St Paul’s Wildlife Garden

imag0204Toni Taylor has been working in all weathers to establish a very robust hedge and decorative flower beds in the Neighbourhood garden.  She now turns her attention to developing the wild area into an effective Wildlife Garden, explaining her plans as follows:

Up till now the wildlife area has been managed as a “No Go” area which is indeed by far the best approach for anyone who is unsure what to do. However, I have been interested in (and practising) wildlife friendly gardening most of my life and have also recently attended a wildlife friendly gardening course run by the Dorset Wildlife Trust. Consequently, I have begun a more active management of the wildlife area with the aim of creating a richer and more varied environment which will lead to a greater variety of plants and flowers which will in turn support a much greater variety of insects and birds.

I have cleared out some of the brambles and made a start on cutting back the gorse, both of which were beginning to take over the whole area, but I also intend to leave some of both as the brambles provide nectar for bees and butterflies and berries for the birds and the gorse also provides nectar and both provide shelter for all manner of small creatures. I have created a log pile under the large pine tree which will also provide shelter for many creatures and boring beetles and other insects and the area under the pine tree will remain a “No Go” area, as will the areas under the brambles and all along the back fence under the cotoneasters. This is to provide small mammals and other creatures somewhere to shelter undisturbed and even hibernate over winter.

I have provided a compost bin; primarily for the benefit of the wildlife so please no one else to add anything to it which may be unsuitable. This again will support many varieties of insect and may be used as a hibernation site. I have also provided a shallow dish of water which I will try to keep clean and topped up since water is of course an essential for all life and clean water can be hard to find. I always do this in my own garden and have been surprised by some of the creatures I have seen make use of it – raccoons in Washington DC and foxes here in Canford Heath.

On the Wildlife gardening course I mentioned earlier, I was very kindly given two plants which I intend to plant out in the wildlife area. One is an Alder Buckthorn, a small tree/large shrub, which is very attractive to bees and the food plant of the Brimstone butterfly caterpillars. The other is a wild rose which is also attractive to bees and provides hips for the birds in autumn.

I am hoping to be able to get some help to strim and rake off most of the long grass as this will allow a much greater variety of wildflowers to grow up with it in the spring. The area already has growing in it clover, plantain, St John’s wort, Ragwort, Ladies mantle, bird’s foot trefoil  and many other species. With an annual strim these should all increase in number and attract a much greater variety of insects. There are also several species of grasses which are necessary food plants for at least 14 species of butterfly caterpillars, and most of the wildflowers are food plants for many more.

While I was weeding I came across an admittedly very small slow worm, but where there are babies there are likely to be adults. So I have provided a board for them to shelter under. This should ideally be somewhere that gets the morning sun, but it also needs to be left undisturbed so I have compromised by placing it near the back of the wildlife area. As well as the slow worm, I have seen a large frog, a mouse, and numerous species of birds, butterflies and bees. Also, in addition to numerous ants nests (perhaps not so welcome), I have discovered a bumblebee nest. So there is no doubt that the area is already supporting a large variety of wildlife.

In the ornamental part of the garden, I have taken great care to select all the plants I have supplied from the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) perfect for pollinators list and have been rewarded by seeing large numbers of bees visiting these as well. Finally, I try to avoid using any pesticides or herbicides anywhere, but have occasionally been spraying the aphids on our new hedging with a dilute solution of Ecover washing-up liquid. Even aphids are of course part of the natural ecosystem providing food for birds and ladybird larvae but they have been causing considerable damage to our still to establish and currently not very healthy hedging. In short I care passionately about the good stewardship of our precious and much threatened environment and I sincerely hope you do too and support all I am trying to do to protect and preserve it.

Toni Taylor