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Wildlife-Friendly Gardening Tips

How to create a wildlife-friendly garden. Top tips from the gardens team to celebrate National Gardening Week

Annamaria Vass

Wildlife can make its home in our gardens in many different ways. There are lots of things we can do, from planting to maintenance, that will make them as welcome as possible.

Rosa Miss Willmott
Rosa Miss Willmott, named after the plantswoman who created the cottage garden at Anne Hathaway's Cottage

It is no accident that gardens are exceptionally good habitats for pollinators.  Bees and butterflies highly appreciate the variety of flowers to feed on the nectar. The more flowers you grow, the more varied insects they will attract.

Generally speaking, the plants that produce simple flowers are better for wildlife than ones that have been bred or modified for larger flowers. Large blowsy flowers such as carnations and chrysanthemums are usually unsuitable for pollinating insects, simply because the middle of the flower is covered with many beautiful petals.

Growing wildflowers in your garden is a good idea to attract insects and wildlife to feed on. It is wise to be mindful of the seasonal availability of the food source and grow many plants that flower through the seasons. At Anne Hathaway's Cottage, we leave ivy which flowers late season, growing up the trees in the woodland and also leave apples to rot in the orchard - both of which provide valuable food for bees, fieldfare birds and red admiral butterflies.

Wild Garden - AHC
Areas of the Cottage garden are planted to extend the food source through the seasons

Butterflies and other insect larvae feed on grasses before transforming into adults. Wildflower meadows are easy to create and maintain, providing a fantastic habitat for many species to feed on and thrive. At Anne Hathaway’s Cottage we are working hard to improve the quality of our wildflowers in the meadows and orchards to support the habitat.  

Gardeners can protect their home-grown vegetable and salad crop by using complementary planting, for instance, growing marigolds as a sacrificial crop near your tomatoes will spare the tomatoes from whitefly infestation, or growing Nasturtium in a hidden corner will protect the broad beans from black flies.

Another thing gardeners can do is to encourage predators like hedgehogs into the garden by building a hedgehog larder. This will encourage slugs which are eaten by ground beetles, which are then eaten by hedgehogs. At Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Mary Arden’s Farm, we have been involved in a rehabilitation and release programme with Hedgehog Friendly Town to provide a natural habitat and sustainable food source for the hedgehogs.

AHC Hedgehog Larder
Piles of logs provide food for bug-eating animals

If you are desperate to get rid of garden invaders, consider making an infusion using natural products such as oils made from rosemary, peppermint, clove and garlic. These do as good a job as any chemical pest control.

Remember, your garden is part of the wider ecosystem so always consider gardening in harmony with our wildlife friends!

Happy (wild) gardening.