Gardens are important for wildlife. In many areas, including in parts of the Peak District, a modest garden can home more variety of wildlife than the open countryside. They are particularly important for bees and other insects. As we know, insects are important pollinators that are needed for the success of many types of food plant. They are also an important source of food for many birds and small mammals. They are under a global threat from insecticides, loss of biodiversity and a changing climate.
How can we make our gardens more friendly for insects and other wildlife?
Find room for a few native plants. Often dismissed as weeds, our native species are the ones that insects and other animals have adapted to over thousands of generations. These are the plants they really need. Try feverfew, with a cluster of beautiful daisy like flowers and fresh green foliage. Or viper's’ bugloss, with dramatic spikes of deep blue flowers, like delphiniums bit not attacked by slugs! Meadowsweet does the job of Astilbes, it needs full sun to show off. An excellent butterfly plant is hemp agrimony, not a showy plant, it forms a dense cluster like phlox and will attract hoverflys and other nectar loving insects throughout August and September.
Look at your boundaries, if you have fences, think of replacing at least some of them with hedging. This provides shelter for birds and small mammals throughout the year. Native types would be hawthorn and blackthorn that can be trimmed into a dense and secure boundary. They flower early for the early emerging insects. If you keep a fence, try to find room for the native clematis, Traveller’s Joy. A much more subtle plant than the cultivated show-off varieties but a more natural home for our wildlife.
Many gardeners and householders dislike trees. They take light and roots can be a problem. Planted away from the house and to the north aspect not the east or south solves the light problem. Consider fruit trees whose blossom is important for bees and be prepared to share the fruit with your wildlife neighbours.
If you have room, a pond will do more to encourage wildlife than any other single action.
A simple saucer shape, lined with builders polythene would be OK. Allow this to fill with rainwater. Surround the margins with some big stones and allow some cover plants to grow tall at the edges. Amphibia will find the water within a season, mammals and birds will welcome a place to drink. In hot weather the pond will create a cooler, moist microclimate for a whole variety of small animals.
Sources of information and seeds:
Landlife Wildflowers: www.wildflower.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org Phone 01205 281902 Plenty of native species by mail order
The Cottage Garden Society: http://thecottagegardensociety.org.uk/ Help and information and also some seeds available to members
Ponds: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions/how-build-pond step by step guide.