help pollinate plants (important if you want to gather your own seed and/or are growing your own food) and to help control unwanted pests.

Promoting wildlife is also a way or enriching the garden experience – just think about birdsong, the buzzing and gentle flitting of bees from flower to flower, the colourful displays of butterflies and the fascinating movements of the myriad insects and other ‘critters’ out there! So how can you ‘design’ wildlife into your garden and gardening activities?

Plant nectar- rich flowers to attract pollinators

Plant nectar- rich flowers to attract pollinators

First it’s important to recognise that you and your friends and family are also going to use the garden, so there’s no need to ‘go completely wild’ and make it unpleasant or difficult for humans to use the garden. In fact the best designed and managed gardens (and often the most beautiful) can also be the best for wildlife. These are the places where nature has not been allowed to take over.

You can ‘tip the balance in favour of wildlife’ in a number of ways. If you have a large garden you can adopt a ‘conservation’ approach and set out separate areas to attract and support different types of wildlife. If your garden is smaller, you can provide a range of features for the wildlife species you want to encourage. This approach is especially important if you want to actively harness nature to control pests.

Bird feeders need to be out of the reach of cats!

Bird feeders need to be out of the reach of cats!

So what can you do?

  • Create habitats that mimic those in nature and complement the local range outside the garden

  • Provide natural shelter, nesting, food and drink –  important as ‘stopping off’ points for temporary visitors to your garden as well as for longer term residents

  • Aim to increase diversity- and recognise that this is going to be a gradual process

  • Build in some key features, such as…..

Climbign planst like Ivy provide a valuable food source for wildlife

Climbing plants like Ivy provide a valuable food source for wildlife

  1. Native plants- these act as a host to many more species than non native plants

  2. Wildflowers, grasses, weeds- these attract butterflies and many other insects. Nettles are important hosts for species that aid a healthy garden; butterflies and ladybirds. Maybe you can grow these in a container if you don’t have the space to leave patch in the garden?

  3. Nectar and pollen rich flowering plants- these  feed butterflies, bees, hoverflies etc.- which in turn attract birds

  4. Trees, flowering and fruiting shrubs- these provide food and shelter for birds

  5. Climbing plants- they provide food and cover for birds and food for insects and butterflies. Examples include Ivy, honeysuckle, quince, wisteria, clematis..

  6. Hedges- these give food and shelter for wildlife (e.g hedgehogs, voles and shrews), food and nesting for birds- where it’s practical choose to install a hedge rather than a fence

  7. Water- a pond brings masses of creatures to drink as well as attracting resident pond life

  8. Wood piles – insects colonise the decaying wood, attracting spiders and birds; beetles lay grubs; toads and hedgehogs hibernate underneath; slow worms use it as home (and these prey on slugs)

  9. Compost heap – provides both food for the soil and home for minute insects and other ‘mini beasts’ which feed birds, hedgehogs, toads. It also acts as a possible nesting place for hedgehogs, toads and slow worms.

  10. Bird and Bat boxes, tables, feeders and baths- put these up in secluded and sheltered spots out of full sun – and out of the reach of cats! Birds need extra food in winter. provide a range of foods according to the species you want to attract. Birds need to drink and bathe to keep their plumage in good order- even in winter, so keep birdbaths unfrozen

  11. Stones and walls- toads, newts and female frogs usually spend winter on land, under rockery stones (or in a log pile). Beetles, spiders, insects live in nooks and crannies

  12. Bug hotels’ can provide a ‘man made’ substitute for the above, and are good fun to make with children.

'Bug Hotels' can provide a 'Des Res' for many insects and other critters

‘Bug Hotels’ can provide a ‘Des Res’ for many insects and other critters

Further information: A range of useful wildlife gardening guides

Old School Gardener

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PicPost: Bee friendly

PicPost: Lunch!

Two projects in the village of Cawston, Norfolk enabled me to ‘cut my teeth’ on designing playful landscapes.

Both were completed about 6 years ago and largely on a voluntary basis. I remain involved at the local Primary School, helping them with their School Gardening activities, but my early involvement was in designing, sourcing planting and organising the creation of an ‘Eco Park’ – basically to try and diversify the habitats and play opportunities in a bland, mown grass playing field with a solitary multi function play unit. The design features a curved mixed native species hedge (which is now over 2 metres high) and a haven for wildlife, several groupings of native trees such as Silver Birch, Hazel, Douglas Fir, Beech, Oak, Feild Maple, Mountain Ash and Black Poplar, and some areas of shallow mounding.

The planting has been used to create several different spaces, and grass within these has been left to grow long both to provide varied habitats and interesting play areas. In addition a ‘Nectar Bar’ of insect – friendly herbaceous and other flowering plants has been created alongside the school, including a painted pergola which both helps to privide shade to the south – facing side of the school and added planting interest.

The second project involved working on commission for the Parish Council and a local charity to design, seek funding, consult local people and supervise the creation of a new play landscape at the ‘Oakes Family Field’ located to one side of the village. The design was constrained by the need to retain areas for cricket and football pitches and to avoid placing play areas close to housing on one side of the field. There is a mix of landscape features including a large mound (with a slide), timber play equipment for balancing and enclosed social areas, as well as a selection of traditional play equipment in two main areas, one for younger, one for older children. Over £100,000 was raised from various sources and so a wide range of play equipment and features has been possible.

Old School Gardener

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moth on leafA new report charting the numbers of moths in Britain over forty years makes grim reading. Climate change and habitat loss are driving some to extinction – especially in southern Britain.

Moths are perhaps not as popular as butterflies. But they are an important ‘indicator’ of how our native ecology is faring, a significant pollinator and source of food for birds, bats etc. Whilst many are subtly coloured, others are as eye-catching as their cousins.

The Butterfly Conservation report  says that two-thirds of common and widespread larger species of moth (macro-moths) declined in the last 40 years, most seriously in southern Britain. The report suggests that the decline in habitats through development and agricultural practices are the factors behind the decline in the south, whereas it sees climate change (a gradual warming) as a key factor in the broadly neutral results in the north – declines in some species have been matched by increases in others.

And climate change is also the explanation behind the growth in new species in the country. More than 100 species have been recorded for the first time in Britain this century and 27 species have colonised Britain from the year 2000 onwards. However, the report says that three species have become extinct in the last 10 years and three more are at serious risk of extinction, having already declined by more than 90% in the last forty years.

What can gardeners do to create the right habitats for moths? The Royal Horticultural Society makes several suggestions about planting.

  • Night-flowering, nectar-rich plants, such as Nicotiana (Tobacco plant) and Evening Primrose (Oenothera) have evolved to feed night flying insects – and the wonderful evening scent of some is a bonus for any garden
  • Day flying moths can be served by plants such as Sea Lavender, Buddlejas, Red Valerian and Lychnis
  • It’s also important to provide food for caterpillars with plants such as Clarkia and Fuchsia. leaving a ‘wilder’ area of the garden with longer grasses, thistles and knapweeds will benefit smaller moths. Many native trees, hedges and ornamental plants also provide food sources fo moth caterpillars.
Garden Tiger Moth caterpillar

Garden Tiger Moth caterpillar

Kate Bradbury suggests:

‘Avoid using pesticides to give their caterpillars free rein on your plants (which will mostly only be nibbled a bit – so don’t worry).’

The website Mothscount says we also need to tolerate some untidiness in our gardens:

‘Moths and their caterpillars need fallen leaves, old stems and other plant debris to help them hide from predators, and especially to provide suitable places to spend the winter. It’s very helpful to delay cutting back old plants until the spring, rather than doing it in the autumn, and just generally be less tidy. If you want your garden to look tidy in the summer, try leaving some old plant material behind the back of borders or in other places out of sight…..’

All green form of the Red - Green Carpet Moth'

All green form of the Red – Green Carpet Moth

Further information:

Back Garden moth.org

Winners and losers in latest butterfly survey – 7 tips for gardeners

Old School Gardener

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