• Garden plants for wildlife: Five autumn classics

    The nights may be closing in with unseemly haste, but flower borders can still pack a punch for another six weeks or so, both in terms of colour and also the wildlife that visits.

    So, here are five plants in my garden this week that I consider to be some of the stars of autumn, including different types suitable for all sorts of outside spaces.

    In no particular order:

    1. Joe Pye Weed Eupatorium maculatum

    The transatlantic…

    • 17 Sep 2021
  • An introduction to: hoverflies

    What do you know about hoverflies? You only get one point for saying that they're flies and they hover!

    They are one of those groups of insects that are found in almost every garden, they're often boldly coloured and day-flying, and many spend plenty of time in and around flowers. They are some of the friendly* faces you can get to know and understand and take notice of. (*'Friendly' as in they don't bite…

    • 10 Sep 2021
  • Seduced by beautiful blue eyes

    You've heard me say it before, and I never get tired of saying it - a pond is one of the best and most exciting things you can do for wildlife (and just as much for you) in the garden.

    Mine are constant sources of delight, enough that two more are going in this autumn to add to the five I already have (call it greed? I call it a thirst for ponds!).

    So, this week I was merrily enjoying the Ruddy Darters that appear…

    • 3 Sep 2021
  • A journey around the world in a wildlife-packed garden

    In this week's blog, we return to Keith Wiley's garden called Wildside in Devon to get inspiration from some of the late summer plants he grows that pull in the wildlife crowds.

    Now what Keith does is effectively create tapestries of plant communities - growing the right plants together in the right places. But I'm going to pick out some of the individual plants - you can't create a community without knowing the…

    • 27 Aug 2021
  • Moving heaven and earth: A garden inspired by nature

    Last weekend, I had the pleasure of doing a wildlife mini-makeover of a garden down in Devon. More of that little venture later this autumn. But today's story is what I managed to squeeze in around it - a trip to a garden that I have long wanted to see.

    Wildside is the imaginative, extraordinary garden of Keith Wiley, the renowned plantsman*, and one that has featured on Gardeners World and in many a leading gardening…

    • 20 Aug 2021
  • Full Alert in the garden

    There are some creatures in my garden that are guaranteed to grab my attention. If there is a bird, butterfly or dragonfly somewhere in my line of vision, I see it, I am alive to its presence.. Guaranteed.

    But I know that there are shedloads of creatures that just pass me without even registering as a flicker on the electrograph of my brain. I don't know them so I don't notice them.

    It's like people in a crowded…

    • 13 Aug 2021
  • I'm just a teenage dirtbag

    Once more this blog is about to get 'down and dirty', as I believe the kids say today.

    The thing is that I seem to have got teenagers lounging about all over my garden at the moment.

    Some of them are REALLY scruffy. I mean, look at this! What. A. State.

    Were it not for the tell-tale bit of orange coming through, you'd struggle to tell what this is, it looks so grungey. This young Robin has been for a bit of a…

    • 6 Aug 2021
  • Make hay while the sun shines

    With so many people making mini-meadows in their gardens these days (which is great), there's one question I get asked more than almost any other: when should I cut it? It can seem such a drastic step, and the kind of thing that can go terribly wrong!

    I'll start by turning to three of my go-to meadow gurus who I've had the pleasure of meeting over the years, before I give you my summary.

    First, Jenny Steel…

    • 30 Jul 2021
  • Welcome to Planet Bee

    We all know that there is no Planet B (surely the most important thing that the human race now recognises), but wildlife-friendly gardens at this time of year are certainly Planet Bee. When flower borders are filled with the right kind of plants - those with nectar and pollen aplenty - bees of all sorts of species can be everywhere.

    Here is one of the bee-favourite plants in my garden at the moment - the Round-headed…

    • 23 Jul 2021
  • Bottoms up!

    My 'Square Meadow' is a vastly over-inflated name for a little experiment in which I have been seeing how feasible it is to convert a bog-standard piece of lawn turf with not a single other plant in it (I know because I laid it myself) into a wildlife-rich mini-meadow.

    We are talking an area that is barely 3 metres by 3 metres (10 foot by 10 foot), with my birdbath in the middle.

    This blog tells the story of its…

    • 16 Jul 2021
  • Welcome to Cutesville

    it's that time of year when I'm prone to going a bit 'gooey' in the garden, a bit maternal, because there are baby birds popping out everywhere who just look like they need a good cuddle.

    So this pair, huddled together on a branch of my spruce tree, were bound to set me off.

    But what were these two little fluffballs with their stubby little wings?

    See if you can work out what they are from the other side…

    • 9 Jul 2021
  • Home in a half-cup

    I popped into my mum's in Worcestershire last week, and was delighted to have my sleep accompanied by the quiet frothy twittering of the nesting House Martins outside the bedroom window.

    On her house, they nest under both the east facing eaves at the back and the west facing eaves at the front, some in artificial nestcups, others in 'self-builds'. This one is poking out of an artifical nestcup, a wise choice as a…

    • 2 Jul 2021
  • Metamagicalmorphosis

    In my garden mini-meadow, a minor miracle is underway.

    For a few weeks now, these little creatures have been prominent, munching away at my Bird’s-foot Trefoil leaves.

    They are the caterpillars of Six-spot Burnet Moths, whose parents colonised the meadow last summer in a blaze of red-spotty glory.

    And now the caterpillars are fully gorged on their very specific vegan diet, it is time for them to make the transition…

    • 25 Jun 2021
  • Bee-autiful Boraginaceae

    Now how about that for a snappy blog title? Oh, how ‘Boraginaceae’ just slips off the tongue!

    In fact, you wouldn't want to put them anywhere near your tongue, or at least their leaves, because the Boraginaceae are some of the bristliest plants you can find, covered in tiny rough hairs full of silica.

    But they are a total winner in the wildlife-friendly garden because they have some of the very best flowers…

    • 18 Jun 2021
  • Dancing with the longhorns

    "Dancing with the Longhorns" - sounds like the title of an epic Western movie, doesn't it? But this is a tale from much closer to home and on a more intimate scale.

    You see, as I pottered around my garden one evening this week, my eye chanced on a curious little insect sat motionless on a Garlic Mustard seedpod.

    We’re talking a creature less than a centimetre long, but what struck me was what looked like…

    • 11 Jun 2021
  • A beautiful conversation in the garden

    I was delighted recently to receive this wonderful email from Catherine Djimramadji, and found the story so eloquent and moving that I wanted to share it with you all.

    The photos are mine, but the story is all Catherine's. Enjoy!

    It was, for me, an enormous relief to stumble into wildlife gardening a few years ago. Growing up with the underlying assumption that gardening was essentially a battle against nature, the…

    • 28 May 2021
  • A lady in furs in the flower border

    I bet you've noticed how the recent cool conditions have really suppressed insect activity. Gardens are not yet humming, literally.

    So at least this week I was glad to find this distinctive lady roving around the Thrift blooming in my Seaside Garden.

    She is an Ashy Mining Bee, Andrena cineraria, one of the most distinctive of all our 230 or so species of solitary bee.

    She is about the size of a Honeybee or slightly…

    • 21 May 2021
  • It's time to build, build, build

    It may be the middle of May already (how did that happen?!), but nest-building season is still very much underway in gardens across the country.
    Only this week, some of my House Sparrows have been continuing to take dried grass into their nestboxes.
    However, my eye was drawn to a bird bounding around the margins of the pond with all the boing of a kangaroo – it was a Mistle Thrush.
    Her target was the scattering…
    • 14 May 2021
  • Springing with joy

    Once in a while, I put aside most of the words and just let nature do the talking.

    So, today, a blog that is about no more than the joys of spring in the garden.

    Yes, I know it has been witheringly cold, and we could all do with a bit of warmth for our cockles, but I humbly offer you sunshine, butterflies and spring flowers.

    To start, a Peacock butterfly drinking dew from a daffodil

    I'm a sucker for a tulip or two in…

    • 7 May 2021
  • You'd have a bad hair day if you had three weeks to get the kids from baby to teenager!

    Some wildlife that I have tried to encourage to breed in my garden came within months, weeks, days even.

    But Starlings? There was clearly no history of them being here, no holes suitable for them, nowhere with the short vegetation they need to feed.

    Six years later, and with beautiful Starling nestboxes adorning my house, at last, they've decided to set up home here. And I love them - the little bird of stars, as the…

    • 30 Apr 2021
  • Ding ding! The punches (and feathers) start to fly in the garden boxing match

    It's getting to that time of year when there are just so many things to talk about, so many wildlife stories happening in the garden. Which to choose?!
    Will it be spring butterflies, tadpoles, birdsong? Or just the simple joy of spring.
    But, no, I thought we’d talk about bird behaviour. And in particular I thought we’d investigate the wild slapping sounds that are coming from my trees at the moment – and quite likely…
    • 23 Apr 2021
  • In a cowslip's bell I lie

    The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that I’ve stolen today’s blog title from Shakespeare. Oh, how I doth spoil thee!

    You see, in The Tempest, the fairy Ariel is released from the servitude of Prospero, and delights in his freedom in the simple things of life:

    “Where the bee sucks, there suck I:

    In a cowslip’s bell I lie.”

    In other words, the joy of liberty for Ariel is summed up…

    • 16 Apr 2021
  • Crowning glory

    The loud outpourings of song from my Blackbirds, Blackcaps, Robins and Great Tits dominate my garden soundscape at the moment, but as I pass under the spruce tree, I often hear a very high-pitched and rather feeble little warble. 'Sicily sicily sicily silly-so', it goes.

    It is the song of the King of the Birds, whose scientific name means just that - Regulus regulus. Little King, little king.

    And here it is in…

    • 2 Apr 2021
  • Spreadeagled in the sun

    I rather over-estimated the speed of my recovery from this labyrinthitis, so it has meant yet more time (and still more to come) away from computers, gently recuperating.

    Whenever possible, you'll find me spreadeagled in the sun, gently dozing.

    So I've been pleased to see that it has been much the same for wildlife in my garden, such as this Peacock butterfly on a lying log.

    It turned out to be a very popular…

    • 26 Mar 2021
  • Oh, for the sounds of birds...and butterflies

    Your eyes do not deceive you - nor your ears! Today I am going to talk about the sounds of birds AND butterflies.

    It comes as I (hopefully) recover from a long bout of labyrinthitis, which has laid me low for over a month now. For much of that, I have had very little sense of balance, and have struggled to focus my eyes (hence no recent blogs, and a short 'ease back in' one today).

    As you can imagine, not being…

    • 12 Mar 2021