Welcome to the second blog on what's been happening in my garden since RSPB gardening expert Adrian Thomas visited us last summer with a brief to provide us with a master plan to make it more wildlife-friendly. If you're an RSPB member, hopefully you have seen the feature in Nature's Home Spring 2020 (p80) that shows we have quite a lot of work to do! Last time, it was all about the bees and... well the bees.

Plant, plant and plant some more
It soon became apparent we had a lot of "wasted" space. Adrian is a big fan of flowers, as of course are insects, so there was a loud and clear "Plant, plant, plant!" message from him that I'm pleased to say we took on board. A really simple thing that I hadn't thought of before was that you don't have to be tied to the area of flowerbed that's already in your garden. Instead of a huge chunk of lawn, Adrian suggested extending the flowerbed forward, so we plan to add on another 2-3 feet at least onto the beds you can see in the photos below. Less lawn for me to mow and more flowers - that's what I call a win!

Adrian's advice was to make several parts of the lawn into mini-meadows and to sow with wildflower seed. More of that to come as one area requires the removal of an old greenhouse and we started with some easy wins before tackling that. It was so obvious how flower-deprived we were once Adrian has showed us all the areas we could plant in. It was certainly time to fill up our borders and snap up some bargains from our village plant sale that conveniently came a few weeks after his visit in May.

If you buy smartly, and aim for species that will then self-seed and spread, you don't need to spend a fortune on flowers. We bought a good mix of perennials that were also of high value to insects such as ice plants, coneflowers, lupins, salvias and verbena. 

Borage grows well in our garden and bees go mad for it. It also self-seeds very effectively, so give it a good shake when it's finished flowering. We also do this with our foxgloves, globe thistles and red valerian to ensure they spread.

Filling the gaps

As you can see, we had a lot of gaps in our back border, so loads of room for planting. Laura quickly got to work bedding in some of the collection of new plants shown above.

We have left areas of bare soil too, as the sandy soil of our gardens is much-used by mining bees that dig their burrows in it. There was also loads of room at the front of the house which also faces south and is the perfect spot for insects, The minimal planting and "skinny" flower beds there were also ripe for improving.

Making a lavender hedge

With any tree and hedge planting, it is well worth taking the time to mark out exactly where you want the plants to go to make sure you get an even growth with no gaps.

Lawns can be very boring but they have so much potential! We tend to let hawkbits, violets and other wildflowers come up naturally (violets give the spring colour and nectar and hawkbits the late summer goodness), but because we wanted to attract more bees, Laura set to work planting a lavender hedge along the front edge of the lawn there. A little bit of thought and measuring out with canes and string ensured it got off to the best possible start and we used a couple of different English varieties that bees like - "Hidcote" and  "Munstead".

The perfect job for Laura who is far more meticulous and organised than I am...

If this had been left to me, I'd have just put the lavenders straight in and guessed the space between them and from the front. For a nice looking, equally bushy hedge though, it's worth the effort to mark it out properly.

Making space for the good guys

Don't be afraid to remove things that aren't wanted or could be replaced by something better - in this case, invasive Spanish bluebell bulbs that have been here since we moved in

It was also a chance to take a look at what we did have growing in the garden, but that we didn't want, or that could be replaced with something far better. Firmly in that category was the bed full of invasive Spanish bluebells that took me a long while to find and dig up the bulbs of. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to find them all but as you can see from the photo above, I made a good start! It's important to carefully dispose of the bulbs of invasive species to ensure they don't spread.

This south-facing border at the front was seriously underachieving and with Spanish bluebells gone, Laura set to work filling it with insect-friendly plants.

The existing hemp agrimony, wisteria, lupins and others received a nice boost from our new acquisitions and there was still plenty of room left for our spring bulbs to come up and flower in profusion. 

Next time, I'll be blogging about green roofs and how very easy it is to make one yourself. So far, this has been one of my favourite and most rewarding jobs in the quest to make our garden twice as good for wildlife.