A wildlife garden in a year

Creating a wildlife garden is tricky. It’s not the attracting the wildlife bit, that’s easy according to Ken Thompson’s book ‘No nettles required’ – have lots of nice plants, stick in a tree, be a bit untidy…bonus points for a pond and a bit of long grass…and the wildlife turns up. No, the tricky thing is making a garden people want to visit and engage with, so they actually look at the wildlife.

At the end of 2013 I was asked to help plant a new wildlife and edible garden at Tees Valley Wildlife Trust head quarters. They wanted to create something that worked as an educational garden for the many schoolchildren who visit every year but also with ideas for people to see and copy at home if they liked them.

The garden is very long and narrow, between half a metre and two metres wide (perhaps three at the most) and around 30 metres long, all down the southern side of the building.

Under construction September 2013

Under construction, September 2013

I decided to loosely theme the planting. We start with shrubs that berry but also

Currants, crab apple and a row of white and red alpine strawberries (v. popular).

Currants, crab apple and a row of white and red alpine strawberries (v. popular).

including an old buddleia (no reason why you can’t grow fruit bushes in with all the garden flowers) and some double and single garden flowers (for experiments on which is most popular with pollinators).

Gooseberries and raspberries with double flowered Feverfew.

Gooseberries and raspberries with double and single flowered Feverfew.

Then off into herbs and flavours

The globe artichoke looked magnificent.

The globe artichoke looked magnificent.

Over to a garden meadow (mainly garden plants with a few natives)

The main grass used is Stipa tenuissima.

The main grass used is Stipa tenuissima. Note the habitat dry stone wall – lots of fun to make and if you are in an urban area you can use bits of brick, slate or lumps of concrete.

A pond with a border of ‘intermingled planting’ (on the right just off picture) and a ‘normal’ border (behind the bird feeder)

As the pond is so small I've used Rhubarb to give the same effect as a Gunnera. We're going to use hessian to cover the liner that shows in the summer when the pond level is low.

As the pond is so small I’ve used Rhubarb to give the same effect as a Gunnera. We’re going to use hessian to cover the liner that shows in the summer, when the pond level is low.

The same area in spring.

The same area in spring.

Mini-stumpery

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And woodland and woodland edge planting

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I’ve tried to use as diverse a range of plants as possible in terms of flower colour, shape, and period of interest, within budget, and there are over 200 different types of plant so far. There are differences within a species with native thrift (Armeria maritima) grown from locally collected seed, a white flowered version and a rich purply-red garden variety to look at and be compared. I’ve used natives from the locally rare brookweed to cowslips and primroses, but usually only where they will work as interesting garden plants (okay the brookweed’s an exception, but I like it so it got planted), and also included a hazel tree with truffle inoculum (actually Steve at the Trust bought that…I’m sceptical …but you never know!).

This diversity means that there is always something in flower or with interesting leaves or seedheads, which in turn means there is always nectar, leaves or seeds for the wildlife to eat, which in turn means people want to be out in the garden looking or just relaxing… whilst the wildlife does its thing around them.

More information about the garden here at Tees Valley Wildlife Trust website.

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2 Responses to A wildlife garden in a year

  1. I think you have it all covered there Martin! Looks brilliant, I bet they are thrilled. 🙂

    • Martin says:

      Thank you! – it has been much admired by everyone – especially lunchtimes for the staff and when viewed from the meeting room. I’m really chuffed with how it’s worked out…I just need to work out how to stop the pheasant from eating some of the plants….

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