• 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
  • 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