Gardeners can often fall into two camps – those who love to watch any wildlife, appreciate their presence and much-needed help nibbling slugs and snails, even if they may eat a few too many sweet pea seeds or onion sets to boot.
Then there are those who try their best not to encourage too many garden beasties at any time of year as their habit of ravaging brassicas, lettuce or newly planted seedlings can be really disheartening.
It’s best to be in both camps, really, by being wary of potential damage and trying to prevent it – but also appreciating our wonderful garden friends’ merits.
Attracting wildlife to a garden is all about creating a balanced environment. Everything has its place in the world and most animals are beneficial in some way, even if we can’t see it directly. So we must help them all to thrive or they’ll disappear!
Birds are a wonderful sight darting among the frosty tree branches in winter and they are so easily attracted by mountains of suet, peanut cakes, stored windfall apples, raisins, fat balls, and grain. In fact, birds such as blackcaps and greenfinches are increasing in our gardens as they’ve worked out that we love to feed them and they know where they can get a real feast. Densely-berried bushes are a real boon – and there’s still time to plant some now, such as bright orange-red cotoneaster and pyracantha. If there’s one thing you can plant that’ll be most beneficial to you as well as birds, it’s these two beautiful shrubs.
As for other wildlife, there’s plenty you can do to keep them happy. Create a compost heap, as its warmth and shelter offer frogs, slow worms, toads and other animals respite – just be careful when you fork it over in case any are lurking.
Woodpiles with nooks and crannies can be good shelter too. Most of your stout perennials with strong enough stems such as phlomis and sedums don’t need to be chopped back – which is one less job to do!
Lacewings and ladybirds, friends of the garden, will sleep among their hidey-holes. Though if the winter wet has reduced your foliage to mush, they’re no use and can be cut back before the usual springtime chop. Keep bird baths and boxes clean and tidy as well as hedgehog food areas, too.
Then get yourself some binoculars and see what comes to visit!
Three coloured conifers to plant now:
- Incense cedar ‘Berrima Gold’
Slow-growing conifer with orange bark and yellow-green foliage tipped orange in winter.
- Lawson’s cypress ‘Minima Aurea’
A conical dwarf conifer to add a little stout interest to beds. Bright lime- yellow foliage.
- Blue spruce
Stunning silver-blue ‘fluffy’ foliage, makes an attractive pyramidal shape.
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