Steve Lovell from Lincolnshire has always combined his passion for nature with his horticultural career of thirty years. In fact he is about to publish a nature diary written during covid called Clowns to Cuckoos. He came to the July meeting of Ticknall Garden Club to talk about encouraging wildlife into our gardens.
He emphasised that any garden or open space, large or small, can play its part in attracting more wildlife but one must have realistic expectations. No-one wants a badger sett in the garden! Woods, churchyards and parks in the vicinity increase the chance of a more diverse variety of wildlife and act as “reservoirs” from which our gardens draw benefit.
Trees to be planted include crab apple and cherry which have good blossom and fruit. Silver birch can be home to 225 different types of insect to feed birds like blue tits which can consume up to 15.000 caterpillars in a season. The seeds are food for goldfinches. The rowan is another native tree which attracts winter visitors.
As insects require specific hosts for food it repays to plant mixed native hedgerows. Restraining the pruning to encourage fruiting berries is also needed. The berries of elder, hawthorn and pyracantha feed birds. Scented honeysuckle is great for moths and hebes and blue buddleia for butterflies.
A more natural look for lawns is now in vogue. Less mowing and leaving weeds to flower for insect diversity is encouraged. A wild area or patch of nettles will pay dividends although managing the plot by pruning some of it for new growth is advised.
Flower planting should aim for a long season with varied colours, flower shapes and scents. The following will attract beneficial insects and provide seeds for birds; salvia, knautia, cercis, eryngium, sedum, veronicastrum, cardoon, echinops, scabious, phlox and ivy.
Steve finished with general management guidelines to follow in gardening.
Restrict any spraying of insecticides. Boost bird and bat populations with strategically placed boxes. Fill bird feeders with sphagnum moss or hair and sheep’s wool to attract nesting birds. Also keep bird tables clean to prevent diseases from spreading. Leave log piles and prunings as shelter for insects, toads and hedgehogs.
He considered that the two most important things you can do to attract wildlife into the garden is to never use chemicals and to create some source of water whether pond or tub of water.
Steve had probably been preaching to a converted audience, but he had successfully reinforced that interest with suggestions, reminders and some new ideas.