• Anything is possible: Surprise visitors in the wildlife-friendly garden

    There are three key points in the year when some unusual faces (of the birdy kind) can turn up in your garden:

    • The first is during bouts of harsh weather, which can force some birds to abandon their usual haunts and overcome their natural nervousness in their desperate search for food;
    • The second is in spring when many birds are migrating north and a few might briefly drop into your garden as they pass through;
    • And the…
    • 13 Sep 2019
  • Nettles not required - but they can be quite fun

    One of the most important books about wildlife-friendly gardening ever written is called No Nettles Required by the Daily Telegraph columnist and Sheffield University senior lecturer, Dr Ken Thompson. I won't praise him too much as he sometimes reads this blog - we don't want it to go to his head - but for those who haven't read it it is not only enlightening but also laugh-out-loud funny. The main message of the book…

    • 6 Sep 2019
  • The Queen of Spiders, and the meadow conundrum

    When I set out to turn an area of my garden into a wildflower meadow, I had certain wildlife in mind that I hoped would benefit. I wanted it to host breeding grasshoppers and a range of meadow butterflies such as Meadow Brown and Common Blue, and I hoped to see bats hunting above.

    Well, the meadow was sown and prepared in autumn 2017, the grasses and meadow perennials have grown wonderfully, and almost all my target species…

    • 30 Aug 2019
  • Sharing the passion: ideas for doing great things for wildlife where you live

    Doing things to help wildlife in your own garden is one thing (and a big cheer to everyone playing their part), but the results can be even more impressive if you do it as part of your local community.

    I've had the privilege over the last few years to meet a number of groups of people doing just that. Those of you who receive the RSPB's Nature's Home magazine may recognise some of these stories, but hopefully you will…

    • 23 Aug 2019
  • A portrait of August in the wildlife-friendly garden

    Sometimes on this blog I just like to let the pictures do most of the talking. Here's a portrait of my garden in the last few days:

    Hopefully many of you are enjoying the feast of Painted Lady butterflies this year.

    Gorse Shieldbugs in summer are coloured to match the drying seedheads of the plant, whereas those in spring are green to match the fresh foliage. See if you can find the two shieldbug nymphs in this…

    • 16 Aug 2019
  • Who's a clever bird?

    The other day I could hear this 'tap tap' from the top of the garden. Then there'd be a pause, and a couple of minutes later 'tap tap tap'.

    On investigating, I found this young Great Spotted Woodpecker, banging away at a bare, vertical branch on a dead apple tree I've left standing. You can tell it is this year's bird because it has red on its crown, which the adults don't have.

    My first…

    • 9 Aug 2019
  • How many plants do you have in YOUR garden?

    This week, this little unassuming fella helped me pass through a milestone.

    It is Pellitory-of-the-Wall, a native plant that normally grows at the foot of walls where there seems to be not a crumb of soil to support it. But it popped up out of nowhere in my Bee Border, and became my 500th type of plant in my garden this year.

    Other newbies for my list this year include Wild Parsnip, which has now flowered in the wildflower…

    • 2 Aug 2019
  • Making a Bee Border on a budget

    One of my projects this year in my mission to transform my garden into a wildlife haven was to create a new Bee Border. Well, it's meant more for any pollinator, but 'Bee Border' flows off the tongue, don't you think? Sometimes you hear of such things as a Nectar Bar, but that rather ignores the value of pollen, so maybe it should also be called a Pollen Pantry.

    Anyway, back to the more prosaic spadework…

    • 26 Jul 2019
  • Liquid gold: the value of water in the garden

    When scientists look for evidence of life on other planets, the first thing they seek is signs of water. Indeed, 'follow the water' is the mantra of extra-terrestrial life-seekers at NASA. 

    They don't need to send up a space robot with a jay-cloth to see what they can mop up, because liquid water and ice and water vapour create tell-tale signs that can be seen from afar, and water has so many incredible chemical…

    • 19 Jul 2019
  • How to have a front garden butterfly haven

    Yesterday evening, I had the great pleasure of going to visit my good friends, Clare and Michael Blencowe, and see how their wildlife-friendly garden is getting on.

    They live in a village in West Sussex, with a back garden that I estimate is 12m wide by 10m deep, I guess what you might call average (the Blencowes, by the way, are in no way what you could describe as average!). However, it is their front garden I wanted…

    • 12 Jul 2019
  • Spot the difference: annual flower beds vs perennial meadows

    If there is one abiding confusion in the world of wildlife-friendly gardening, it is the difference between a meadow and an annual flower bed.The latter so often gets called a meadow, but there are so many differences in how you look after them - and the wildlife that uses them.

    Yesterday I visited a nature reserve that reveals the contrasts on a vast and impressive scale. It is called Ranscombe Farm in Medway, north…

    • 5 Jul 2019
  • How did something so small and rare reach my garden?

    Every so often, a wildlife moment happens in the garden that has me rubbing my eyes with disbelief.

    So it was this Monday when I saw a tiny silvery butterfly flitting low over the tapestry of wildflowers in my ‘meadow’. (I should explain that the ‘meadow’, should you be imagining something grand, was sown in autumn 2017 and spring 2018 on what was originally a muddy chicken pen!). I instantly thought it must be a Brown…

    • 28 Jun 2019
  • What wildlife success have you had in your garden?

    Regular readers will know that I’m on something of a mission: for the past 20 years, I’ve been beavering away trying to make my garden as wildlife-friendly as possible, and sharing my experiences in regular blogs and articles and books.

    I believe that gardeners can have an amazing impact for wildlife, and by getting your hands dirty you also better understand the natural world and the threats it faces in the…

    • 21 Jun 2019
  • Weather, climate and wildlife-friendly gardening

    One of the most powerful influences on both gardening and wildlife is the weather, and, phew! has this been one weather-filled week. The winds last Saturday seemed to cause the whole garden to thrash about, and then came the rains.

    For me down here in the far south, the rainfall has been very welcome indeed. I have a rain gauge, and in March we had 49mm, in April 21mm and in May just 17.5mm. The English average for those…

    • 14 Jun 2019
  • Dazzling colour and food for thought in the garden

    In my second tale from my Canadian odyssey this spring, I’m going to take you to an amazing garden set in the countryside of southern Ontario.

    You might need sunglasses for this one, for I know our Blue Tits and Robins are beautiful, but how would you feel about having birds that are REALLY colourful at your feeders? How about a splash of orange?

    Or a complete burst of sunshine yellow?

    Or maybe a bird that looks…

    • 7 Jun 2019
  • Taking garden inspiration from across The Pond

    I'm just back from a wonderful trip to Canada. What an amazing country, and it was great opportunity for me to check out how they try to give nature a home, and see if it offers any inspiration for how we do things here.

    So, in the first of a little series of blogs over the summer, I thought I'd start with this, which I think is a fascinating story of mankind and birdkind living together.

    For this, I purposely…

    • 31 May 2019
  • Celebrating your garden wildlife successes

    I'm sat here at my computrer trying to tpye but all the time my eyes are being distratced by the comnigs and gonigs of the pair of sparrwos outside my widnow. (Right, concentrate Adrian! Eyes back on the keyboard).

    The female sparrow has just come in with a big green caterpillar, while the male seems to be specialising in beakfuls of blackfly, probably off my broad beans. (Go for it, boy - have as many as you want…

    • 24 May 2019
  • 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