• My first burst of Sissinghurst...

    [Pre-warning - my next blog is next Tuesday, not my usual Monday]

    A couple of weekends ago, I made my first visit to Sissinghurst, the famous Kent garden created by the novelist Vita Sackville-West and now the home of Sarah Raven.

    I love visits like this. Part of me is there to enjoy it as a garden - its design, its planting, its moods. And part of me is there to see how well it does for wildlife.

    Now even though the…

    • 28 Oct 2011
  • Tales from a member's garden, part II

    Here is the second half of my 'interview' with RSPB member Nikki Smith about her efforts to Step up for Nature in her Warwickshire garden this year:

    What has surprised and excited you?
    I've been most surprised by the variety of wildlife I've successfully attracted in just a short period of time.  We do live very rurally so we have wildlife on our doorstep yet I have really seen the difference the planting…

    • 24 Oct 2011
  • Welcome to a reader's garden

    I was delighted a few weeks ago to be forwarded an email in which an RSPB member, Nikki Smith, was clearly getting very excited about gardening for wildlife.

    Well, after a little correspondence, I'm pleased to say that Nikki gallantly agreed to share some of her experiences and photos, so here is the first half of my little email 'interview' with her.

    Q: How long have you been in your garden?

    We've been…

    • 21 Oct 2011
  • Close connections in the garden

    On three trips this year - to Wales, Norfolk, and Kent - I've been delighted to see and admire this amazing plant growing in the wild.

    It is Eryngium maritimum, better known as Sea Holly, which grows on dunes along many of our coasts.

    These are just the dried seedheads, but in flower it has electric blue flowers above this most spiky and decorative of ruffs, visited by all sorts of bees and hoverflies.

    What…

    • 17 Oct 2011
  • Heaven-scented garden combination

    At the end of September, I visited Houghton Hall in Norfolk for the first time.

    There is an expansive deer park, a dramatic country house, a toy soldier collection (mmm, not doing it for me yet)...and a big walled garden (NOW you're talking).

    Although the garden was looking a bit tired by the time I visited (as many do by the autumn), there was one area which really caught my eye, visually and from a wildlife perspective…

    • 14 Oct 2011
  • Snoozing in the compost

    For me, one of the delights of gardening is that it forces you to spend such quality time with nature: it means that you see things you be unlikely to notice otherwise.

    This weekend I needed to sieve some compost from one of my compost bins, so that I could enrich my flower beds. I lifted up the square of carpet that sits over the top and watched as the woodlice went into their blind panic and sprinted off for cover…

    • 10 Oct 2011
  • Time for something exotic

    The weather has all gone a bit 'pants' here lately (I believe that's the modern turn of phrase).

    So today I give you something Brazilian to cheer you up.

    The thing is that I have this passion for finding plants which are good for wildlife but which you rarely - or never - see mentioned in wildlife gardening books.

    Go on, prove me wrong - tell me where you've seen this one mentioned before!

    I love…

    • 7 Oct 2011
  • The never-ending flower

    Remember that amazing Painted Lady invasion of a couple of years ago? Millions (no exaggeration) were thought to have arrived in this country after breeding in enormous numbers in the Atlas mountains.

    I've hardly seen one this year, which is very normal for a species that goes from boom to bust and back again. But I did see a smattering in Norfolk when I was there a couple of weeks ago.

    And they included this one…

    • 3 Oct 2011