Biodiversity: “the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat”.
Few places on Earth, outside the rainforest, have as much biodiversity as a well tended English garden. Gardeners are almost addicted to packing in as many exotic and native species as possible, we love our bird feeders and ponds, and we build all sorts of homes for insects, especially bees, including the less common, solitary varieties that don’t even try bribe us with their honey.
Trees & Plants for Wildlife
At age eleven, I planted two trees: a Prunus padus Bird cherry, and Sorbus decora, which is like a Rowan tree. The Sorbus produces soft and juicy fruit in autumn, which makes it a natural bird feeder. Waxwings and thrushes love it. The bird cherry is beautiful in spring when it blossoms, and attracts loads of bees and butterflies. If you have enough space, the best tree for wildlife is an Oak. For normal gardens, Crab apple, Alder buckthorn, Holly, Hawthorn, or Spindle are all excellent choices.
To attract more birds to your trees, it may be necessary to prevent cats from climbing them.
Bug hotels are places for insects to lay eggs, hibernate and make nests. These insects will help pollinate the garden, which is important for fruit and veg. The natural materials you might use are twigs, spare rolls of turf, dry leaves, bark, hollow plant stems, straw, hay, and half-buried logs for beetles. Bamboo canes, bundled up horizontally and fixed above the ground are often used to attract those rarer, solitary bees and wasps, and while they will do the job if prepared correctly, the best bee hotels use a range of materials. Old bee hotels attract parasites, so they need to be refreshed every couple of years, but check each piece first to see that you aren’t evicting anyone!
In my garden we have five different types of bird feeder, some bought, some home-made. I prefer the hanging bird feeders because they don’t take up any space. Sunflower seeds and peanuts are popular because they are packed with protein and fat. In autumn, fat balls are a lifeline for hungry birds, here’s a quick and easy recipe.
In our garden we have three bird houses, two of which I built; it’s a straightforward project that anyone can try. I have had blue tits nest in my boxes, however, an unexpected resident was a bee colony. They lived in there for a while, but eventually I had a word with them, and they agreed to move to another part of my garden.
Hedgehogs love to eat slugs and snails, so they’re always welcome to stop by. A pile of leaves and dead branches is good enough for them, but you can make your garden a real safe haven by building a proper box, which also takes up less space.
All photos by Rebecca Pitt