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I sincerely hope the current trend in the promotion of wildlife-friendly gardening continues apace. I am 50; I have gardened in this vein since first seeing Chris Baines' TV programme "Blue Tits And Bumblebees : The Making of a Wildlife Garden" and his book from 1985. I have been a jobbing professional gardener since 2003 in the KT22 area of Surrey and I only advertise  as a "Wildlife friendly gardener". There are MANY gardeners working this area..we border 'stockbroker belt' Cobham & Oxshott but the take up of my 'specialist' services is very slow. Over the fence conversations with owners neighbouring gardens that I work in, would surprise you greatly in how oblivious most people are to our interests. I have to express that the wealthier garden owners around here have NO urge whatsoever to be wildlife-friendly. It's all brick-paved driveways; chemically-treated lawns and clipped evergreens. It's such a shame that huge swathes of Surrey are populated by people with this way of thinking. I am friends with another local more generalist gardener and very few of his customers will tolerate a compost heap or even leaf bins. I took on a 3/4 acre garden in August 2011 that the owners have been in for 23 years and every ounce of garden waste has been dumped in that time. I have just produced his first batches of compost and leaf mould and he is seriously amazed at what he has been wasting. His more elderly neighbours still burn all their leaves. My polite protestations have,so far, fallen on deaf ears. Just one years worth of bee-friendly perennial planting have made a noticeable impact upon the activity in the same garden. I work in 22 gardens and only two do not have compost heaps. Some are supported by green-waste bins that take the hard to process spikey stuff etc but in the larger gardens I store waste and have one winter bonfire and use the wood-ash for fertilising those gardens that grow fruit. I am lucky that in some of these gardens, I get a completely free rein and can plant whatever I like so I feel I make a significant impact. But a large percentage of the 'gardener-employing' public have grown up with gaudy bedding and hanging baskets and the obsession with tidyness, so it will be a long haul to change this prevailing attitude. So, PLEASE continue to do your bit and encourage your friends,family and neighbours to do theirs




Oh my God,someone ,at last supporting what I have been saying for 50 years. I live in Surrey and know what you mean. I can't understand why people buy houses with gardens and then build 6" fences and walls. Then they concrete the garden and turn it into a monument patch with trees growing in pots.!! It is all to do with "control", I'm told.The trees are clipped and no wildlife is allowed in this NEAT patch. They have told me to REMOVE my compost bins(oh yeah) and water butts, as they are "ugly".Not aesthetic is the word! I could go on...!

Bye the way, they LIKE watching the wildlife in my garden. How sad.

PS I have just bought more compost bins and water butts.

I always find it odd when people ask whether 'the garden's finished yet'! I try and explain that it's not like painting a room - I love working with the rhythm of the seasons.

I have 3 compost bins, and store a season's worth of leaves in a builder's dumpy bag, have just emptied out 2010 vintage on to a border- but I do appreciate the fact that I've got enough space to do that separately from the main garden, and I wouldn't appreciate it at all if I was asked to remove them for 'aesthetic' reasons.

It's difficult not to start adopting a slight sense of ownership of other people's gardens, but in many cases you have to be content with achieving things by stealth. The customer is, sadly, always right. He's bought the house and he's paying the council tax and your invoices.

Happily, my gardens are all pretty wildlife friendly, although one has gone in for Green Digit and lost hundreds of bees as a result.

What's Green Digit Joe?


I grew up in East London in the 60's, what was a garden back then, a patch of grass, no flowers, nothing. People look back as if everyone had these great wildlife friendly gardens at least nowadays blocks of flats come with some landscaping and people are trying to grow flowers in containers on their balconies. Who in london made compost, what sort of recycling went on. I am happy to do my bit but I am not lecturing my neighbours on what they can do in their own gardens, I would be battered and bruised if I tried.


Thank you Joe, I pay council tax too and I do not tell them what to do in their garden. Besides, they do not need to look at what I have in my garden. They even threatened to contact the council and complain about my "untidy" garden as I leave the berries etc. over winter for the birds!! Sad or what.

Steve the Gardening Vet

Ye gads, where in Surrey are you? I am in Surrey too and my neighbours all feed the birds and not a single concreted garden in sight.

Steve the Gardening Vet

On that note, I'm off to the garden centre to buy yet another bird feeder as I can't keep up with the greedy little gits!

I have just had an idea for free food for the birds. Apple skin and the cores! I usually throw them in the compost but this year I am freezing them for later in the year when it is colder. The birds just love apples, so I am sure they won't be too fusy about not being given a whole apple


When I first started gardening with wildlife in mind I didn’t have a clue about what plants to buy.  I wrote to seed companies to ask if they would mention on their seed packets which of the plants were nectar rich, I never got a reply . I asked at garden centres for advice but without much help, but if I saw bees surrounding a plant I would buy it, at least it was a start.  I did most of my research on the internet and bought books which helped me in creating a fantastic garden for wildlife bringing a whole new dimension to my gardening, and the rewards have been amazing. A new hobby emerged, taking photos of the wildlife that comes into the garden.   I started eight years ago and now with all the recent publicity on the benefits and importance of attracting wildlife to the garden, new wildlife gardeners shouldn’t have a problem in knowing where to start. I do think though, that we gardeners for wildlife are very much in the minority.  

"hopes for the future"  lets just hope that all the recent publicity is not making it become 'fashionable' to garden for wildlife, it has to be forever.

I’m the generalist gardening friend BugFriendlyGardener talked about in his original post and have been doing it for about 8 years now, and would ask the question whether gardening as we like it is on the way out ?

Over that time I have noticed a couple of trends –

  1. A decline in interest in gardening particularly  amongst younger people (I’m 53, so most people are younger than me !)
  2. People wanting their garden to look ‘posh like you see in up market estate agent photos.

People are much busier now, they work longer days and demands put on them are much greater, so when they get home they want a glass of wine and to watch their huge wide screen TV from a comfy sofa. They don’t want any of that flaffing about in the garden cutting grass or weeding (heaven forbid).

So, more possibilities of work for the likes of us maybe ?  Except,

The gardening they want is all stripes on the lawn, rounded Photinia Red Robin and a car park where their front garden used to be. The thought of compost bins cluttering the place up or plants that actually look untidy after they flower doesn’t fit in with their world view. And log piles ? – don’t even go there !

I watch and listen to gardening programs which often highlight people making interesting gardens for themselves, but echoing the original point – these sort of people seem to be very thin on the ground around here.

I think there may be more possibilities of doing gardening for people, but feel it will be more of the uninteresting stuff as ‘outside cleaners’ as my friend calls them. Being able to influence them into wildlife friendly gardening will be a hard nut to crack.

Gary Hobson
Steve Johnson wrote (see)

.. my neighbours all feed the birds ...

Wildlife gardening is not about putting out a few peanuts. It about long grass and log piles, and a person's entire approach to their garden.

Junct9M25 wrote (see)

...  these sort of people ...

That's the core of the issue. There are various 'sort of people'. And wildlife gardening is not for everyone.

There are some people who are anxious about what other people think; they want approval; they want to conform. These people want a 'tidy garden'.

And there are others who think for themselves, and who are independent-minded and creative. These are the people who will have an empathy for wildlife.

There are 8 types of personality. People are born one way or another, and cannot be changed. You can't turn a stuffed shirt into a wildlife gardener.

On the slightly separate issue of whether wildlife gardening is just a fashion. The movement towards wildlife gardening has been driven by the increasing industrialisation of the countryside. Many people have realised that they can do something about this, by letting nature into their own gardens. That trend is not going to change. This is not a fashion.

An example of a fashion is the shaved lawn. The shaved lawn is an English invention. The idea has been copied in some other countries, where it doesn't work. Lawns need rain. Lawns are local and parochial. If we were to have a series of blazing Summers and hosepipe bans, gardeners here would change their minds about lawns.


Hi Steve Johnson, I live in Reigate...........I hope you are my neighbour, then you would understand what I mean.Oh , bye the way, rotary dryers are out too! But fear not, the wildlife are enjoying my wildlife garden. Bless.

Steve the Gardening Vet
Gary, I'm vaguely insulted by the implication that I just chuck some nuts outside and hope for the best!

I have taken this garden from a featureless lawn over the last three years into as much of a bee haven as I can manage. There are bird and bug boxes and a section that I leave to its own devices. Next year I have a section set aside for wildflowers. Once I get the last bit sorted then I'll get compost bins in and a water butt.


Muvs Dashwood

I have started guerilla gardening. I live on a cul-de-sac that has supported housing for vulnerable people attached and we have large swathes of grass outside tended [at our expense] by a gardening team. By the side of my house outside of my fence - I am the last of the terrace - I have 4 large evergreen oaks but its a huge area and I put all my logs out there and usually cover it with the leaves I get. I have also started to throw seeds on the bank that does get some sun - did some this morning - and am hoping to colonise it with wildflower seeds and some california poppies. I am even thinking of taking my guerilla gardening to some verges around here. Perhaps I should invest in a balaclava.


I'll knit you one  Well done you!!

figrat - I was trying not to advertise! OK, Green Thumb.

jatnik - I think you misunderstood me; I'm a professional gardener, and I have no choice but to give the customer what he wants if he insists. As I said he's got every right to stripey lawns and gravel if he owns the house and pays his dues...and my bills.


hiya..just seen your original email from last year re Chris Baines 'Bluetits and Bumblebees'' and I totally agree. We saw this programme shortly after we were married and have adopted that approach every since. The joy it has given us and all our visitors over the years has been enormous and we always encourage others to do the same. Keep up the good work... by the way if you know where I can get a copy of the programme please let me know ..I managed to 'tape' over it by mistake !! 
cheers John