Tag Archive | wildlife gardening

Butterflies and bees

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.

IMG_2824

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.

small-tortoiseshell

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.

Hebe

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.

IMG_2822

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.

IMG_2823

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!

IMG_2818

 

Pond and Bog garden

IMG_2538 (1)

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.

IMG_2648

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!

IMG_2656

Pond and, to the left, bog garden

 

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!

IMG_2696

A baby blackbird perching on a flower pot

 

I think it looks fab!

IMG_2671

I am so pleased with how this has turned out!

Every frog has its own pond….

which is, I understand, a Bulgarian proverb.

Not so in my garden as I have an army of frogs in my one and only tiny pond. Time I think to create another in my embryonic wildlife garden so they can spread out and enjoy a new habitat should they wish. As well as encouraging hedgehogs, I like frogs in the garden as they too eat slugs and snails which wreak havoc with the Hostas.

022

One of the pond residents

 

Nothing too big, but a little larger than the one I dug 10 years ago perhaps. It boils down to the size of the pond liner which a lady has very kindly donated to my cause. Luckily, when I collected it from her allotment yesterday, I was pleased to see that it is neither too big nor too small. It’s just right.

So, on with the digging.

IMG_2328

Hard core digging

This is the tricky part. It’s all very well to have wonderful ideas until you have to put the hard graft in to make the dreams reality. All was going well for 12″ until I hit the hardcore. I understand that our house in the corner of the close was not only the site office (hence we have a telephone line running into our garage) but also a place where the rubble and rubbish was tipped before it was then covered over with top soil to make a garden. I have no problem with that, until I start digging. It’s hard work and in the muggy heat of the afternoon I am soon sweating so much I can’t see out of my glasses.

IMG_2113

Lazin’ on a sunny afternoon

 

I managed to dig a decent sized hole and remove some stones before I am forced to give in for the day. I think I need a pick-axe to do this efficiently but whether I can find one is another matter. That’s for another day! In the meantime I have plenty of things I can do until this weather breaks and I can continue when its a bit cooler.

IMG_2327

Donated pond liner

I have in mind a tyre herb garden, tin-can wall planting and a vertical pallet planter for starters

This wildlife gardening is not only a great idea, it’s also fun!

Babysitting hedgehogs

I have never actively fed hedgehogs, always content with seeing the odd one scoot across my garden in search of food. They have surprisingly long legs under those spines and furry skirt and can cover up to one mile at night and I can believe it having seen them race across the lawn at speed.

Last week however, I was babysitting my neighbour’s hedgehogs whilst they were on holiday. Lucky me! Each night I crept round next door and filled the hedgehog dishes with dried mealworms and Spike hedgehog crunchies. I also made sure that plenty of water was available. I took my camera and sat cross-legged on the patio waiting for them to appear as Wendy said they would, between 9.30 and 10.00pm.

They didn’t let me down and first to appear was Bertie. Apparently he always comes out first, a good 10-15 minutes before the others. He comes from the direction of a shed in the next garden down so I guess that is where he lives. He takes the same route every night, creeping slowly along the back wall making sure there are no threats before running towards the food. It is funny to hear him crunching on the worms and crunchies, clearly enjoying the feast before washing it all down with a drink of water. Bertie doesn’t hang around long and when he has finished, runs back to his shed using the same path he came on only this time much quicker, his little legs speeding along until he disappears under the fence.

Next to arrive is a medium sized hedgehog, this time appearing from the bushes to my right. Again, the same ritual is followed every night. Hedgehogs are obviously creatures of habit. This is good as it means that if you can encourage one to reside in your garden, it is unlikely to move on if he/she is happy enough. I guess this is where regular feeding is an advantage. Would you move from your hotel if you were fed and watered every day?

Whilst eating, a larger hedgehog runs out from the bushes, grunting as she charges into the smaller one and pushes it out of the way! This, I understand is Bramble (the Bully!) By far the largest of the hedgehogs, she starts to eat whilst the smaller one curls up into a ball and waits until she has finished and moved away before braving the food once more. All this is captured on film, except that my camera doesn’t do well in the dark and many of the movies are too dark to show.

I did get some photos though.

 

Wildlife gardening

I have a new project. I am donating part of my garden to the local wildlife and over the coming months will be adding creature-friendly features and plants to increase the variety and number of visitors to the area. Of course, one of the best plants for encouraging bees is the poppy, my favourite flower, so I will be sowing plenty of these.

I have so many ideas and plans and of course I want to do them all at once but first I need to collect the materials. For this, thank goodness for “Streetlife” and “Freecycle” both community based on-line groups where items are listed as “offered” or “wanted” for no cost. It is a wonderful idea as people get rid of stuff they no longer need or use whilst others recycle and reuse the very same items.

So far, my pleas have resulted in two lovely bird baths, some large bird feeders and a moulded pond liner. My neighbour has also been bringing me some wooden pallets so I can start to make my bug hotel; 5* of course.

IMG_2325.JPG

The foundations of my 5* Bug Hotel

The good thing about this project is that being out in the fresh air and (hopefully) sunshine helps lift my mood but if it starts to rain, there are plenty of things that I can make indoors. I will share these as I go along. In the meantime, here are a few pictures at the start of Project Westland Wildlife!