The BBC Springwatch Garden highlights the potential of our gardens to support a wide range of wildlife across the UK. Award-winning garden designer Jo Thompson created the design in consultation with wildlife gardener and writer Kate Bradbury, whose new garden was featured on BBC Springwatch this year.
A bluetit needs to collect 100 caterpillars a day for each of its chicks
Jo explained to me that she took her inspiration from Kate’s comment that a bluetit needs to collect 100 caterpillars a day for each of its chicks – more than could be found in Kate’s garden, indeed more than in most average-sized gardens.
Jo realised that the Springwatch Garden needed to address the ways that we can create connections between our gardens, enabling wildlife to move between them as one connected habitat.
With private gardens in Britain covering an area bigger than all the country’s nature reserves combined, these garden corridors are vital to support wildlife under intense pressure from habitat destruction, intensive agriculture and climate change.
The design imagines three gardens on the same street
Each garden has its own planting style and character, but also with permeable boundaries that allow connection between the plots. The first garden, owned by an older couple, has a relaxed cottage feel and uses traditional plants such as Dahlia ‘Happy Single Kiss’, Buddleja ‘Pink Delight’, dianthus and roses.
It also includes log piles for beetles, bird feeders and wild areas with nettles to create food and shelter for wildlife.
Every garden can be wildlife-friendly
This beautiful, restful space demonstrates the way that traditional planting can be adapted to incorporate wildlife-friendly features without losing the overall style of the garden.
The central garden is a family space with a soft clover and daisy lawn, ideal to attract insects for bug hunts, and a dry stone bench backed by a beautiful curved palisade inspired by Kate’s own summerhouse. A half-planted pond trickles into a stream which connects to the neighbouring plot.
My children would love this garden – they are looking forward to the autumn when we’re creating a small pond, so they can explore the aquatic wildlife and watch the birds drinking and bathing.
Bugs love low maintenance gardens
Finally, the third garden belongs to a busy young couple who love to relax on the brick terrace at the end of the day, so Jo has included easy-to-install wildflower turf, now readily available from suppliers, alongside more formal perennial planting with wildlife-friendly choices like White Valerian (Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’), Agastache ‘Cotton Candy’ and Phlox drummondii ‘Crème Brulée’.
Jo’s Top 3 Wildlife Garden Tips:
- Open up areas along fences and walls so that wildlife can travel between gardens
- Create wildlife-friendly areas with native wildflower turf
- Plant a clover lawn for pollinating insects
Kate’s Top 3 Wildlife Garden Tips:
- Build a pond – it’s the best way to attract wildlife
- Attract invertebrates to support the base of the food chain
- Provide access between gardens to create wildlife corridors
Just after I finished speaking with Jo about the garden, I received a message from my mum. She had counted 20 dragonflies in the meadow area in her lawn which she persuaded my dad to let grow wild this year.
She spoke of her great joy on seeing these delightful garden visitors, reminding me how quickly rewilding areas of your garden can begin to work both for wildlife and for people.