Nature Gardens – Garden Landscape Design Ideas
Because of the growing interest in natural history, many people have made natural gardens in the hope of encouraging birds and other animals to establish homes there, but the results vary considerably. Someone living in a town naturally has less chance of success, even if a reasonable area is available, than a person living in the country with fields and woodland near at hand. With careful planning, however, it should be possible to create a haven for many of the attractive creatures that grace our gardens.
In planning a natural garden and mulling over your garden landscape design ideas, it is important to decide which particular animals and wild plants you wish to encourage; only then can you set about creating the right environment.
Small birds such as robins, hedge sparrows and blackbirds are regular tenants of countless gardens, and visiting species usually include starlings, mistle thrushes and collared doves. This is a modest list, and in winter, when natural food is scarce, the bird population is increased by various members of the tit family as well as chaffinches and greenfinches.
If there is a pond, speculating moorhens may be attracted. If it also contains fish, it might catch the keen eye of a heron, but this is more likely to happen in early morning. That most brilliant of all our birds, the kingfisher, is another possible visitor if fish are available.
If low cover is plentiful, and this can include gorse (Ulex europaeus), box (Buxus) and some evergreen kinds of lyerberis, it will provide nesting sites for such birds as linnets and bullfinches. Scrub woodland near at hand, and inside the garden, should attract willow-warblers and some other members of the warbler tribe. These may become established during the summer, though they will leave before autumn.
The domed nest of the willow-warbler will sometimes be built at ground level among low cover.
Nest-boxes are often used by blue-tits and great-tits, but they should be placed at least 1.5m (5ft) above ground, and if there are prowling cats in the area it is a useful precaution to spread pieces of gorse underneath.
Larger nest-boxes, fixed at a greater height, may entice tawny owls or stock doves to make a home there. To avoid disturbance it is wise to use narrow, definite paths, and to avoid trampling carelessly through the covered areas.
Pond-Life for Your Natural Garden
To create some interest in your garden, it is always good to investigate garden landscape ideas and I have to say that a pond certainly adds some interest. A pond not only encourages certain birds, but it will also support a whole range of wildlife.
Because of the unfortunate decline in frog and toad populations, however, it might be necessary to introduce spawn into the pond. Even then the experiment may not be successful, for these two amphibians are inclined to stick to old haunts often to their misfortune. The same applies to newts. Water plants that will add to the attraction of a pond include the yellow water iris (pseudacorus) and various waterlilies.
Garden water ponds are the haunt of many different insects, including colourful dragonflies and damselflies. The early stages of these two are spent in water, and the nymphs, as they are known, prey on small water creatures. The winged adults pursue gnats and other small flies for food.
That sturdy hunter the great diving beetle also lives in water during its larval stage. The adults fly by night, which accounts for their presence in some garden ponds.
Reptiles and Mammals
Many healthy places are tenanted by lizards, slow-worms and snakes, and these are also found in numerous wild gardens, even though they are easily overlooked.
Furry animals such as grey squirrels and rabbits may not be so popular, but if they are present the stoats and weasels might also pay visits.
Hedgehogs are also noted for their nocturnal wanderings, and many visit gardens after dark. They are inclined to be suspicious of human beings, but some are bolder and become tamer if regularly offered scraps, and are particularly fond of milk. Hedgehogs normally hibernate in winter, but if regularly provided with refreshment they may respond even in December or January.
Several, smaller furry animals, such as wood mice, voles and shrews, are also mainly nocturnal, so apt to be overlooked even when they are present.
Butterflies and Moths
The increased interest in butterflies, and the concern about their decline in many former haunts, has led to their welcome in gardens. The well-known davidii, often called the butterfly bush, is a favourite for encouraging butterflies, and among wild plants to encourage are fleabane, ragwort, spear thistle and devil’s-bit scabious. It should be realized, however, that although butterflies love these plants, fortunately their caterpillars do not eat them.
Three of the more familiar coloured butterflies, the red admiral, peacock and small tortoiseshell, all eat nettles in their caterpillar stages, so it is worth including a patch of nettles in the garden! As the caterpillars of the peacock butterfly also feed on wild hops (Humulus lupulus), this climber is worth introducing; it usually does well sprawling over a hedge.
The lively, bright-winged small copper butterfly is fond of fleabane and ragwort flowers, but the female lays her tiny, button-shaped eggs on sheep’s sorrel and some kinds of dock. This species fluctuates, as do most butterflies, from year to year, and it is usually commoner in hot summers. Another attractive small butterfly, that might live in a wild garden, is the common blue. The males are blue in colour, but the females are usually deep brown, with orange spots on the wing borders. The caterpillars of this butterfly feed on birdsfoot trefoil, an attractive low plant with bright yellow flowers shaped like miniature sweet. It grows well in sandy .
If there are poplars or willows in the garden, there is a good chance that caterpillars of the poplar hawk and puss moths will be found feeding there in early summer. Both caterpillars grow to 6.5cm (2-1/2 in) or so long, but they are not often common enough to be serious pests. The moths of both species emerge in spring, and they fly by night, but can be seen resting by day. Additional attractive moths to look for in wild gardens are the graceful swallowtail, and the brimstone with its sulphur-coloured wings.