How do you create a wildlife garden from scratch? Anne Horner, who moved to Somerset from the big city six months ago, describes her plans to create a haven for birds and bees
When we moved to rural Somerset from hideously over-populated north London last summer one of the things we were most excited about was the garden surrounding our home.
We’d bought a Georgian property and planned to create a period garden to put the house back into its authentic setting.
We’d brought trugs of plants from our London garden sedges, ferns, hellebores but no sooner had we arrived in Somerset than autumn descended and with all the essential things we needed to do after our big move never got round to planting.
I prevaricated telling myself that there was lots of research that needed to be done on Georgian gardens while I just stood and stared at our new surroundings, too uncertain to begin: I was literally unable to put down roots and wondered why.
Meanwhile the plants overwintered in the trugs. I don’t feel good about this, but fortunately most of them seem to have weathered the winter, just needing us to empty out any excess water in the trugs regularly.
Yet that winter respite also gave me space for a reality check: our house’s authentic surroundings were fields and hedgerows so a formal garden would be pompous and out-of-place.
It even went against my previous gardening practice: I’ve stuffed the previous three town gardens I’ve created with cottage garden plants giant poppies, cornflowers, teasel and honesty as well as bees balm and buddleia to attract butterflies and hoverflies, my longing to live in the country being expressed in my garden.
And I’d created a wildlife pond before, with mixed results. It quickly became home to frogs, toads, newts and dragonflies and had some beautiful flag iris growing around the banks. We’d followed the textbook advice to dig the pond in layers and create wildlife-friendly sloping banks. We hoped that any creatures coming to drink in its waters would be able to get out easily, however one evening I found a hedgehog had drowned in the pond, perhaps entrapped by some vicious pond weed.
So now at last I’ve a clearer idea what I want: a garden with plants that want to grow in our rather wet soil, specimens that will attract even more birds and buzzing creatures to our garden, a pond and perhaps a bog garden too to make sense of all that water. And it has to be hedgehog-friendly.
Fortunately we don’t have to go it alone: Penny Richards from the Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Gardening for Wildlife group has agreed to come and visit our garden and give us advice. I’m so excited that I’m going to celebrate by putting my poor patient London plants in the earth at last.
Next time: Penny Richards visits our garden