Flora for fauna

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Most gardeners – indeed, most people – like to see birds and insects in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, there’s getting to be fewer and fewer as we build more homes and the climate makes merry with thousands of acres of prime British countryside.

So, anyone with a few feet to grow can help to make a difference – by creating their own wildlife garden.

There are plenty of colourful shrubs and trees that will provide food and comfort for birds and insects.

Cotoneasters, mountain ash, even yew and holly can provide a nutritional meal of berries as well as bringing a bit of welcome form and colour to the garden.

Plants don’t produce berries for fun – they produce them to propagate their species, and they rely heavily on birds to help. Birds eat the berries which contain seeds; the seeds pass through the birds and are dispensed around the countryside. So, the plants, the birds and the countryside all benefit.

And butterflies love buddleia and other nectar-rich plants, while bees and hoverflies can be enticed by most flowers.

You don’t need a lot of room to grow just a few wildlife-friendly plants, and you don’t need a lot of room for a small pool or pond to provide a constant source of water. Birds drink it, bathe in it and some even use it as a source of food – insects also like a pond, and they can provide a reasonable meal.

And if there’s not sufficient room in your garden for a pond proper, anchor an old dustbin lid into the soil, fill it with fresh water and it will still go down well with the birds.

A log pile isn’t likely to last very long where the gardener has a wood-burning stove, but just a few decaying logs tucked away in a quiet corner can provide a home for insects, especially beneficial beetles, perhaps a hedgehog or two and encourage the growth of plants such as mosses.

Some gardeners put up bird and even bat boxes, but don’t feel pressured into having to build similar homes in your back garden. Ivy growing up a wall or a hedge of mixed shrubs are just as welcoming to many birds, providing them with food, shelter and places to build nests.

Wildlife isn’t all that choosy; it can adopt and adapt – but it can always do with a little help from its friends. That’s us.