Wildlife-friendly planting is a great starting point in creating a garden where wildlife can thrive. Birds, insects and mammals such as hedgehogs, bats and frogs, need a garden where they have a place to shelter, can safely breed and find adequate suitable food. Having a selection of wildlife-friendly plants can support all of these requirements, and is a great first step in creating a safe space for wildlife.
A wildlife-friendly garden doesn't have to be wild and overgrown and it can look attractive all year round. Grow a wide variety of plants and you'll offer food and shelter for all sorts of wildlife. The size of your garden will limit what you can plant, but it's possible to provide something on even the smallest balcony or terrace.
When selecting plants it’s important to think about what wildlife you’ll be helping, for example perennial plants and buddleja will attract insects such as butterflies, bumblebees and bees, and will provide a valuable source of nectar and pollen. Dense shrubs and climbing plants will provide shelter and areas for nesting, whilst fruit trees and shrubs will provide food for birds and other wildlife (as well as ourselves!). When planting your garden, it’s therefore beneficial to have plants tht grow to a variety of heights to cater for all wildlife.
The name perennial translates to "through the years” and will live more than two years, flowering each year hopefully bigger and better than the year before. Unlike annuals or biennials (plants that take two years to grow), once planted perennial plants are fairly low-maintenance and easy to grow, so are a great option for anyone looking to add long-lasting vegetation and colour to their garden or outdoor space.
Perennials are good for insects, including bees and butterflies, as they will be attracted to the nectar and feed on the pollen. To help these creatures further why not add a insect or butterfly house, they come in all shapes and sizes and provide a valuable shelter.
Climbing plants such as Ivy or climbing hydrangea are great for covering walls or unsightly areas. Not only do they provide nectar when they flower, but they also create areas of shelter and even potential nesting sites for birds such as the Blackbird. Look out for climbers and shrubs which provide berries and seeds, such as Pyracantha Firethorn or Common Hawthorn.
A useful tip, if you have a small garden, why not take advantage of vertical spaces? Attach a trellis or a wooden fence to grow a honeysuckle or other climbing plants or consider replacing an old fence with a mixed species hedge. If you prefer the single-species option, choose holly, yew, cotoneaster or any other berry-producing shrub. If space is limited why not grow plants in pots or containers, they can look just as attractive and will still be just as beneficial to your visiting wildlife.
Once the Summer months come to an end, and your garden starts to prepare for the winter months don’t be too hasty in cutting back your plants. Leave the flower heads to go to seed as your garden birds will eat these, and next Spring you may find you’ll have some lovely new perennials.
Wildlife requires two fundamental things: somewhere safe to breed and shelter and somewhere to forage throughout the year. Therefore as well as plants there’s also other habitats and shelters you can add to your space, such as nest boxes, bat boxes, hedgehog shelters, frog and toad houses and insect houses. Take a look at your outdoor patch and see what habitats you could create. Avoid cramming too much in and focus on what can be done well in the space you have.
You can still achieve a successful wildlife garden while maintaining a more formal or contemporary design. Marina Christopher, trained ecologist, believes too many people are put off by wildlife gardening because they don't want a messy garden. "I don't think you need an untidy garden to attract wildlife. It's the choice of plants that makes a difference."