Whether you’re interested in the birds and the bees, or butterflies, hedgehogs, frogs and other insects, creating a haven for wildlife in your garden is pretty straight forward. With a few simple tweaks you’ll see a huge increase in visitors without compromising on the way your garden looks. Not only that, but with much of the British wildlife struggling to survive as a result of eroding habitats, climate changes and diseases, making your garden homely will go a long way towards continuing their existence.
It’s worth being quite tactical about approaching the plants you have in your garden if your main objective is to attract wildlife. Plants and trees that will provide flowers throughout the seasons to keep pollinators happy. British butterflies rely on foliage for food and particularly enjoy white, pink, purple, blue or yellow flowers while birds love plants which provide berries and seeds.
Our top design tips
- Don’t feel that your garden has to be wild to attract wildlife. Even the most formal gardens will be appealing to the sort of creatures you’re keen to draw in – so stick to the designs you love, but make a few adjustments here and there.
- Create a varied habitat that has a combination of light, shade and hiding places for birds, mice and voles by using a range of different plants in one area of beds and borders. You can plant larger trees towards the back of beds and smaller growing shrubs at the front. Amongst the space in between plant a range of flowers and there’ll be plenty to interest smaller mammals and birds.
- Hedges, bushes and shrubs all provide shelter and food so it’s a good idea to grow a mixture of these in any wildlife garden. Using numerous varieties will attract a number of different types of wildlife. Holly and Yew will attract typical nesting birds, while those with berries will provide an interesting diet for others, and all greenery will make the perfect home for insects and a huge range of smaller mammals.
- Flowers are the obvious ways to attract bees, butterflies and other insects, so it’s important to pick those which will provide pollen and nectar for as much of the year as possible.
- If you have the space, time and inclination, a pond will make your garden an inviting prospect for amphibians like newts and frogs, but if not, a container of water or an upturned dustbin lid filled with rain water is enough to draw a few in. If you do have a pond, make sure it has at least one sloping side for easy access and remember they don’t need as deep water as you might think.
- More uncommon wildlife such as bark beetles and many species of fungi love an area of partially buried dead wood that is unpainted and unstained. Wood piles also make the ideal hibernation spot for many larger mammals. These can sometimes look unsightly, so consider tucking them away in a corner.
- Your garden doesn’t need to be a mess to attract wildlife but you’ll find that not being too tidy can certainly help draw in visitors. Piles of leaves and plant debris can provide food and habitat for a wide range of species, while leaving perennials uncut over winter can create shelter for hibernating insects.
- If you’re not too worried about keeping your garden perfectly tidy at all times, consider allowing a patch of grass to grow more wildly. This will create the perfect place for insects to lay their eggs and wild flowers such as cornflower, cowslip and foxglove will attract lots of insects. If you’re keen to get butterflies in your garden, a nettle patch is good way to attract them.
- You can also scatter wildflower seeds to create spot of meadow land in your garden. 96% of diverse, species-rich meadows have been lost since the 1950s so creating one in your garden can be really helpful to wildlife, particularly insects, and they’re exceptionally low maintenance.
- Rock gardens are the perfect spot for hibernating reptiles and amphibians. Try to recreate their natural habitat of steeply sloping ground, cliffs and rocky areas with gravel and rocks and you’ll be sure to draw in the crowds, along with mason bees and a range of other insects.
The finishing touches
There’s a whole world of finishing touches for a wildlife garden. Providing food and water for birds all year round is essential as they’ll come to rely on your offering, so bird baths and feeders that are regularly defrosted and filled will make sure the birds keep coming back.
The number of hedgehogs in the UK is rapidly declining, but a hedgehog house will help your prickly friends to survive the winter, especially if your garden is tidy and provides limited cover.
You can also create a bug hotel too (especially fun if there are children involved) by experimenting with a range of materials such as bricks, dead leaves, woodchips, soil and hay stacked on top of each other. Remember that insects thrive in areas that have cool and moist conditions with some sunlight so a dappled area beneath a tree is recommended.
Lastly, remember to avoid insecticide unless essential – killing off the bugs you don’t want will also kill off the bugs you do want. Use natural and organic solutions for pests and you may even find that some of the good bugs take care of the bad ones for you too.