This is a lovely time of year and I love it when nature chooses to come to my garden.  It feels like a vote of confidence that I've been doing some of the right things when a bird or insect shows up on my land.

Previous blogs (here and here) have said a little about what to do in the garden but I really am not an expert so I don't have that much to say.

But I can see that I may have more opportunity to learn over the next few months and years and that's one of the things I intend to do.

And this is one of the areas where the Big Society idea really works - if we all made our gardens just a little bit better for nature then the impact could be very significant - at least up to a point.  Providing food and nest sites for birds, planting the right type of plants for insects, not using pesticides (or at least being very careful about their use), favouring native plant species, leaving some areas of grass uncut and maybe even providing a water feature of some sort - all these things feel like good things to do (and would be good things for farmers to do on a larger scale too). 

But, please note, it isn't the full Big Society idea because it doesn't involve Small Government as well.  The government doesn't have much to say about my garden and that's how it should be.  Unlike the farmland around us I do not receive payments from the taxpayer and cannot receive payments for wildlife-friendly gardening.  And there is no reduction in government spending on my garden.  So the Big Society bit applies to my garden but the Small Government bit does not.

Nature has encouraged me in several ways over the last week to do more for it in the garden.  First there was the singing great tit I heard from the bath with an unusual song type.  Rather than the usual 'tee-cher, tee-cher, tee-cher' which actually does come in a wide variety of song types such as 'zee-tee, zee-tee, zee-tee', 'zee-cher, zee-cher, zee-cher', 'cher-tee. zer-chee, zer-chee' and the occasional chiffchaff mimicer, this great tit had a song of 'schwee, too-tee, too-tee, too'.  I haven't heard it for the last couple of days but I'll be listening out for it.

And then there was the coal tit singing from a tree next door which flew across our garden to our other neighbour's garden before returning, again without setting foot in our place.  Coal tit is an unusual bird for our garden - occasional but unusual on the feeders.

And holly blues are flitting around the ivy, an orange tip has been reported (but I haven't seen one) and, earlier, male brimstones demonstrated why their ilk are called butterflies - so yellow they make early spring bright.

So, many of us can make a contribution to wildlife at home.  We won't save the bittern, the skylark or the blue whale by doing so but we will be making a difference and knowing that we have done our bit.


A love of the natural world demonstrates that a person is a cultured inhabitant of planet Earth.

  • Hi Mark – I can’t get the first link to work – but the second link’s OK

    Does Adrian Thomas mention how somebody with a garden can stop infected diseased badgers passing TB onto their dogs and cats?

  • Hi Mark I agree entirely with what you say but perhaps by emphasising how good the RSPB was in helping to keep the agri-environment payments you almost make it sound as if farmers are lucky to get the payments whereas they hardly cover the cost of getting the payment but do mostly help wildlife a great deal so everyone gains,or perhaps I should say a very small number of people perhaps 5% of population benefit but all wildlife.

    Keeping it in perspective on back page of today's Telegraph,one in four farmers living below poverty line.I promise you they would find it difficult to do wildlife friendly things if it meant less profit and so their family's suffer.Of course we have people on the forum who choose to ignore the ordinary farmers income and quote the income from the large farm businesses but if they got better informed or had a go at farming would find how hard it is to become as they put it a RICH FARMER.

  • Dogged Persistence?

    Interesting Mark – thank you but no thank you!

    I have taken no farming / land ownership payments from “the UK government” since farming payments were ‘re-organised’ so many, many years ago – How could I?

    I do not agree with being a member of the EU so why should I compromise my principles and take the ‘German schilling’.  

    The RSPB obviously thinks otherwise – or doesn’t it think at all?  No doubt accepting the EU payment – and its Laws – is regarded as a ‘no-brainer’ for a left-wing organisation such as the RSPB.

    So - Dogged Persistence?  

    The RSPB’s management has still a lot to learn – about many things …..!

  • This is a list of my favourite plants for butterflies and insects accumulated after 20 years of observation on my plant nursery. Mark what wildlife friendly plants do you have ??

    Top Six Butterfly Plants

    Buddleia davidii : Butterflies will home in on this shrub in their droves. Lilac

    flowered varieties are favoured and the variety Lochinch is particularly good.

    You can stagger the flowering times by having two plants, one of which is cut

    back very early in the spring and the other a month or so later after new growth

    has been produced.

    Verbena bonnariensis: A tender perennial which if it doesn't survive a winter

    will usually seed itself . It is worth buying two or three of these plants each

    year just to be certain of it's spectacular display of later summer/autumn

    flowers and the butterflies it will attract.

    Eupatorium purpureum or Eupatorium maculatum atropurpureum This is a plant for

    the back of a border , 4 foot tall and with mounded heads of purple flowers from

    July to September. Peacock butterflies love this plant as do beneficial


    Sedum spectabile Often called the ice plant, it flowers in September and

    October. Sedums of all types are good for attracting many kinds of butterflies,

    but the pink flowered form of Sedum spectabile is the best. Red flowered forms

    including Sedum Autumn Joy are not nearly so effective and I have yet to see a

    butterfly on the white form ; Sedum Iceberg.

    Cirsium rivulare atropurpureum This is still a relatively uncommon plant, but it

    has become more popular over the past few years. It produces many clusters of

    large deep crimson thistle flowers in May and June with a second flowering flush

    in late summer. It attracts many species of butterflies.

    Asters (michaelmas daisies) Flowering in September and October these plants are

    available in a wide range of heights and colour forms. Because they are mildew

    resistant Aster novae-angliae are the easiest to grow and the variety Pink

    Parfait is good. Only single flowered forms attract insects, the double forms

    do not


    Annuals and Biennials

    African marigold



    China aster

    French marigold

    Myosotis (forgetmenot)

    Sweet william


    Herbaceous Perennials






    Centaurea montana

    Centaurea nigra

    Centaurea other species

    Centranthus ruber (valerian)

    Cirsium species

    Dahlias single

    Dipsacus fullonum (teasle)


    Echinops (globe thistle)


    Helenium varieties


    Hesperis matronalis


    Iberis sempervirens

    Knautia species


    Lunaria annua (honesty)

    Lychnis flos cuculli (ragged robin)

    Mentha (garden mint)


    Saponaria ocymoides

    Scabious and scabious columbaria

  • trimbush - try this blog and the book has already been written

    A love of the natural world demonstrates that a person is a cultured inhabitant of planet Earth.