Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Gardening for Wildlife in a Courtyard

Sometimes a place looks as inhospitable to wildlife as it is possible to be. When I started work on converting a boar pen into a courtyard last year, there was little to recommend it to our wilder friends. 

You can just see our front door on the right. Welcoming, isn't it?
The 17th century threshing barn which formed one wall to the boar pen was converted into our home, and the farmyard is in the process of becoming a garden. A biodiversity survey undertaken prior to the build concluded rather damningly that "this barn site proved to have quite a low Biodiversity presence and potential". I immediately decided that I would garden with wildlife in mind to see if it could make a difference.

Looking down from the barn to the courtyard. The doors lead
 to piggeries (now rooms)
I did wonder if a courtyard was capable of attracting much wildlife. This area is treated like part of our house as there are rooms around it which all require access. Paving is a necessity here, but it didn't all need to be paved so some concrete was removed to create borders.  

                  Spring 2015
Having barrowed in a load of topsoil, I popped in plants which would be particularly attractive to pollinators; and guess what? The plants did their job. Walking along the garden path is a joy because of all the butterflies and bees. 


I might have selected plants for pollinators, but other wild friends had their own ideas. Acanthus mollis proved to have broad wildlife credentials. A magnet for pollinators in summer and a hiding place for minibeasts in autumn (I don't cut back the flower stems as they make superb bug hotels), it also provided valuable cover for this young lady who hatched 11 ducklings under its lush foliage.


The courtyard now has a rather splendid resident newt and we are being visited by an increasing number of birds, including a cheeky pied wagtail which frequently perches on my office door handle. 


This is a very new garden. I still haven't finished planting it, yet it is already attracting a range of creatures. The farmyard might once have had quite a low biodiversity presence, but even the most unlikely places can become a haven for wildlife.

Lavandula x intermedia 'Sussex' in the courtyard

I am linking this post to Wildlife Wednesday at http://mygardenersays.com/ Why not pop over there to see some beautiful photos of wildlife in gardens elsewhere on our wonderfully diverse planet? 

47 comments:

  1. A transformation! It just goes to prove.. build it and they will come. And what a proud mother duck.

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    1. Isn't she?! And with good reason - she did a great job!

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  2. Fabulous. I think we can all help wildlife no matter where we live. A courtyard doesn't sound the most friendly place for wildlife but this proves that it certainly can be. Love the mummy duck with her ducklings and the pied wagtail on the door handle.

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    1. It has been a surprise to me to see so much wildlife so soon. I can understand nesting in there - it is a closed environment and so should be safe from predators. We were all keeping an eye out for when the ducklings were ready to leave the nest and opened all the gates for them so they could waddle to the pond.

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  3. Fascinating project and good for you to undertake the transformation to a more biodiverse environmental space. Gosh, lots of work, but you've done so much! Love mama duck and her little ducklings--how fun to have them in your garden. You're very wise in your decision to not prune back the plants after flowering--there's usually a wealth of critters to support, after blooming, if we would leave seed development alone for a while. Thanks so much for joining in--great post!

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    1. I couldn't cut down plants after flowering - I don't really understand why people do. You have a great meme going, Tina. It's fascinating to see the wildlife in people's gardens around the globe.

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  4. A wonderful place you live in with history and nature . Lots of work but it is worth it all in the end . Thanks for sharing , Have a good week !

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    1. We are certainly blessed with history! I am hoping that we will continue to be blessed with nature. Thanks - have a good week too!

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  5. Wonderful! You've created a habitat garden that is welcoming to wildlife and is a pleasure to view. Well done!

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  6. It's amazing how wildlife quickly adapts. Stylish makeover yet wildlife friendly too, and so endearing to see the lady and her ducklings!

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    1. It was so exciting when I spotted her in there. Everyone was made to tiptoe in and out of the house!

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  7. It's wonderful, I do so love to see gardening for wildlife. And it's very true, that if you plant things that bees like, they will all turn up.

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    1. They do turn up - and surprisingly quickly!

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  8. The ducklings are adorable. Your courtyard looks inviting for both people and wildlife. Butterflies and lavender are a pretty combination.

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    1. They are! I couldn't be without lots of lavender. I propagate more every year.

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  9. That must have been quite a project, transforming the barn into a home. The big courtyard is really lovely with the concrete walkways and beds, and you have attracted a lot of wildlife, the ducklings are adorable.

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    1. The barn is listed, so every beam was photographed and we all went to great lengths to conserve as much of the fabric of this historical building as possible. Even some old daub, which seemed beyond repair, was mixed with water, left for a few days, and then reapplied. It was worth it though - there is a real sense of history, even though the conversion is very modern.

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  10. I think the court yard looks wonderful, very contemporary. It is amazing how soon the plants bring in the wildlife.

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    1. Thank you, Brian. It astonishes me how quickly the wildlife arrives.

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  11. It looks lovely AND attracts wildlife - a real achievement Sarah, within such a short space of time. :)

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  12. What an oasis you have created for yourselves and nice of you to keep the critters in mind. I hope you will one day share some photos of your home. It sounds wonderful.

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  13. How beautiful! And an added bonus of attracting more birds. :)

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    1. I hope that eventually the climbers and larger shrubs will provide enough shelter for birds to nest in the courtyard. Fingers crossed!

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  14. Garden without wildlife is like a garden without flowers. You have worked a beautiful transformation. All the hard work was really worth it. You must be really pleased

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    1. I try to take my morning coffee there if the weather's fine; it's very sheltered and peaceful.

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  15. Great to see how quickly the wildlife has come in and it looks so beautiful too. I've a few wildlife friendly shrubs in pots to plant, but just ran out of time with all the decorating. However I popped them in the front garden in the sun and within an hour I had bees and butterflies.

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    1. I'm pleased you've been stocking up on wildlife friendly shrubs - a sound investment! The pollinators don't care if a plant is still in its pot, which makes selecting popular pollinator plants easy at the nursery.

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  16. Aw, so cute! So true that if you plant it, they will come. Such a great transformation!

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    1. Hopefully we will see more wildlife as the garden matures.

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  17. Wonderful result, but I can see a lot of hard work behind it, great to see it all paying off like this. Even the smallest area can have something for everyone, and still be practical – that’s how I have always been gardening.
    Your courtyard is in my book huge anyway – bigger than the whole of my new (big) garden, in my EOMV post this month you will see the similarities between my garden and your courtyard garden, with the paving for walkways and the beds in between :-)

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    1. Your garden is really taking shape Helene. You've been there hardly any time and made such a difference!

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  18. Heartwarming to read. What a transformation!

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    1. I'm looking forward to the garden maturing and creating more shelter for our wild friends.

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  19. Gosh,what an amazing transformation, it really is astonishing how you turned it all around, what a heavenly courtyard, and how lovely that you have attracted so much wildlife!xxx

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    1. I have been surprised by how quickly the wildlife made itself at home.

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  20. Gosh,what an amazing transformation, it really is astonishing how you turned it all around, what a heavenly courtyard, and how lovely that you have attracted so much wildlife!xxx

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  21. Great work! I don't think critters care about the location as long as it has food, water, or shelter. I love the beds you created and I'm so glad you didn't plant boxwoods. Your ducks remind me of the children's book, Make Way for Ducklings. Did you ever read that to your kids (before they knew about the Kardashians, that is).

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    1. Haha! No I didn't! I think we got stuck on The Very Hungry Caterpillar!

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  22. Nice post and lovely photos. The duck with her duckings and the pied wagtail made me smile.
    Good for you and well done. I think that gardening with wildlife in mind is vital nowadays and you've shown just what can be achieved. Flighty xx

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    1. Thank you! It is vital - and immensely rewarding.

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  23. From Boar pen to wildlife haven ! What a transformation Sarah! I respect your decision to leave flower stems untouched as a retreat for bugs ... I try to do this every year and then the 'Mrs Tidy' in me HAS to get the secateurs out and lop off the lot !

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    1. Mrs Tidy is only allowed into the garden here in spring! Apart from the shelter the stems offer, I love to see them covered in frost, snow, or spiders' webs. May I be so bold as to suggest you confiscate Mrs Tidy's secateurs and return them to her in spring, when she can cut back plants to her heart's content? ;-)

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  24. It looks wonderful Sarah, what a transformation! You must be thrilled, though not as thrilled as all that wildlife.

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    1. Thank you! It wouldn't be the same if wildlife didn't make use of the courtyard; I am thrilled that our wild friends want to spend time in it.

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