Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Welcoming Wildlife

Isn't it great when a plan starts to come together? When I began our garden last year, my main aim was to encourage wildlife by selecting plants which would offer a source of food and shelter. One year on, we are seeing a marked increase in the numbers of bees, butterflies and birds. Perhaps this is because of the weather and nothing to do with gardening, but when I go outside and find myself in a flurry of butterflies and I see them settling on plants which were selected to meet their needs, I feel certain that I have made sound choices. 


I garden organically; I have never gardened in any other way. If you should ever visit our garden, you will receive no apology for lawn weeds because we rejoice when we see bees enjoying flowering clover in our lawn and we tread very, very carefully! 

Echinops ritro
Gardening for wildlife might be my main aim, but I am selfish enough to design our garden for my requirements too. I have posted before about my need for readable structure in the garden* and although I select plants for other creatures, I want to see them arranged in a way which pleases my eye. Happily, bees and butterflies enjoy plants en masse as much as I do.

Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum'
The farmhouse garden is still far from mature - a budget blown on rabbit fencing put paid to any hope of planting big specimens - but it is beginning to do its job and we have a lively garden where we can enjoy a privileged, close view of the creatures visiting the plants

Hyssopus officinalis
I feel very strongly that our decisions make a difference and while we can’t encourage wildlife in if it isn’t within sensory distance, we can welcome visiting creatures with a delicious feast, somewhere to stay and a supportive environment for any offspring.

Knautia macedonica
My next challenge is to try to ensure food and shelter for wildlife all year round and I hope you will forgive me if I return each month to this subject which is so important to me. I am fascinated to hear about any plants you have found to be particularly attractive to beneficial insects and other wildlife Meanwhile, I will grab myself a coffee and take a few minutes to enjoy the company of today's garden guests.  

* The structure rant can be found at:

66 comments:

  1. I've seen loads more butterflies and bees this year than last! It's great. I love your planting style, I too grow a good selection of plants for wildlife. My echinops aren't fully out yet, looking forward to that though as the bees love them and so do I!

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    1. I am so pleased that you are seeing more bees and butterflies this year! I know what you mean about Echinops. I saw my first Echinops when I was five years old and it has been one of my favourite plants ever since.

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  2. There is no reason why we can't enjoy the garden along with our wildlife. This week our plot buddleias have been alive with butterflies and bees. On the plot I find herb and fruit flowers are much loved by bees as are the lavender.

    In the garden the bees love penstemon, heuchers, campanula in the front garden too

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    1. I have left our shrubby herbs, such as Thyme, to flower and they are smothered with bees and butterflies. Our Penstemon and Lavender aren't in flower yet; I am looking forward to seeing the bees enjoying them in the next week or so.

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  3. I love your style! How wonderful that you garden for wildlife. I bet it sure pays off in many ways when the critters come to visit.

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    1. Thank you, Martha! It is wonderful to garden for wildlife; and on a selfish human level, it has made our garden a more vibrant and interesting place to be!

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  4. It is a fantastic year for bees and butterflies and the air seems to have been full of them. Gardening for wildlife and also for our pleasure do dovetail together, as so much pleasure comes from the wildlife itself.
    I was reflecting on this the other day as I listened to the lawn ! It was extremely quiet! Then I listened to our wildflower patch and there was so much buzzing as bees and other insects trawled it !

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    1. It is that very sense of 'life' that I am enjoying most about our new garden. We had patches of excellent nectar plants in our last garden, but this time, plant choices are made with our wild friends in mind right from the start and it has made our garden a far more enjoyable place to be. We have areas of very thin, poor soil which I have earmarked for wildflowers. That will be the next area to have some attention.

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  5. Lovely photos of your visiting bees and butterflies. I leave clover here, too, because the bees love it so much. I'm going to look forward to reading about your plans for wildlife each month.

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    1. Hi Wendy, thank you! I am delighted that you leave your clover too. Sometimes leaving things alone is the best way. I have discovered this to be the case with a thistle patch I left by our bins. Putting the rubbish out is a bit of a prickly business at the moment, but I soon recover when we see pollinators enjoying the thistle flowers!

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  6. In our area it is a very sparse year for bees and butterflies, though a good one for birds and hummingbirds. I entirely agree with you that gardens should be havens for wildlife. The parks and nature preserves, as good as they are, will never be big enough to support the insects and birds that are an essential part of the ecosystem. City and suburban gardens must be part of the equation.

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    1. Absolutely. Since everything is connected in some way, we all have a part to play. In London there are urban bees which are thriving. They have plenty of trees, small gardens and parks at their disposal and they often have access to a greater variety of useful plants than the bees in the countryside.

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  7. It's fun to see your plan is coming together. I am in awe of the pollinators and other wildlife visitors we share our garden with and love to watch them as they work. I'll be watching to see how you continue with your wildlife garden.



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    1. Thank you, Shirley. We are doing so well for pollinators this year; they are endlessly fascinating!

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  8. I know exactly how thrilled you are to see the hard work pay off. Is there anything quite like it? I can sit for hours and watch the wildlife enjoy the habitat I created for them. I`ll keep watching yours, too.

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    1. Hi Randy, it is exciting, isn't it? After a week in town, I am looking forward to taking some time out in the garden this weekend to see what is visiting which plant.

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  9. Our perennial geranium, mahonia, buddleia and ceanothus have all been full of bees this year. This is a great relief, as there has been a terrible shortage of bees in the past few years. I have also noted more butterflies than usual this year.

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    1. Oh that is good news! Thank you for letting me know which plants are popular in your garden.

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  10. How wonderful your hard work is paying off and you now get to enjoy you garden guests. I made a bug hotel for our garden guests.

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    1. You made it? Excellent! I must try that.

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  11. I totally agree with this way of gardening... we have had lots and lots of bees this year, but not many butterflies (except for the cabbage white). When we moved to our house there was a pile of stones and cobbles in the garden, probably from a planned garden project. We left them there, and now they are covered with leaves and moss and snakes and hedgehogs (and probably lots of other things!) live in there.

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    1. I hope you are seeing more butterflies now. I wish we had hedgehogs, but I haven't seen - or heard - any yet.

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  12. Great photos. We've had plenty of bees this year but not so many butterflies. Glad you are getting them there.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. Thanks! Here's hoping you are seeing more butterflies now.

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  13. Yes, also here in The Netherlands we are so lucky to have more bees this year. We had some very bad years for the beepopulation over here, but I think we are going to the right direction. A wildlife friendly garden is very important for me and we too have many plants attractive for birds, bees and butterflies. We also have more and more toads and hedgehogs which love to eat the slugs and snails.

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    1. It is fabulous news that you are seeing more bees in the Netherlands too! Toads and hedgehogs are far more cost-effective slug controls than keeping slug pubs topped up!

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  14. Valerian, lavender and spirea in particular attract bees and moths in my garden. I have lots of clover in the grass and plenty of hawkbit and cats ear which the red-tailed bees love. When I go to the garden centre I only but plants that have bees, butterflies and other insects on them-this seems to work! I look forward to reading your posts as I am trying very hard to create my garden for wildlife and fit in all the other things I want too.

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    1. Thank you! I visited a nursery shortly after reading your comment and followed your superb advice to select the plants which have pollinating insects on them. In a situation where there are so many plants to choose from, the ones which are attractive to our wild friends really stand out.

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  15. I love a well written post - and this is one of them - you have a knack of bringing your thoughts together into a cohesive whole. I totally agree with your thoughts on a wildlife garden as long as it doesn't include badgers and rabbits.

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    1. Thank you, Elaine. I appreciate your encouraging words. I agree with you about rabbits. I swear that I am developing a fear of rabbit droppings (there are some perilously close to our rabbit fence... happily they are still on the other side).

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  16. It's great to see the insects and animals making use of a carefully planned garden. Great post - thanks.

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  17. Lovely to see it all coming together and buzzing with life! Cirsium and echinops are both on my list. I have a similar aim for my own new garden, so I will read with interest what you find that works well, my front garden is still too new to be doing much for the bees and butterflies etc. but the achillea and kanutia should help. In the back garden the drone of bees is a constant, thanks to phacelia (beautiful but floppy, and I hate staking), borage and comfrey. I have to do more for the butterflies in the back garden though. But not with buddleja. Any suggestions?

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    1. I am delighted to hear that you have a similar aim for your new garden! Echinacea purpurea and Michaelmas daisies (single-flowers) are proving very popular with butterflies here. Most popular of all is the Marjoram, which I have allowed to flower.

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  18. Gorgeous bumblebees. Congratulations on seeing the fruits of your labour. The diversity of insects is amazing when you really start to nurture them and take a close look.

    We're planning to start a bee and bird garden here too with some native plants and hopefully a beehive.

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    1. Oh how lovely! We have been talking about a bee hives too! I look forward to following the progress of your bee and bird garden.

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  19. It's wonderful that wild flowers such as the cirsium and echium are now an accepted choice for a cultivated garden and the days of purely bedding plants are over. The central bed that I garden is supposed to be a pristine area of raised beds for vegetables but I can't garden like that. I've also always grown organically and to me that means putting flowers and herbs among the veg. So onions and carrots flowering in their second year are left to attract bees, herbs are allowed to flower, comfrey, echinacea, lavender and centaurea entice in the wildlife, fennel fronds teem with ladybirds and older orach leaves become homes for caterpillars. Despite this I've only seen cabbage whites this year but then the garden is in the middle of blocks of flats and a sea of concrete paving slabs!!
    Lovely post, and glad to know of Cirsium - I'd love to see a long shot of your garden, perhaps I've missed it in another post?

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    1. I agree with you about wild flowers - especially Echium. Our old carrot flowers are attracting a lot of interest from insects at the moment too. I can't say I left them there on purpose, but now I have seen them in action, I will try to leave some carrots to flower in future. I meant to put a long shot of the garden in this post, but I got carried away with the butterflies and bees!

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  20. I, too, just love seeing all the creature come into the garden - and why I garden organically, too. I am now trying to add more hummingbird plants so I won't have to keep filling up the hummingbird feeders. In my garden, the butterflies love echinaceas the best, and gaillardia second. I look forward to reading more of your posts on this subject.

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    1. Oh to have hummingbirds in the garden! I have never grown Gaillardia - I will certainly be trying it next year. Thank you!

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  21. You have a lovely collection of plants for wildlife there - I'll be watching out for future posts to see what you choose for year-round wildlife friendly plants... something I need to work on in my own garden.

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    1. Thank you! I am having a lot of fun selecting the plants!

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  22. We have the same philosophy. :o) A sterile garden without wildlife is a depressing place to be. I don't like gardens that feel like museum exhibits. Who cares if the finches rip up the flowers? I don't. More flowers will grow and the finches are fabulous to watch. I have tons of knautia, too. Such a cool plant. :o)

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    1. Sterile is a good description. Funnily enough, I was watching a posse of finches tearing away at seed heads in one of the borders last weekend. They were quite thuggish, but very entertaining!

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  23. Good for you!!! We don't use chemical either...yuck on them! I wish that people would think before they sprayed! Your blooms are outstanding! I can relate to your need for structure and design in the garden. I love native plants as well but as you said things need to be pleasing to the eye and pleasing for the creatures! Wonderful things happening here lady!!!

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    1. Thank you! I really don't see the need to spray chemicals in the garden. I never have.

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  24. actually I'm pretty sure you're gardening has a lot to do with seeing more birds and butterflies. Good on you for gardening organically and putting in plants the bugs will like.

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    1. Thanks! I really cannot understand why anyone would not want to garden organically and now I have added attracting wildlife to my plant selection process, gardening on a purely aesthetic basis seems dull.

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  25. The butterflies love my yard as they and I love colourful flowers native to the region. I love coneflowers, they take care of themselves, never have to water them.

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    1. Hi Christine - good news about the butterflies in your garden! That is an interesting point about watering. We are having a dry summer here and even though the planting is still new, the Echinacea are coping with the lack of water.

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  26. I only have a small garden, but I managed to find enough room to put in a (very) small pond. It's amazing how much wildlife even a small amount of water will encourage to the garden. I'm pleased to see an increase in the number of butterflies around just now, there were so few about at the start of the year when it was so cold.

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    1. It is interesting to hear that even a small pond can make such a difference. We are planning to put in a pond this winter. Now I can't wait to see the wildlife it will attract next year!

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  27. I'm also discovering the great sense of satisfaction you get seeing plants covered in bees and butterflies. As well as birds flitting through trees and shrubs and the occasional hedgehog wandering through the long grass. Whereas I mainly garden for my own pleasure, a little time taken to carefully pick a few choice wildlife magnets gives you a much richer garden and I'm glad I learned this little pearl of wisdom.

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    1. I couldn't agree more. It is a richer garden for it. Great description!

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  28. I completely agree with you -- I also do gardening to be part of nature and to help wildlife. If you like bees, then plant herbs -- they are perennial, survive heavy snow, come back year after year and bees love them including butterflies -- dill, parsley, coriander, lemon balm, oregano, mint, sage, rosemary, lavendar and basil.

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    1. Fab advice on the herbs front! Leaving shrubby herbs to flower might lead to untidy plants, but they are easy enough to propagate, the flowers are pretty and the bees and butterflies love them.

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  29. I too garden organically, even letting weeds grow at this time of year. The pollinators need all the help they can get. I am surprised you are seeing the butterflies because reports are many are down substantially. Here I have seen very few all year,except for Skippers and Cabbage Whites. I photographed only five different species today, where when in the meadows last year it was maybe 15-18. Glad you are seeing them. I hope this year is a fluke and there is a good crop of them next year.

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    1. I hope you see more butterflies next year too. This summer seems to be exceptionally good for them here. We are seeing a good variety of species and a few visitors - I saw a Clouded Yellow this week.

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  30. I am glad you are seeing bees and butterflies in your garden, they are such a great indicator that what you are growing is in the right balance. However, I haven't changed what I am growing for years, still fairly the same type of plants and last year I didn't see one single butterfly and very few bees. This year my garden is filled to the brim of both! Climate can play a big role, last summer was a wash-out here in Britain and this summer we have the best one for decades. It doesn't mean we should stop planting for our bees and butterflies, but if they decline a year it might not necessarily mean WE have done something wrong in our gardens that year - it could just be the weather :-)

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    1. Disappointing years will happen. Thankfully, great years do too and this is a great year!

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  31. What a lovely post! I smiled while reading this, thinking of the weeds along my driveway. Around where I live, I am in the minority for not using chemicals to kill weeds. It is a lot of work staying on top of nettles along our fence, but it is rewarding to see the results (and knowing that it was all just me!). So glad to have visited your blog! Dana

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    1. Hi Dana! Welcome! I leave the nettles for caterpillars, so that is one job I don't have to worry about! The leaves are nearly all eaten at the moment, so no one will know they are nettles ;-) Bindweed is the biggest problem along our fences here. The bees like it and while I leave some to flower for them, I don't want it wrapping itself around new hedging plants, so I do remove some every week. Keep up the good work!

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  32. Enjoyed this one (as always!), and I totally agree with you on the planting for wildlife *and* on the weeds. I have a clump of nettles in amongst more refined companions ... My garden is a tiny suburban plot, but the Cotoneaster horizontalis on one of the walls, the Honeysuckle, Inula, Verbena bonariensis, Cephalaria gigantea, Knautia, Symphytum, various types of poppies (Welsh, Opium) and Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium), all welcome bees, hoverflies and other pollinators. Two small (one of them really tiny) 'ponds' are a great addition too. And a few piles of rotting wood are dotted here and there too.(And thanks for dropping by to my humble blog btw, great to see you there :-))

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    1. Thank you! It is wonderful to hear about so many great plants in a small garden. I will be adding these to my wish list. It is interesting to learn that even a tiny pond or two can make such a difference. Rotting wood piles always sound so unattractive, but they can be very beautiful.

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