As you may have gathered from the design of this website, we are mad about wildflowers and the wildlife they support! So it’s only logical that my garden should reflect this obsession! When we moved here 13 years ago, the garden, although well-tended, was bland – vast swathe of grass, a small rose patch, a large oval border in the middle of the lawn with less than healthy shrubs, some trees and more non-flowering shrubs. Boring. Even the local wildlife found it boring as they never visited – we have hardly any birds and no butterflies, bees, moths etc. So something had to be done to rectify this and, over the ensuing years, we transformed the garden into the wildlife garden haven it is today – and with very little effort or expense! That’s the thing about a wild garden, you can leave nature to just get on with it once you have laid the foundations.
First to go was the huge oval border. This was seeded with grass and, the following year we set about transforming the area into a meadow and pond area. A small wildlife pond was initially “put in” and then a larger one next to it the following year. We didn’t populate it with any wildlife and we now have water snails, newts, dragonflies, damsel flies, water boatmen, and lots of bugs I do not know the names of!
We put in the pond British wild oxygenating plants (no foreign stuff such as parrot weed!) and also added wild pond plants, such as Marsh Marigold, Ragged Robin, Yellow Flag Iris, Starwort, Cotton Grass and Bogbean (although the Bogbean has now taken over and will have to be removed in winter!). We did make one mistake by putting in too many pond grasses and now we are overrun with them in one pond and they are very difficult to remove without ruining the pond liner. Around the pond we planted swathes of Purple Loosestrife, which are excellent for butterflies and bees. We also planted Ragged Robin and Marshmallow and White Deadnettle.
The next step was to get a wildflower meadow going around the pond. As I had a wildflower nursery at the time, I had an abundant supply of plants for the area! I dug out patches in the grass and planted Ox-eye daisies, Lesser Knapweed, Comfrey, Elecampane, Teasels, Wild Carrot, Poppies, Cornflowers, Kidney Vetch, Vetches etc. I then just left the area to its own devices …… The result was fantastic and absolutely alive with butterflies and bees when in flower.
Every year the wildflower meadow is different – sometimes I plant more flowers, some die, others blow their seeds in on the wind. It is just blissful and alive with all sorts of wildlife. To enable us to walk through the meadow (and get to the pond!) we have mown a number of paths. The photo on the below shows where I have planted a clump of Comfrey – the bees absolutely love the flowers!
Another path leads to the wildlife stack we built, also known as an insect hotel. We created it from old pallets and filled with anything we could find around the garden and in the shed. The top was planted with Biting Stonecrop which gives a lovely yellow haze to the stack in summer when in flower. An insect hotel is a fantastically useful addition to a wildlife garden.
A mown path through the meadow also leads to a wooden gazebo which is now getting nicely covered with Honeysuckle, and is a lovely place to sit on a summer’s evening with a small firepit.
We edged the meadow area with a semi circle of large shrubs, and small trees with a an archway from the mown area of the garden to the meadow area.
Leading up to the meadow from the back of the house is a natural path that I have named the nectar path – each year it is sown with a mix of wildflower cornfield annuals. However, this year I just left it and planted a few ox-eye daisies. the result is already looking stunning and it is only the beginning of summer! Already Ox-eye daisies are flowering, poppies have appeared, cornflowers are about to flower and so are some teasels. The grass that I left in there is creating a lovely wispy effect – love it!
The rest of the wildlife garden has evolved gradually – the photos below speak louder than words. A statue guards a short walkway between areas of the garden:
We have an old apple tree that produces masses of cooking apples each year. A few years ago I stuck some mistletoe seeds on a couple of branches and now we have a few big sprigs of mistletoe:
We have a shady area in one corner of the garden which has been planted with Bluebells, Wild Primrose, Snowdrops, Yellow ASrtchangel and Red Campion. This looks fantastic in spring and the plants have self-seeded around.
We also have an old well in the garden with a 90ft drop! This has a domed rusty cover over the top for safety reasons! Inside the shaft are some ferns and often a poppy!
A big old hornbeam dominates part of the garden near the meadow area – this has been underplanted with Snowdrops, Cowslips, Wild Bluebells, Wild Primrose and Red Campion. Cyclamen also put in an appearance each year. I have added to this mix a few stone toadstools, a fox and hare, and a door to the land of the Fae!
I love all things mystical and have planted lots of Rowans around the garden – they have many magical connotations and are alleged to keep witches at bay! There are two of them planted here in t his photo with 4 Hazel tree saplings. The area around is left unmowed, as are many areas around the edge of the garden – perfect for grass snakes and slow worms.
Similarly, once I noticed Brimstone butterflies in the garden I looked up the plants they like and found that they love Alder Buckthorn, so we have planted an Alder Buckthorn patch too just for them!
And, of course, no wildlife garden is complete without a Buddleia tree or two, a certain bee and butterfly magnet!
Finally, in the area that used to be the wildflower nursery – this is now a small veg plot with a greenhouse.
We even leave in the gravel any wildflowers that happen to self seed around – like the self-seeded wild Field Forget-me-not below and Herb Robert.
We also have mason bee nests on the shed walls. It’s great watching these busy little creatures going about their business. And, talking of bees, they obviously like our garden as we have had a honeybee nest under the roof tiles for 4 years now, and for the last couple of years tree bees have also nested. We have also come across bumblebee nests in the ground.
I hope this has inspired you to create your own wildlife garden. It needn’t be your whole garden, just a patch will be gratefully received by your local wildlife! Very little maintenance is required and it will make you very happy! There is nothing quite like your garden on a lovely sunny day just humming with bees, butterflies, moths and the birds tweeting – absolute heaven on earth!
If you have a wildlife garden please do let us know below – would love to hear your views – and any questions? Ask away!
Written by Teresa Sinclair