We’re all wild about our gardens these days

Research commissioned by the Horticultural Trades Association has found that 75 per cent of UK gardeners agree it’s important that their gardens support wildlife, like birds and bees.

The survey also discovered that one in three people are now doing things specifically to encourage wildlife into the garden – an increase of a third compared to four years ago.

The countryside used to be rich in wild plants and animals but natural habitats are disappearing at a startling rate and gardens are quickly becoming important havens for a wide range of birds, mammals, amphibians and invertebrates.

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Under its ‘Spring into Summer in the Garden’ campaign, the HTA is encouraging and inspiring people to turn their gardens into a wildlife haven.

Over recent years, more products targeted at the wild bird market have become available in garden centres and consumers can now tailor feeding regimes to attract the birds that we most want to see in our gardens. 62 per cent of us now regularly feed the birds in our garden and nearly a quarter provide nesting and breeding habitats.

It is important that your garden provides shelter and space to nest for birds. This can be done through trees and shrubs to provide the perfect home for birds. Trees such as oak, alder, silver birch, crab apple and shrubs such as wild roses, hawthorn, juniper, holly and lilac are ideal for nesting spots. Hedges can also be planted to protect birds from predators.

However, birds are not the only wildlife you can attract to your garden during the spring months. Spring is a prime time for butterflies which play an essential role in the garden by contributing to a healthy environment by transporting pollen from plant to plant.

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That’s why it is important that nectar rich plants are planted in the garden to attract butterflies. Forget-me-not, honeysuckle, cowslip, lavender, Buddleja and sedum are just some of the plants suitable to be planted in spring which act as an important food source for butterflies.

Nettles, clover and sweet rocket are also important food sources for the caterpillar – these are best planted in borders or containers and can be used as compost, too.

Other pollinators such bees need nectar rich plants too, so think about planting some single flowered varieties such as lupins, forget-me-not, azaleas, cornflowers, heathers, lambs ears and sunflowers look wonderful, are easy to find in nurseries and garden centres, and will attract bees, hoverflies and other beneficial insects into your garden.

Bees like shaded areas and plant in well rotted compost. Spring Erica heathers are particularly good for hibernating bumble bees and are good for pollinators.

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Make sure you create shade and shelter for wildlife. Long grass, logs, twigs and leaves provide sanctuary for many insects, birds and mammals. Creating a mini meadow with wild grasses and wild flowers will also provide the ideal environment for frogs, toads, grasshoppers, hedgehogs and moles. Spring is the ideal time to start planting whether it is using seed mix or plugs.

Carol Paris of the HTA said: “Our campaign would like to highlight that anyone with a garden can make a difference for wildlife. It is important as some species, like butterflies, are under threat in their natural habitat, so your garden could become a welcome safe haven for nature.”

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