• Get your tongue around this!

    Ok, are you ready for an identification challenge? For five points, what's this, which I photographed hopping about on my lawn this week?

    It's a curious looking thing, with its pale green smock and trousers with a bit of polka-dotting thrown in.

    Congratulations if you said it's a Green Woodpecker, and here it is a couple of seconds later showing us that incredible dagger beak and characterful eye.


    • 18 Sep 2020
  • A garden plant that means the world to me (and my bees)

    As summer tumbles into autumn, there are a number of garden flowers that come into their own, some of which are especially good for pollinating insects.

    We’ll delve into the world of the Michaelmas daisy rather closer to Michaelmas (which is 29th September) but I thought today I’d share an easy-to-grow flower that is currently splashing dollops of pink, magenta and ruby tones in my garden. We’re talking Cosmos.…

    • 11 Sep 2020
  • The shock arrival of a creature of the night

    I’ve talked before about how gardens can turn up real wildlife surprises. However, the events of last Sunday perhaps took the biscuit!

    I had sat down at the lounge window to have my bowl of cereal as I do to start my day - my feelgood touch-base with nature. There was plenty of bird activity in the garden, and at this time of year it is always worth watching for a migrant or two – maybe a Blackcap or Willow…

    • 4 Sep 2020
  • Dealing with a changing climate in the garden

    On 4 July this year, 101.8mm of rain (that’s over 4 inches in old money) fell on Aberllefenni in mid Wales. That was not only more rain than I had down here in Sussex in the whole of July – it was more than I had in the whole five months from mid-March to mid-August combined.

    Yes, until the last week we’ve been gasping down here, and there have been some plant casualties in my garden as a result.


    • 28 Aug 2020
  • Perfect pond plants for summer

    From what I am hearing, new ponds have been popping up (or should that be ‘popping down’?) in gardens all over the country during lockdown, which can only mean good things for garden wildlife. And one of the big questions when putting in a pond is always, “What should I plant?”

    [If you don't yet have a pond, then the RSPB now stocks a pond liner kit in three different sizes, which comes with a…

    • 21 Aug 2020
  • Introducing the Fairy-lights Beetle

    The other day, I was passing by my pond when I noticed what I thought was a small beetle that had fallen into the water. 

    I bent down ready for the gallant rescue and prepared myself to polish my halo when I noticed that it wasn't thrashing about, it wasn't caught in the surface tension, and indeed it suddenly seemed to hop quite effectively onto a neighbouring leaf of Broad-leaved Pondweed that was floating on the surface…

    • 14 Aug 2020
  • Feeling broody!

    One of the features of my garden over the last couple of weeks has been the sheer number of baby birds blundering about everywhere, fresh out of the nest.

    Many still have the tell-tale yellow 'gape flanges', such as on this Robin. These are the fleshy edges at the base of the bill that, together with the bright inside of the young birds' mouths (the 'gape') provide the useful indication to parents of where to shove any…

    • 7 Aug 2020
  • Sparkling cyanide - tales of a living, flying poison factory

    When I began to create my latest wildlife-friendly garden five years ago, I drew up a target list of creatures that I really wanted to create the right conditions for. Yes, I would be happy with whatever turned up, but there were some that I knew would excite me immensely if they took up my offer to move in

    One of them was this:

    It is the Six-spot Burnet Moth, a day flying moth with six bright red spots on each upper…

    • 31 Jul 2020
  • Letting wildlife do the talking

    One in a while, I step back from all the words and just let my garden do the talking, for the beauty of nature never ceases to amaze me, right there under our noses.

    A freshly emerged pristine Peacock takes in the sun on the log-pile.

    Field Poppy and Borage in the cornfield annual bed

    A Sparrowhawk comes for her daily bathe

    Bumblebees circle over the heads of the Globe-thistles, while orb webs are beginning to appear…

    • 24 Jul 2020
  • In praise of, erm, bramble

    When I was a kid, the summer holidays meant many things, such as camping in the garden, long cycle rides and maybe a week in Wales finding Cowrie shells in the rockpools and Choughs in the mountains.

    But another strong memory is of being sent out into the fields, tupperware boxes at the ready, to go blackberrying along the hedgerows. Me and my sister would come back with our fingers stained purple and with boxes (and…

    • 17 Jul 2020
  • The hotel is open for business!

    Over the last six weeks, I've had the pleasure of leading an online 'course' for thousands of people starting out on making their gardens and outside spaces better for nature.

    They've been able to watch little videos from me as I make birdbaths, create pop-up meadows and grow wildlife-friendly plants.

    One of the activities was to make a Bee Hotel, which very typically is done by creating some kind of box…

    • 10 Jul 2020
  • Lovely ladybirds

    When I think back to my childhood and the very first wildlife I became aware of and excited by, I remember being fascinated by three things: birds, butterflies, and ladybirds. There was something quite picture-perfect about the latter, both in their rounded shape and in their colouration, straight out of the red and black paint tins.

    In fact, I have strong memories of me and my primary school classmates finding them in…

    • 1 Jul 2020
  • Taking Time to Notice

    Three months into lockdown, and how are you all doing?

    Of course, it was well predicted that a global pandemic would happen sometime, but it feels like most of us were poorly prepared, probably not believing it would happen in our lifetimes.

    I wasn't prepared for a time when, in three months, I have left the house less than ten times, and where I've only been able to see my elderly mother once.

    But I feel very…

    • 25 Jun 2020
  • Creatures of the deep

    With all this heat, you've a good chance of seeing birds splashing around in your birdbath. It might whet your appetite for spotting some other wetland wildlife that might be visiting your gardens or outside spaces right now.

    Of course, if you have a pond of some sort, you have probably already spent many a moment gazing in wonder through the glassy surface into the curious world beneath. However, there are many pond…

    • 23 Jun 2020
  • Your summer garden butterfly guide

    Our garden butterflies do like to stick to schedule – you can pretty much set your calendar by when each species will emerge as an adult.

    Take the Peacock as an example (below). In autumn, the adults go into hibernation (one of only five UK species to spend the winter as a butterfly). They emerge on warm spring days in late March or April, mate, the females lay their eggs, and that generation of adults is over by…

    • 18 Jun 2020
  • Poppification

    The wildlife-friendly garden in June is awash with potential stories, there are so many things happening. But for today, I'm going with the plant that is screaming out to be noticed at the moment in my garden: the poppy.

    In fact, I may have jumped the gun in terms of visual spectacle because, although my swathe of Opium Poppies (above) is already pretty dramatic, there are hundreds more blooms to open.

    Next door…

    • 12 Jun 2020
  • Digger wasp dramas

    Some movement caught my eye in my seaside garden this week, little insects playing about on the sand.

    It turned out to be tiny Spiny Digger Wasps engaged in their amazing burrow creation. Here, they provision nesting burrow with flies that they carry about like a backpack on their stings!

    But I realised that words weren't quite going to convey the action, so the only solution was to make a little one-and-a-half minute…

    • 5 Jun 2020
  • Swimming serpent spectacular

    This week, I lifted up a sheet of roofing material I have lying in a sunny part of the garden and found these two snuggling up to each other.

    On top is the bronzed beauty that is the Slow-worm. Beneath, with the tell-tale double-yellow marking on the back of the head, is a young Grass Snake. Who would have thought that they make happy bedfellows?!

    I'm now five years into trying to make my garden an ideal home for both…

    • 29 May 2020
  • Give in to total flower power

    Helping wildlife in the garden starts and ends with plants. Even when putting up nestboxes (made out of wood) or feeding the birds (with plant seeds) or making compost (from dead plants), you can't escape that essential fact.

    It means that one of my greatest joys is growing the diversity of plants that in turn lead to the diversity of life. It is why I always say to people who want to help wildlife in their outdoor…

    • 22 May 2020
  • Sowing seeds: the next chapter

    A few weeks ago (27 March - gosh, seven weeks of lockdown ago), I blogged about sowing seeds, with all my top tips to help increase your chances of success.

    The blog also included my top secret when growing seeds - they won't all germinate. Not for Alan Titchmarsh; not for Monty Don. With growing plants from seed, you do your best and hope and pray, and those that come off you really cherish and celebrate.

    So, how…

    • 15 May 2020
  • When you can't get to the seaside...

    ...bring the seaside to you!

    During this lockdown, I've been itching to get out and walk along a shore, smell the sea, and hear the calls of shorebirds.

    While that's not possible, I can at least visit my own little bit of coast, because last year I made a 'Seaside Garden'.

    It is only small, about four metres by three. I dug out an area to about a foot depth, filled it with rubble left over from when I…

    • 8 May 2020
  • Whoomph! The garden goes into overdrive

    You know how children at a certain age suddenly seem to put on height overnight? Turn your back a moment and the next thing you know they're as tall as you are!

    Well, that's what gardens are like at this time of year. It's what I call the 'Whoomph' stage. That spring sunshine is getting ever stronger, the days longer, we've had some rain to give it a boost, and now plants have put their foot on the gas.…

    • 2 May 2020
  • Getting to grips with garden birdsong


    As many of you will know, my passion for wildlife-friendly gardening is matched by my love of birdsong. (You may remember the RSPB Let Nature Single I led the creation of last year, which got to Number 18 in the charts - thanks to all of you who downloaded it to help that happen).

    I find that gardening and birdsong complement…

    • 24 Apr 2020
  • All is not what it seems in the garden

    With so many people spending so much more time in their gardens, I know that many of you are noticing the little things that might normally pass you by.

    For instance, I got a text from a friend this week saying, "What's the funny little bee I've seen in my garden that seems to have a big spike on the front of its face?"

    Ah, now that would be this, which I photographed in my garden this week and is probably…

    • 17 Apr 2020
  • Play the Game of Firsts in the garden

    Here is a little nature game that can be played on a daily basis, by all ages, in any type of garden or balcony or outside space as an absorbing distraction from everything going on in the world.

    I call it the Game of Firsts.

    Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to find something new every day in nature in your outdoor space. It could be something you haven't seen before, heard, thought about.

    I don…

    • 10 Apr 2020