• Avoiding invasive non-native plants in the garden

    In 2009, I visited a Site of Special Scientific Interest fairly near to where I live called Pevensey Levels to look for the rare and unusual wildlife that is found along its ditches. What I found was this:

    It is beds of Floating Pennywort Hydrocotyle ranunculoides, a plant native to the Americas and parts of Africa, but not to Europe and Africa.

    You can see the effect it is having. It is growing so rampantly that it…

    • 17 May 2019
  • Three types of flower bed for the wildlife-friendly garden

    Last week I showed the making of my new bed of herbaceous perennials.

    This week I wanted to share a different area of the garden where I’ve sown a bed of annual flowers.

    And it sits right next to my wildflower meadow that is in its second growing season.

    Understanding the difference between the three is important, because although the aim of each is lots of flowers (and hence lots of bees and butterflies and other…

    • 10 May 2019
  • Planting a new border for wildlife

    One of my biggest joys of gardening is planting things. I love that moment when a new plant goes in, especially when I know that in due course it will become a magnet for some creature or other.

    So imagine my thrill level last Sunday given that I was about to plant a hundred new plants in my new Bee Border.

    I had prepared the soil over the previous few weeks, digging out weeds, turning the soil, letting the next crop…

    • 3 May 2019
  • A confetti of cherry blossom in the wildlife-friendly garden

    There are certain groups of plants that are stalwarts of the wildlife-friendly garden, and one of them is putting on a show in gardens across the country right now with its prolific blossom. It is the genus called Prunus, better known as the cherries and plums.

    In fact, in Storm Hannah, it has been turning my lawn into a scattering of confetti.

    However, as with so many groups of plants, they are very variable in their…

    • 27 Apr 2019
  • Awww! Here comes the next generation of Robins

    From dawn until dusk right now, it seems that there is always a Robin singing somewhere in my garden. There’s one pair by the house, one in the middle of the garden and one at the top end. However, they also use the neighbours gardens so I wasn’t sure if they were actually nesting in mine.

    The thing is that, while Robins can be very tame and approachable when they are feeding, when it comes to nesting they…

    • 19 Apr 2019
  • Filling the garden with song

    I've just come in from the garden, where I take 10 minutes time out early each morning just to get a bit of a nature fix to greet the day. Although there is so much for the eye to see at this time of year, with unfurling flowers and burgeoning foliage, it was the sounds of the garden that clamoured for my attention today.

    From every every tree, every shrub, there seemed to be wonderful singing of some sort. A tweeting…

    • 12 Apr 2019
  • Turning my Birdwatch scores into a plan of action!

    I always look forward to the Big Garden Birdwatch results coming out. Well, I do and I don't! There is always some trepidation as to whether the nation's combined results will reveal any worrying trends. But I do look forward to seeing if the results in my garden match the national picture, and it is a great prompt to think about what I can do to improve things ready for next year.

    Regular readers will know that…

    • 5 Apr 2019
  • The fascinating world of solitary bees

    I find that more and more people these days understand that there are more bees than just the Honeybee and the 'bumblebee'. I think it is in part due to the popularity of Bee Hotels, and people realising that the 'bees' that use them are something rather different: 'solitary bees'.

    But delving deeper into this world of 'solitary bees' can seem rather daunting. After all there are some 225 or so…

    • 29 Mar 2019
  • A splash of sulphur to brighten the garden

    There are several things that gladden my heart at this time of year, and most of them are yellow.
    There are Marsh Marigold flowers, which are just starting to unfurl in my pond.
    There is the sun when it chooses to come out, as it looks like doing in my garden today.
    And I don’t even mind a splurge of daffodils, which I agree can be rather brash in many of our modern cultivars, but I adore our Wild Daffodil, rather…
    • 22 Mar 2019
  • In the wildlife-friendly garden: Don't forget the foliage

    At this time of year, walk around a garden and our eyes are drawn to the emerging spring flowers. We can't help it - we are fascinated by colour and jewel-like things.

    So, as I took my early morning garden wander yesterday to prepare me for the day ahead, my eye darted from beauties such as these hyacinths...

    ...to the dangling flowers of the Stachyurus, a shrub from the Himalayas which is nevertheless a hit with…

    • 15 Mar 2019
  • Mirror image: When nature meets its nemesis

    "What's that incessant tap-tap-tapping at the lounge window?" I thought to myself.

    I peered around the curtain, and came face to face with this:

    Yes, it's Mr House Sparrow.

    He doesn't want to come in. Instead, he's there in active combat, fighting a particularly dogged rival. The window forms part of his territory, and yet to his irritation a stubborn if silent male sparrow seems to have taken up residency…

    • 12 Mar 2019
  • Great spotting opportunities in the garden

    There are some birds that seem to draw our attention more than others. Whether it be due to their plumage, their calls or their behaviour, they always pique our interest.

    And in the garden, one bird that always prompts comment on any or all of these fronts is this:

    Yes, it's the Great Spotted Woodpecker. (Note that it isn't the 'Great-spotted Woodpecker', as its spots aren't great, and it isn't the Greater Spotted Woodpecker…

    • 3 Mar 2019
  • Spring migration in the garden: what to watch for, and how to prepare

    It is one of nature's miracles: right now, several million small birds are on their way from Africa to the UK, and all under their own steam without the benefits of combustion or jet engines, and without burning fossil fuels!

    Born here either last year or in the couple of years before that, they will have headed south last autumn to escape our winter, and now the hardwiring in their brains is telling them it is time…

    • 22 Feb 2019
  • Filling your garden with holes

    This is the time of year, particularly with some sunny weather, when stories from the wildlife-friendly garden start to come thick and fast.

    But while I'm itching to talk about crocuses and woodpeckers and bumblebees, I'm writing this on 14 February so that means there's just one topic - nestboxes. Valentine's Day is typically given as the day to think of putting up a new box.

    The basic idea is of course…

    • 15 Feb 2019
  • Dull as dishwater? No, this garden bird is a loved-up cutie

    There are some garden birds which definitely don't sit at the glamorous end of the spectrum and never seem to hit the headlines. They are the boring brigade, the dowdy dullards.

    In fact, I realised despite the topic of today's blog being a common garden bird, I haven't mentioned it in almost ten years of blogging. So is it really that unexceptional?

    I've been prompted to talk about them because in the last…

    • 8 Feb 2019
  • Tiny changes, big effects: gardens and microclimates

    How did you get on in the Big Garden Birdwatch last weekend? My Wood Pigeons outshone themselves with a count of 16, and overall I counted 57 birds of 18 species. Of course there were the 'no shows' - where were my Grey Wagtail and my Coal Tit? And there was the surprise - a Starling! Woohoo! I almost never get Starlings (although it was hardly a murmuration).

    Don't forget to post your results here. Low scores…

    • 1 Feb 2019
  • Gardens and wildlife – so much to love

    Over the last few weeks, I've been out and about on several evenings giving talks about wildlife gardening. What I love is how many people have stories they want to share from their own gardens as well as a myriad of questions.

    Ok, so I wasn’t expecting the tale from one lovely lady about the eagle that came and took a lamb from her garden when she was a child (it was in Persia!), but that just shows how universal…

    • 27 Jan 2019
  • Your quick and easy guide to planting a garden hedge

    There are certain things you can do in the garden that transform a space from 'ok for wildlife' to 'fantastic', and one of those is the amazing 'cropped tree corridor', or CTC.

    "So what does this miracle CTC look like?" I hear you cry.

    Well, here's one example:

    It does have a rather mundane alternative name that you might have heard of, for this is the common or garden 'hedge'.…

    • 18 Jan 2019
  • In the Garden Olympics, bring on the long jumpers

    There are some groups of wildlife species that are relatively common in the wider countryside but are quite a rarity in gardens.

    Of these, one group in particular stands out for their absence. Yes, despite our gardens containing so much grass, we have hardly any grasshoppers.

    It is a shame, because they are rather cute, quite harmless creatures, endlessly fascinating for children, and an important part of the foodchain…

    • 11 Jan 2019
  • In the wildlife-friendly garden: Turning silver into gold

    Right now is prime time for planting bare-rooted trees in the garden, which I witter on about endlessly because it is so cheap, quick and easy. No garden know-how required - just a spade and the right space.

    As someone said to me recently, don't imagine that you are planting it for your grandchildren. Young trees grow so much quicker than people tend to realise, so you are growing them for YOU.

    The joy they then bring…

    • 3 Jan 2019
  • Starting the year in technicolour in the garden

    Here we go, another year begins, and I hope you feel all fired up and raring to go in the garden.

    For me, this is year 5 as I try to transform my garden for wildlife. I spent 15 years in my previous garden, but these last five years in my 'new' garden have whizzed by.

    Last year was amazing, with Common Blue, Brown Argus and Wall butterflies all colonising, dragonfly numbers doubling again (my totals are now 20…

    • 1 Jan 2019
  • Get wildlife rich at the Bee Bank

    Much attention is given to the Bee Hotels you can attach to your garden wall or fence that are typically wooden boxes filled with hollow tubes and plant stems. And very good they are, too, with a very high chance of success if the holes are the right size (about 2–10mm diameter) and the box is put in a sunny sheltered location at about chest height.

    What isn't so widely known is that they only provide nesting chambers…

    • 21 Dec 2018
  • Getting ready for Big Garden Birdwatch: breaking the spell of procrastination

    There's no point dishing out advice if you're not going to follow it yourself. So, given that almost a month ago I said that the time to start preparing for Big Garden Birdwatch is 'now', I duly got myself out there, cleaned the feeders, and fished out a peanut feeder that had been languishing in the garage and filled it with fatty nibbles which are the Great Spotted Woodpeckers' favourite in my garden…

    • 12 Dec 2018
  • Listening for worms

    This autumn, I was delighted to have some close encounters with Song Thrushes. I was on the Isles of Scilly, where much of the birdlife is much tamer than on the mainland, and where Song Thrushes remain wonderfully common, again in contrast to much of the rest of the country.

    Indeed, in last year's Big Garden Birdwatch on the islands, the Song Thrush came in at Number 12, with an average of 0.7 per garden, five times…

    • 7 Dec 2018
  • Tales from the garden: Star performers

    Imagine you had never seen one of these in your life before. Isn't it just the most beautiful thing?

    Look at the iridescence, the greens and purples. And those white feather tips, like perfect little spear heads.

    It is of course the Starling, meaning the 'little thing covered in stars'.

    What you have also no doubt noticed is the strangely flared throat feathers, which is a tell-tale sign that this bird is…

    • 30 Nov 2018