Yay! New Pond has new residents!
I had a change of direction today. I moved from building homes for frogs and toads, insects and hedgehogs to focus on butterflies and bees.
First of all though I went to collect two bags of these gorgeous pine cones for my bug hotel which were donated by a lovely gentleman from the next village. I even got a tour of his garden while I was there; log piles, ponds and bird nesting boxes attached to the trees showed that he is also interested in wildlife gardening. The piece de la resistance for me however was a pretty light lilac Hebe which was covered in bees and the first butterflies I have seen this year, two tortoiseshells. I didn’t have my camera with me so this is a picture from the internet; I couldn’t resist the glorious colours.
My diversion, although very welcome, meant that I had to get a wiggle on if I was to make the Garden Centre in good time but I did it.
I had a list of suitable plants which will encourage bees and butterflies into my garden and it didn’t take me long to select my favourites; Coreopsis ” Tickseed” (birds and bees), Coreopsis “Zagreb” (birds and butterflies), Sedum “Brilliant”, (butterflies), Achillea “Summer fruits lemon” (wildlife), Buddleja “Empire Blue” (Butterflies) and finally, I found the very same variety of Hebe that was so successful in attracting bees and butterflies, “Sparkling Sapphires.” It even has a lovely name.
Back home, car unloaded it was time to get to work again. My idea was to create a luscious bee and butterfly garden with the Belfast sink making a mini-pond in the middle. I have ordered my pond plants to arrive on Wednesday so I ended up planting around an empty sink. I can’t wait to see what the finished garden will look like with the pond up and running but I will have to be patient.
In the meantime on with the planting and so the bee and butterfly grove was born.
This is only one small area of the larger wildlife garden which is coming together nicely now. I am hoping that it will flow through from one wildlife themed garden to the next and so far, it’s looking good. Next on the list (after planting up my two new ponds), an arch for honeysuckle to climb up between the butterfly grove and the new pond area.
For now, I will have to make do with a glass of vino and a rest on the railway sleeper bench enjoying the fruits of my labours so far.
Just like Tessa!
The great thing about working from home is that I can take my coffee break in the garden. It’s nice to get some fresh air after wrestling with tax return figures and now, with my wildlife garden well under way, I have the added pleasure of watching the birds come and feed on the numerous dishes at their disposal.
I am getting more birds and more varied species every day and today was the turn of three blue tit fledglings. Still a little fluffy and more confident than their parents who are not so happy to come close with Jasper the dog rummaging through the undergrowth.
I’m loving the peace and thrill of watching these creatures feed successfully knowing that I am doing my bit to help them survive.
It began like this. A donated pond liner and hard graft digging a hole in tough ground. Gradually the pond and bog garden took shape during the week as I added some rockery stones (also donated).
And a couple of pond plants which I bought.
I was on a roll and with a spurt of energy I quickly turned this previously barren piece of garden into a water haven for wildlife.
I placed the rocks around the pond edge so that there are plenty of cracks and crevices for frogs to crawl into and for me to plant creeping plants to soften the edges. I made a gravel path from the Toad Abode directly to the pond, and fenced the whole water area in with feature edging and wire to prevent hedgehogs falling in. Although hedgehogs are traditionally good swimmers, they can’t get out of a pond with steep sides. Just in case one decides to take the leap, I dismantled an old wooden CD holder and placed it in the pond to act as a ladder. Hopefully, if the worst does happen, a clever hedgie will be able to escape quite easily.
I made the bog garden by digging a hole at one end of the pond and lining it with thick plastic membrane. I did fork a few holes in it so that it doesn’t get too water-logged and filled it in with layers of pea gravel, soil-based compost and potting compost to finish. I gave it a good water before planting some yellow irises taken from my other pond, a marsh marigold and two other bog plants I cant remember the name of!
To provide a backdrop, I moved some teasles into the corner and planted some of my foxgloves and cottage perennials around the back edge. I have sown some hollyhock seeds for next year so the whole area should look beautiful come summer 2017.
I moved the donated tree trunk to the side of the pond so that any frogs who fancy exploring will have plenty of insects to eat.
I finished off by making a seat with the donated bricks and railway sleeper then spreading bark chippings over weed-control fabric covering the whole water garden area. The bark not only provides a nice look to the area but it also provides a home for little critters and this morning, the fledgling blackbirds were rooting through the chippings clearly finding food!
I think it looks fab!
After hauling rockery stones into and out of my car boot yesterday (2 loads) as well as a ton of bricks (1 large load) and collecting a large bird feeding station I’m having a lazy day today. That doesn’t mean inactive, just less physical than the last few days.
There doesn’t look to be many rocks there but my goodness they were heavy and awkward to pick up. I’m not complaining as they were donated to my wildlife garden cause as were the bricks so a little effort on my part is not a chore.
This morning I took my cup of tea into the wildlife patch and sat watching the birds have their breakfast of dried mealworms, sunflower hearts and fat balls. In the 30 minutes or so I was there a variety of birds arrived; Starlings, sparrows, a juvenile blue-tit, a juvenile blackbird and a pigeon. The baby blackbird looks a little like a thrush with speckled feathers but with mum and dad close by and not a thrush in sight I am confident that my choice is correct.
I love the juveniles who have just fledged. They are mostly bigger than their parents due to their fluffy feathers which they puff up. It looks funny seeing the family together perched on the wall or fence but it wont be long before they lose that cuteness and look more like the adults.
I finished my cup of tea in the sunshine, and went to plant some seeds for next year’s plants. I am focussing on cottage garden varieties such as lupins, sweetpeas, Echinacea and hollyhocks. All loved by the birds, bees and butterflies. I cant wait until this time next year when I hope to be doing more sitting than digging!
Sundays are meant to be lazy anyway I keep telling myself.
I’m not going to argue with that!
I have found a really useful project run by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) called imaginatively, and appropriately, “Wildlife Garden.”
Many wildlife species native to the UK have declined in numbers over the past few decades, and there is a big focus on encouraging everyone to do something to help stop the decline and get children interested in nature. The RSPB has set up a programme where you choose activities to complete which form your “Personal Plan” and when completed, you confirm it online. Full instructions and the estimated time involved are given for each activity and you can pick and choose what to do.
After completing the hedgehog house and café and the bird feeding station, and with the bug hotel and pond under construction, my project for a rainy Saturday was to build the frog/toad abode. There are several models which you can buy ready made but I wanted to make one more akin to their natural environment and provide a damp, safe home for them to keep cool in the summer, and frost-free for successful winter hibernation.
First job was to dig a hole about 30cm deep. I found a spot near the new pond and sheltered by the garden wall and the thick growth of ivy. I then layered some pieces of brick, which I had dug up when constructing the pond, with the logs I cut up yesterday. The idea being to create lots of nooks and crannies for the frogs and toads to crawl down. I kept adding logs and bricks above ground to make a mound. I even found a piece of brick shaped like a doorway to make an entrance.
This completed the basic structure which was now ready to be covered in lots of twigs to make it look more natural.
I could have left it like that but my wildlife garden is going to be 5* so while I sat drinking a well deserved cup of coffee I thought of how I could make it more waterproof, comfortable and attractive to frogs and toads.
I happened to have an old hanging basket liner which was surplus to requirements so filled in some of the gaps in the twigs with coir, providing a good layer of insulation.
Next, I found some old wooden lawn edging, again surplus to requirements, which made a very stylish pantile roof!
It still looked a bit untidy for a discerning amphibian expecting 5* accommodation so I covered the roof in soil and a piece of turf to make a more natural mound.
A few plants which I have been growing behind the scenes help to soften the landscape and hopefully, when I have finished the adjoining pond, bog garden and rockery, it won’t be long before the first residents move in.
If I was a frog, I wouldn’t hesitate.
Now that my Hedgehog hotel is occupied, I can focus on making comfy homes for other wild creatures and encourage them into my garden.
It appears that I have already made great strides with allowing the weeds, like groundsel, to grow. Groundsel is a favourite of the Cinnabar moth larvae which turn into beautiful black and red adults. Although they are common and fly during the day, I haven’t seen one in my garden before but they are very welcome to bring their striking colours along to brighten up any dull patch.
One of my next projects is to create a “Toad Abode.” I have spent some time sawing the apple tree branches which hubby lopped off in early spring into small logs and collected some old brick pieces and large stones to make one of these frog and toad homes. Part of the feature is built below ground and part above. This gives them access to the cracks and crevices between the stones and logs and somewhere which is cool and damp in the summer and frost-free in the winter when they hibernate.
Of course when creating a wildlife garden you have to plan a complete ecosystem in your back garden. A food chain is necessary if the creatures are to survive. I was very pleased therefore that someone has very kindly donated a fabulous piece of tree trunk which is old and dry and is home to all sorts of insects already. These tiny creepy-crawlies will provide food for birds, hedgehogs, frogs and toads and so is a very welcome addition to my project.
Old wood stacked up in piles creates a very simple home for lots of insects, amphibians and hedgehogs. I didn’t have to pick up too many branches to saw up before I came across a host of snails. They looked quite pretty with their multi-coloured swirly shells.
I have lots more to do and I have booked a weeks holiday in July so I can crack on with it properly. Now I’ve started I want to get the basic structure in place so I can plant up and get it ready for next Spring.
If you have any good ideas for creating a wildlife garden or tips what not to do, please message me. I will be very grateful for any advice.