April 2016 – Design for Wildlife – Stephen Hall

Stephen Hall. Do check out his website stephenhalldesign.co.uk which shows stunning examples of his work.

Stephen had been invited by the Gardening Club to give some advice and tips for how we could design our garden for wildlife. We were not disappointed as the ideas came thick and fast. If you are going to Hampton Court Flower Show this July, look out for a garden designed by him. I will try to summarise some of the ways in which we can all provide for wildlife in no matter what size of garden we have.

Hopefully you will already have bug hotels in your garden (mine is regularly used by leaf cutter bees) – make your own from a bundle of canes tied together. Make room for small piles of logs in your flower beds for beetles and other insects to inhabit. We have a shrew hotel under such a pile! It provides hours of entertainment for our Persian cat who watches and watches until a shrew appears. There follows a quick ‘catch me if you can’ around the garden – our cat always loses and then retires exhausted to dream of what might have been! I digress… that broken terracotta pot can be put to good use – lie it on its side and put some moss inside – this will provide a five-star bedroom for solitary bees.

Talking of bees – try to grow ‘open’ flowers like foxgloves or sea holly (eryngium) and astrantia which are members of the Umbelliferae family. The flowers grow in umbels or clusters forming an umbrella shape like cow parsley which makes it easier for the bees to enter. Double flowers may be fashionable but are not appreciated by the bees. Stephen recommended sedum spectabile,
scabious, annual cosmos,verbena. For their seed heads grow poppies, fennel, allium and phloxes. Remember that hollow stems are used by over-wintering insects so please do not tidy up your garden until the spring! You may not be able to create a wild flower meadow like the one at Great Dixter, but try planting up a small area of your garden with meadow turf for spectacular results. Then there are hedges providing welcome corridors for wildlife to travel along piles of sticks, leaves or mere rubble will be greatly appreciated by newts, frogs,and even the
harmless, non-venomous grass snake which loves nooks and crannies while hunting for small amphibians.

Leave dead tree trunks, if it is safe to do so, for insects to explore, allow a friendly clematis like a montana, to wander over the trunk – this is good for nesting birds as is hedera helix – the common ivy. If left alone beautiful flowers will appear providing berries for the birds and the thick twisting stems will provide many a nest.

Try to make room for a pond – even a small one. Make sure that there is easy access to the water with a sloping ‘beach’ on the edge with e.g. pebbles or a branch to allow creatures who fall in the pond to scramble out. Perhaps we will have another class in our Annual Show next year – “The best wildlife garden!”

Mary Duff

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