GARDENING FOR WILDLIFE

by Mark Pethullis, Gardener at Beningbrough Hall, Gallery and Gardens.

Joanne Parker 32 blog

I’ve worked for many years in the Beningbrough gardens with a focus on the productivity of the walled garden and the nature that thrives in this part of North Yorkshire. Where practical we garden with wildlife in mind.

Here are a few small things that can be done in any garden which can make the area much more wildlife friendly and the good news is that many of the tweaks cost nothing, or at least very little.

Looking after things a little differently

Raising the cutting height of your lawnmower slightly will enable some species, such as clover and the beautiful purple flowers of self-heal, to provide nectar and pollen for bees and birds. In hot weather, it will also eliminate the need to water the lawn in order to keep it looking lush and green. Reassessing what is a ‘weed’ or a wildflower is useful when it comes to lawns too. Unless you are playing bowls or croquet, then a few patches of colourful daisies, clover or self-heal are beneficial additions to a fine lawn.

Grassy ha ha blog

Ideally, having two or three different grass heights will provide diversity for insects such as butterflies and moths. Many species lay their eggs in longer grass and it will also allow some wildflowers such as cow parsley to flower. These are very good for many beetle species which feed on the flowers. If you plant spring bulbs in the longer grass, not only will it look good, but it will provide vital early season nectar for newly emerging bumblebees.

A few additions go a long way

Providing water in the garden is one of the quickest ways to attract more wildlife. Ponds are wonderful, but even a birdbath or a saucer of water for hedgehogs can be a lifeline in warm dry weather.

If you have the space, a few old logs left to slowly rot away in a shady corner will provide a haven for beetles and other invertebrates, and this in turn will benefit songbirds.

Evergreen shrubs (such as holly) will offer winter shelter and berries for birds and provides winter colour.

Song bird blog

Shrubs which produce lots of berries (eg Cotoneaster) will attract thrush species, blackbirds and may even attract the exotic looking waxwings, (from Scandinavia) that often visit urban gardens looking for winter fruits.

Climbers such as honeysuckle will decorate walls and fences and are also visited by many nocturnal moths, as well as offering potential nest sites for small songbirds such as robins and wrens.

Want to know more?

Head to the summer wildlife pages to find out more about the wildlife seen at Beningbrough, including the rare Tansy Beetle.

You can also find out more in the new National Trust School of Gardening Book – for sale in the stables shop when you visit and look out for the top tips from the book around the garden.

Photographs © National Trust Images / Joanne Parker / Maria Nardrum Harrison /Dougie Holden / James Dobson / John Malley

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