Gardening for Wildlife and the Planet
Ecological Wilding in Sustainable Natural Gardens
Let me help you create a well-designed garden:
a world within a world
Many people want to know the best way to ‘do their bit’ in the garden to reverse the global trend of habitat destruction. We shouldn’t under-estimate the value to wildlife of the mosaic of gardens up and down the country. There are many pro-active ways of becoming a positive part of this vibrant mosaic yourself, and some of them may in fact involve doing less, not more… The tidier and more regimented a garden, the less friendly it is for wildlife. Don’t be afraid to leave some areas a bit wilder. If you think in terms of ‘zones’ in the garden, it’s often best to keep the bits closest to the house tidiest, (to cater for the OCD in us!) and then the farther towards the boundary, the wilder the garden can become… This will help it to blend in with the wider landscape, if you live in the country, or to screen the neighbours, if you live in the town. It will also provide shelter and food for birds, insects and small mammals.
Avoid the temptation to pave over the front garden to park the car. It will cost several £1000s for a start. Imagine how many hours of local gardening labour you could pay for with that money, supporting a local skilled tradesperson, and contributing to habitat creation or retention. If you’re looking for small trees for the front garden, so they don’t steal too much light from the house, some of my favourites include weeping silver pear (Pyrus pendula salicifolia), Sorbus aucuparia and its cultivars (Rowan) and Cornus alternifolia argentea, with its delicate horizontal branches and small leaves. Columnar trees are also good at not taking up too much space or light. Did you know that oak and beech are available as columnar specimens? They will eventually get quite big, but they don’t grow all that fast and so would be suitable for a medium sized front garden. There’re always the pencil thin Cyprus trees if you fancy an air of the Mediterranean around your place, or simply like the drama of vertical accents, and of course columnar cherries have the benefit of blossom.
Marginal planting for damp ground with multi-stem Himalayan birch
Bees in profusion on the lavender
Lavender raised bed close to the house. This variety is lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’
There’s a small cherry (not columnar) with interesting bark that would also fit the bill: Prunus serrula. Its shiny coppery bark will provide a treat from the house in winter. It would contrast beautifully with the pure white bark of another small to medium sized tree – the Himalayan birch, Betula utilis var. Jacquemontii. Both these latter are deciduous, meaning that as the leaves fall in autumn, more light is let in to any nearby windows. The birch is often available as a ‘multi stem’ specimen, emphasising the qualities of the beautiful bark even more. Another small tree with Spring blossom and autumn leaf colour, but no spectacular bark, unfortunately, is Amelanchier lamarckii. With so many small trees to choose from, there’s no excuse not to plant at least one.