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Hi. I'm looking for more ideas to make my small, narrow London garden more attractive to wildlife.

At the moment I have a log pile; small pond; an old windowbox with grass which is left long; flowers to attract butterflies and beneficial insects and larger plants like Lavender, Rosemary, Ivy and Buddliea.

I allow herbs to flower, mulch the border and have a bird feeding station. I use companion plants and sacrificial plants and I don't use any chemicals. I leave the perennials like Verbena Bonariensis intact until spring, use Sunflower stems/bamboo canes cut and tied in bundles under the Ivy for over-wintering ladybirds etc and leave seed heads and berries for the birds rather than cutting the plants back.

But last year I had very few butterflies, lacewings and ladybirds (apart from harlequins) and no hedgehogs. Any thoughts?

Georgie

  • Views: 857
  • Replies: 7
  • Posted: Fri. 13th March 2009 20:39

Gardening for wildlife

Reply from David Sewell

Hi Georgie,
I don't have an answer for you but I have my suspicions. I think the very wet and cold weather last year had a big effect on insects trying to breed. Also Small tortoiseshell numbers have been down year on year for a long time now and nobody quite knows why. Check out the link below:
http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/small-tortoiseshell008.html#cr
Hedgehogs, too, are declining and sadly we know this because less are being killed on the roads. So the fact that you haven't seen one may just mean there are less around.
On ladybirds, it seems that the Harlequins are now a real threat to our native ladybirds because they are such an effective competitor for any available food supply. So it's no surprise that you're seeing one but not the other.
Sadly, Georgie, your garden seems to be reflecting the general trends in diminishing wildlife populations.
You're doing as much as you can to attract wildlife. Unfortunately you don't mention the size of your garden so I'm assuming it's quite small and therefore your options are limited. One thought with your feeding station - are you putting out a variety of food to cater for the different species? Softbills like thrushes, Robins, Dunnocks etc have more of an insect-based diet whereas woodpeckers, nuthatches and the tits will take peanuts if there isn't a seed variety to choose from but they often prefer seeds to peanuts if they're available. Niger seed is brilliant for those smaller finches - in my garden the niger seed feeder regularly attracts Goldfinches, Siskins and Redpoll.
Might be worth grabbing a copy of 'How to create a wildlife garden' by Christine and Michael Lavelle for further ideas.

I'm really impressed with all your efforts to attract wildlife and with your attention to the natural rhythms of your garden. Keep it up!
All best,
David
David Sewell NCH, NDH
http://www.the-gardenmakers.co.uk
http://www.landscaper.org.uk

  • Posted: Sat. 21st March 2009 10:58

Gardening for Wildlife

Reply from Georgie

Hi David

Thank you for your considered reply. Like you I suspect the weather had a lot to do with the lack of insects last year. My garden is 3m x 15m so I am very limited on the amount of plants I can grow to provide food for caterpillars for instance and I've drawn the line at stinging nettles, Buckthorn and Hop. But one thing has occurred to me. At the last count I had over 50 varieties of plants to attract wildlife but obviously only one,two or three of each (in the main) given the lack of space. Might it better to grow more plants of one variety of plants so that I have more visible clumps of say Garlic Mustard and Cuckoo Flower for instance? In other words are my plants less visible to butterflies because there are so few of them?

Georgie

  • Posted: Sat. 21st March 2009 11:16

Gardening for wildlife

Reply from David Sewell

Hello Georgie,

You have a good theory there. In my experience wildlife tends to go for the easiest most available food sources first and then work their way down to the hardest. For example I've seen bumblebees chewing into the side of sweet pea flowers to gain access - you can bet they wouldn't be doing that if they had something easier to go at.
So I think that your collection of species will still be utilised in the end.

What I do wonder if whether you could contact your local wildlife group and find out what species ARE definitely in your area and then tailor your efforts accordingly.
For example we are just working out the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme applications for my wifes parents farm and one of the species we've identified as being in the area is Tree Sparrow. This means that we are specifically tailoring our efforts towards attracting this species (as well as doing other thing!)

So maybe you could grow fewer species which you know are going to sustain specific wildlife rather then a 'scattergun' approach. Just a thought!

All best wishes and keep up the good work.

David
David Sewell NCH, NDH
http://www.the-gardenmakers.co.uk
http://www.landscaper.org.uk

  • Posted: Sat. 21st March 2009 13:23

Maybe early simple flowering

Reply from Fi

Hi Georgie
I garden for wildlife too and have found that the simple, early flowers attract the insects much more than the later ones. I have ground ivy (small dark green leaves and blue flowers), yellow celandine, also the ground cover cotoneaster with its tiny flowers and later red berries seem to be a hit. If you can fit one or two in, small trees or shrubs like philadelphus or rosemary seem to overwinter ladybirds, also sedum vulgaris - the old fashioned not the hybrids.
x

  • Posted: Tue. 24th March 2009 20:15

More ideas

Reply from Georgie

Hi Fi

Thanks for adding some more ideas. I get plenty of bees and hoverflies, it's the butterflies and moths I'm really after. I have cotoneaster and Rosemary and I agree they are great plants. I tried Celandine but would you believe I killed it - most people consider it a weed. LOL! No room for Philadelphus I'm afraid and I had to look up ground ivy as that was a new one on me. It looks pretty but I'm not sure I have room for it. Sedum is worth looking into again I think although I have to say I'm not a great fan of it as it tends to go a bit floppy if I'm thinking of the same plant.

Georgie

  • Posted: Tue. 24th March 2009 21:57

Nectar giving plants

Reply from David Sewell

Georgie,
Have a look at this link - it might give you a few more ideas...

http://www.rhs.org.uk/Learning/Research/biodiversity/plantsforbutterflies.htm

All best,
David
PS I spotted a picture of your garden - great job!
David Sewell NCH, NDH
http://www.the-gardenmakers.co.uk
http://www.landscaper.org.uk

  • Posted: Wed. 25th March 2009 09:01

Plants for butterflies

Reply from Georgie

Hi David

How nice to see that you are still around and thank you for your kind comment about my garden.

That's a pretty good list of plants to attract butterflies and I've saved it to my favourites. I see it confirms our earlier speculation about planting in clumps so I think I'm going to have a bit of a rethink. I have lots of those plants already but perhaps I should grow fewer varieties which would allow me to have more of each type. Decisions decisions!

Georgie

  • Posted: Wed. 25th March 2009 21:22