As wildlife habitats in the countryside disappear at an alarming rate, our gardens are increasingly useful habitats for wildlife. They help to form ‘green corridors’ in our towns and cities, increase biodiversity and provide shelter and food for a huge range of species.
Six essential features of a wildlife garden
Many of our most beautiful garden plants, including many shrubs, climbers, perennials and pond plants, are attractive to wildlife. You probably have many of them in your garden already.
Native shrubs and trees offer the best choice for wildlife, providing caterpillar food plants for a variety of moths, plus berries and seeds for birds and small mammals. But both native and non-native flowers appeal to bees and other pollinators, as long as they have single flowers – many double flowers are inaccessible to insects, or have small amounts of nectar and pollen.
Here’s how to embellish every area of your garden to make it even more attractive to wildlife.
The shrubs and perennials in our garden borders can attract all kinds of wildlife. Nectar-rich plants are invaluable for bees and butterflies – discover 10 plants for bees and 10 plants for butterflies. Some plants will provide food for birds – discover how to grow your own bird food.
Climbers not only look beautiful – they are incredibly useful for wildlife. Birds can nest in them, butterflies can hibernate in them and bees can take shelter from the rain. Discover seven climbers for wildlife.
Herbs attract and provide food for all kinds of wildlife, including bees, butterflies, hoverflies and birds. Discover top herb grower Jekka McVicar’s 10 herbs for wildlife.
Many bedding plants are bred to have double flowers, or long-lasting flowers at the expense of nectar and pollen. But if you adapt your plant choices, you can make a wildlife-friendly hanging basket that will attract bees and other pollinators.
Creating a pond is one of the best things you can do for wildlife – it will attract everything from frogs, toads and newts to birds. Native plants play an important part in the pond’s ecosystem. Discover native plants for wildlife ponds.
A bog garden is an excellent alternative to a pond and will attract all kinds of creatures, including damselflies, newts and frogs, plus birds and even bats. Plant with moisture-loving flag irises, marsh marigolds and purple loosetrife. Find out how to make a wildlife bog garden.
The perfect lawn may please the gardener, but attracts few insects. Why not leave the grass to grow longer, attracting butterflies and small mammals? Wildlife turf is another option, enriched with dozens of wildflowers, such as red clover, field scabious and greater knapweed, and several types of grass. Simply cut twice a year in autumn and early spring.
A hedge is a good alternative to a fence. A mixed native hedge provides nectar and pollen, berries and nuts, caterpillar food plants and shelter for nesting birds. Good hedging plants include beech, hazel, dogwood and hawthorn. Find out how to plant a hedge.
Kate Bradbury says
Aim to have a good mix of plants to provide nectar and pollen, berries and seed, shelter to nest and roost and leaves for caterpillars. A mix of native and non-native plants is ideal.