• So long, but not farewell

    All good things come to an end. Oh, and this blog must, too! After over 13 years, this will be the last of my weekly offerings.

    My thanks to all of you who have followed it, with sometimes over 10,000 readers per blog. And special thanks to those who have been devoted readers of what has been 700 blogs, 2500 images and about a third of a million words!

    All the way through I have tried to ensure that I share my own real…

  • Forced onto the feeders

    I'm just back in from my morning pre-work constitutional, which is to pull the wellies on and do a tour of the garden. It is my way of setting myself up for the day.

    But it was rather nice to come back in after 15 minutes into the relative warmth and shelter of the house. We've had hard frosts now each night for over a week, and the ponds are frozen solid, the earth is hard underfoot, and the wind was certainly nipping…

  • Escape into nature

    Winter arrived today.

    Frost on the ground, sealing the pond. Chill seeping into my bones.

    This is the time when the garden goes still, packs up, closes down.

    Or does it?

    I step out to see if anything survives

    And find Robin song, sparse in verse, but pure and clear.

    Then a blast of blue tit bling.

    As blue as the Teucrium, which is holding on still.

    A Heron lumbering out of the mini-meadow is as surprised to see me as…

  • How do garden birds know who is who?

    It is the one question my mum always asks me about birds; she is fascinated by the thought of how birds recognise each other, given that they all look the same.

    The question is a live one at the moment for me because I actually have two Great Tits currently visiting my garden that don’t look the same as all the others. One has a washed out back, a whitish tail above, white flecks on its head and creamy underparts…

  • Go stick it!

    One of the things we've been asking people to do this autumn and winter as part of our Nature on Your Doorstep campaign is make dead hedges. In other words, to gather any sticks, branches and prunings of trees and shrubs and pile them up in any way you want instead of burning them or putting them in the green bin.

    I'll be revealing my new dead hedge in a couple of weeks' time.

    But I thought I'd share with…

  • A deeper passion for Ivy

    I tend to think of Ivy's flowering peak as being September and early October when great heads of it swarm with the Ivy Solitary Bee plus Comma and Red Admiral butterflies.

    By now, the loose clusters of fat-rich berries are starting to turn a dull purpley-black and are being plucked by the Wood Pigeons.

    But Ivy often has some sprays of flowers that bloom deep into autumn, and yesterday, after an absolute deluge the…

  • Now that's the way to get the most out of a small growing space!

    This week, my day job took me to The Barbican in London for the launch of a campaign by the Royal Town Planning Institute to promote ‘Planning for Tomorrow’s Environment’.

    When I was at school, I don’t remember being in any lesson that discussed the town planning system. I realise that would have been a tough gig for any teacher – it is hardly a topic to leave a class of kids riveted.


  • Glimpse of a hidden world

    Gosh, it's been wet down here on the south coast! Anyone up in Cumbria or the Highlands, say, will wonder what I'm getting excited about, but over two inches of rain in two days is deluge time for us.

    This wet autumn does mean there are some wonderful fungi popping up. I went for a walk in a local woodland last weekend and it was ripe with them.

    Most impressive were some Stinkhorns.

    They were doing wonders for…

  • A peat-free future beckons for gardens everywhere

    You may have spotted the news a couple of months ago when the government announced that peat sales for amateur gardening would be halted by 2024. I haven't brought out the bunting for many political decisions recently, given the recent attack on nature (see the latest here), but on this occasion, I at least cheered. At last! well done! It has been a long time coming after the 'voluntary' target for compost retailers…

  • Garden trees - something for now, not just for the future

    A little guessing game to get us going this morning. How old do you think these trees are?

    On the left with the trunk in sunshine is a Rowan, on the right an Elm with its trunk in shade, and in the middle are three Silver Birches, planted close together with a froth of leaves coming right down to the base.

    To give you a better sense of scale to aid your guess, here I am at the foot of the Birches, which must be now 8…

  • The Mother's Year

    During this year's blogs, I've been bringing you occasional visits to my garden moth trap to chart how its contents change over the course of a year.

    So, back in March, it was dominated by Common Quakers, Hebrew Characters and Early Greys.

    By May, I was catching Alder Moths, Nut-tree Tussocks and Small Elephant Hawkmoths.

    In July. there were Privet Hawkmoths and Swallow-tailed Moths.

    So now, by October, are there…

  • In the red: nature's autumn fireworks

    Over the last two weeks I've had to travel a lot, with time spent in East Anglia and northern England.

    At times, the skies have been wonderfully aglow:

    But the further north I went, so have the trees:

    The Field Maples are the brightest yellows I can remember and the cherries flaming red.

    So I thought, in a garden context, I'd pick out two native bushes of real merit, for wildlife and for their colour.

    The first…

  • Of cuckoo clocks, army knives...and gardens?

    When you think of Switzerland, what springs to mind? Mountains, maybe, or watches and chocolate. But wildlife-friendly gardens? Surely not!

    Well, on my recent jaunt there, I can tell you there was inspiration galore to be had.

    In particular, what I love about Swiss villages in the mountains is that they really embrace the mini-meadow. Here in the UK, it has taken a long time for people to accept that it is ok to let your…

  • Windowbox Wonders

    I had the fortune last week to spend a few days in the Alps, breathing in the fresh mountain air, marvelling at Marmots and Nutcrackers, and feeling very small and insignificant in comparison to the timeless grandeur of the scenery.

    Inevitably, I had one eye turned to gardening, and as always the Swiss had done wonders with their window boxes.

    Beautiful, but useless for wildlife because a mass of hybrid pelargoniums…

  • Thanks for the flies

    The other day, I flushed an amber-coloured flying insect from the ground, one I knew I'd never seen in my garden before.

    It was kind of like a fly but was big. Really big. Its body was long, thin pointed and yellow-and-black, and it was rather on the leggy side, too.

    What was also clear was that it was carrying something. And that something turned out to also be a fly .A greenbottle. It helps give scale to the big…

  • Bottoms up to boozy butterflies

    We tend to think of butterflies as being nectar drinkers - the simple squash of sugar and water produced by flowers.

    But at this time of year, some butterflies turn their tastes to something more adult, as my windfall plums ably demonstrated last week. Several butterflies were coming down to drink oozing and fermenting fruit juice:

    My first thirsty butterfly, above, was a Comma, not so easy to identify when seen from…

  • The effects of drought in the garden

    It has been like a little glimpse of the summers of the future, hasn't it? Forty degrees centigrade, weeks with no rain, and levels of sunshine and heat that just made gardening impossible for a fair-skinned, heat-averse creature like me.

    The rains may now have arrived, but summer has definitely left its mark on my garden. Here is the sorry state of one of my Hebes:

    And my Tree Peony is even worse:

    And when plants…

  • Gardens: Expect the unexpected...again!

    I thought last week’s Brown Hairstreak butterflies were the end of the rarity excitement in my garden for the year.

    Not that rarities are everything, you understand – there is much pleasure to be had from the common stuff. But the ‘unusual’ does add a bit of frisson – and by 'unusual' I mean something that you hadn't expected to see rather than it being a hyper rarity nationally.…

  • Gardens: Expect the unexpected

    Sometimes I think I must have used up all my good luck in the garden for seeing amazing things. Over the last seven years my garden has hosted several Kingfishers, a Nightjar, a Wryneck, a Woodcock, a Blue-eyed Hawker dragonfly, and egg-laying Small Blue butterflies - all of them scarce creatures outside of gardens let alone in.

    I list them not as a boast but as an indication that gardens can attract some very surprising…

  • Nature's Incredible Dodgems

    Whatever you do, watch the video in the link at the bottom of this blog!
    Occasionally as a kid I’d go to the local fair when it came to town. We’d ride contraptions that felt on the rickety side of safe and get cricked necks on the waltzers while the music blared and the invitations rang out to "scream if you want to go faster".

    And then of course there were the dodgems, where you paid to get whiplash…

  • You don't see this stuck to your wall every day...

    There is a certain creature that comes into my garden every single evening from April to November but I never usually get to see more than a passing shadow whizzing by.

    Until this happened:

    When you see a bat sat (or is that a sat bat?), it feels such a different creature to the twisting, turning nimble ghost that whirls with such speed over ponds and trees.

    So my brick-clinging little bundle throws up a number of questions…

  • Letting nature do the talking

    Once in a while on the blog I pause the tapping fingers on the keypad and let nature do most of the talking.

    And now in high summer it is the flowers and their insect visitors that are a wonderful distraction as you walk around the garden.

    So here are a few choice summer moments this week in my garden, and hopefully some inspiration of wildlife-friendly plants you might like to grow, starting with the architectual wonder…

  • Up close and personal: latest news from Moth World

    Over the last few months, I have been periodically sharing some of the characters that have been dropping into my moth trap.

    It is an excellent way of charting the changing seasons, because different moth species follow their own temporal patterns of emergence. It is nature's calendar, in fluffy nighttime form.

    So, back in March, we were in a world of Common Quakers, Hebrew Characters and Early Greys.

    By May, I was…

  • Brighten your world, one packet at a time

    This year the RSPB introduced some garden seedmixes that I helped devise with our wonderful supplier, Sylvawood Seeds, which is a small, principled, independent company.

    Matt at Sylvawood worked really hard to ensure we had great seeds from UK sources that didn't use pesticides or seede dressing, plus the packing is plastic free and uses FSC card (from sustainable forests) and the inks are vegan.

    I've been growing…

  • Superdiva alert!

    At this time of year, the garden is packed with wildlife stories. It can feel alive out there – wall to wall birds, bees, dragonflies, bugs, hoverflies...

    To add to this, the butterfly season is just picking up pace – I had nine Meadow Browns and the first Gatekeeper yesterday, a signal that things are about to go ‘boom’ on that front.

    But then something comes wandering through the garden which…