In our first talk of the year, Helen Mugridge delivered a beautifully illustrated talk to Stonehouse Gardening Club on how she and her husband (both wildlife photographers), transformed a scrubby patch in the Forest of Dean into a wildlife haven.
Most important was creating a pond, with varying depth levels and a “boggy” end for marginal plants such as marsh marigold, hemp agrimony (hoverflies) and ragged robin.
Having different types of plant in the pond provides oxygenation (hornwort, also known as coontail), shade giving (water crowfoot) and emerging plants (bogbean, yellow iris), producing a variety of habitats for wildlife. Avoiding fish in the pond meant the frog and toad spawn survived and the stalks of the emerging plants enabled insect larvae such as dragonflies to crawl out.
Creating a spring meadow was also great for wildlife, including amphibians. They like the grass to hide in – only using the pond for breeding. Suitable plants included cowslips and dandelions, ladies smock (cuckoo flower all of which attract butterflies and birds. By leaving the mowing until late in the summer, any insects can hide and keep cool in summer, and wild flower seeds fall back down to the ground.
Insect friendly plants include corncockle, meadowsweet, bell flower (hover flies), oxeye daisy, corn marigold (small copper butterfly), borage, fetid scabious (bumblebees), knapweed (gatekeeper butterfly).
Suitable shrubs include mahonia, flowering current and potentially buddleia, best known for butterflies. Buddleia davidii can be a problem and does need cutting back each year for fresh growth and flowers production…the buddleia globosa variety with small round yellow flower clusters attracts bees and hoverflies and is less invasive.
Native hedgerow plants such as crab apples, hawthorn, spindle bush, and ivy all provide valuable habitats for insects and nesting sites for birds. Adding a log pile in the garden in an out-of-the-way corner will provide a home for grubs and beetles…and their predators such a frogs and toads!
Avoid deadheading flower stalks in the autumn, leaving the seed heads for birds…it might look less tidy yet provides food for birds and the hollow stems provide shelter for hibernating insects.
Photocredit: Unsplash and David Hunt