Wildlife Gardener - The Best Plants for a Wildlife Garden
Not all plants are equal if you want to create a wildlife friendly garden. The plants you choose to include in your borders and pots can have a big impact on the numbers and varieties of wildlife species that choose to pay your garden a visit.
Here are some of the top plants for gardeners to use to create a great Wildlife Garden
If wildlife rather than aesthetics is your priority, choose sunflower varieties with fewer petals and a bigger centre. These provide the optimum pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. Once the flower has faded, its seeds will attract birds such as blackbirds, finches, jays and even some species of woodpeckers.
A hedge of hawthorn provides food and shelter for wildlife all year round. The plant usually flowers in May and becomes a feast for insects. In the autumn red berries appear. These are a favourite of blackbirds, thrushes, greenfinches and chaffinches, to name but a few. And in the winter, small mammals, birds and insects can roost and nest in the thick cover a hawthorn plant provides.
The highly scented honeysuckle flowers from June to September and bears berries in the late summer and autumn. It’s a climbing plant that needs support. However, once established it will provide nectar for bees, butterflies and moths (including the impressive hummingbird hawk moth) and food for bullfinches, thrushes and warblers.
Ivy is another climbing plant. Insects, including hoverflies, bumblebees, red admirals and peacock butterflies, use ivy to fill up on nectar before hibernation. Ivy also has berries throughout winter, attracting blackbirds and thrushes when many other berries have already been and gone.
Berberis is a thorny plant. There are a number of evergreen varieties available. These will provide safe nesting and roosting sites for smaller birds. Flowers provide nectar for moths and butterflies, whilst leaves provide shelter for caterpillars. The plant’s berries, seen in autumn and winter, also provide a great food source for birds.
Early flowering plants are a must for any garden. Buff tailed bumble bee queens can emerge from their nests as early as January if the Celsius heads into double figures. These bees need nectar, something that the crocus and other early flowering plants can provide.
A clear favourite for bees which mean polination! Lavender not only smells delicious but does wonders for the wildlife population in your garden.
Being a wildlife gardener means providing food and habitats for you garden visitors all year round. Clever planting will certainly stand you in good stead. You can then create your own additional habitats and provide extra food to make your garden a truly welcoming haven for all kinds of wildlife species. Check out our Wildlife Gift Boxes for inspiration, an ideal for a gardener interested in wildlife.
- Nikki Boxwild
- Tags: wildlife gardener
Seven Amazing Facts about Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs are a relatively common sight in UK gardens. These nocturnal creatures are most often seen during summer months before hibernating in the autumn to escape the cold British winter. Boxwild sells a Hedgehog Gift Box which is ideal for those who love our treasured garden friends!
Whilst almost all of us have seen a hedgehog at some point or other, there are a few things we may not know about our spiky friends. Take a look at our seven amazing hedgehog facts to find out more:
- Hedgehogs have between 5000 and 7000 spines. Their spines are known as quills. Quills are mostly hollow and contain a complex network of air chambers, making them light and strong. Hedgehogs lose and regrow quills throughout their lifetime.
- Baby hedgehogs are called hoglets. They’re usually born in June and July in a litter of four to five. On average just two to three make it past the weaning stage. This can be even less if a hedgehog nest is disturbed soon after birth – in these situations a mother hedgehog may abandon the hoglets or even eat them.
- Hedgehogs are omnivores. They can eat a wide variety of foods but the majority of their diet is made up of insects. Slugs, beetles and caterpillars are all firm hedgehog favourites, earning them a reputation as a dedicated gardener’s friend.
- Milk is bad for hedgehogs. It’s a common misconception that milk provides a tasty treat for hedgehogs. It can actually give them diarrhoea. Plain, fresh water in a shallow bowl is best.
Some hedgehogs have fleas but they can’t be transferred to humans. These fleas are actually known as hedgehog fleas and won’t survive on people or other animals.
- It’s estimated that 30% of the hedgehog population has been lost since 2002. Poor habitats, in both rural and urban areas, as well as difficult weather conditions are to blame. Creating a garden habitat and leaving food out for hedgehogs, particularly over the summer, can be a great help. You’ll be providing them with the nutrients and fat stores they need to survive hibernation come the autumn.
- Cutting a hole in your garden fence could help a hedgehog. If everyone on your street does the same, you’ll create a “wildlife corridor” through which hedgehogs can search for food and water without venturing into more dangerous territory.
Hedgehogs are incredible animals but they do need a helping hand from time to time. If you can offer shelter, food, water and an easy through road in your garden, you’ll be providing a much needed lifeline to your local hedgehog population.
Read more about our prickly friends in our post on five garden hazards for hedgehogs
5 Garden Hazards that Spell Danger for Hedgehogs
Around this time of year, hedgehogs are looking for a place to hibernate in time for winter. This means they’re a much more common sight in gardens across the country. If you want to make your garden a safe haven for hedgehogs, take care to avoid these five garden hazards:
Like all garden visitors, hedgehogs like to take a drink from any water sources you provide. A pond is the perfect place to quench their thirst but, whilst hedgehogs are good swimmers, they need an easy way to get out of the pond in case they fall in. A sloping side or some chicken wire provide a route in and out of the pond for any visiting hedgehogs.
Whenever you’re looking after your garden maintenance, spare a thought for hedgehogs. As their name would suggest, hedgehogs love to spend time in garden hedgerows. Be careful when mowing or using a strimmer close to hedges at the edge of your garden. Also take care when raking leaves or forking over the compost heap. These are all places where hedgehogs can be found.
Hedgehogs love to hide in piles of wood or garden refuse. It’s a dry and cosy place to nest or hibernate. If you’re getting rid of summer garden offcuts or preparing a bonfire for Guy Fawkes Night, try to prepare your bonfire just before you light it. That way, there’s much less chance of a hedgehog already having set up home there.
The netting you use to protect your fruit can pose a threat to a hedgehog. Put away any netting once you’ve picked your fruit and it’s no longer needed. This prevents hedgehogs from becoming entangled and injuring themselves trying to get free.
When you’re trying to protect your plants from slugs, slug pellets may seem like the only option. However, if you want to protect your hedgehog population too, it’s best to use natural alternatives such as crushed eggshells or coffee grounds. Slug pellets can be poisonous to hedgehogs so, if you really don’t see an alternative, try to put them under a slate where slugs can reach them but hedgehogs can’t.
As well as eliminating hazards, there are lots of other things you can do to make your garden a more welcoming place for hedgehogs. Leave out hedgehog food and provide areas of leaf litter and logs to create the perfect habitat for these garden mammals.
Read our article Seven Amazing Facts about Hedgehogs for more on our prickly friends!
Love Hedgehogs? Check out our Hedgehog Gift Box which provides great nutrition for our prickly friends
Top 6 Wildlife Charities in the UK
If you want to donate to a wildlife charity, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice. There are countless wildlife organisations in the UK working tirelessly to support native species. To make your decision a little easier, we’ve created a list of some of the best UK wildlife charities, summarising who they are and what they do:
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was founded way back in 1889. Through nature reserves, petitions and public awareness campaigns, the organisation seeks to conserve bird populations throughout the UK. The charity also runs annual birdwatching days. These are, in effect, huge wildlife surveys giving an up-to-date impression of birdlife and bird numbers across the country.
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)
The WWT runs nine nature reserves across the UK. The charity’s aim is to preserve wetlands, which are a primary source of drinking water for both humans and wildlife. The reserves are a place where people, young and old, can learn about the wetland habitat and the creatures that make it their home.
Marine Conservation Society
The Marine Conservation Society takes care of the UK’s seas and the creatures living within it. The charity campaigns for sustainable seafood. It works with fisherman to find more sustainable methods of fishing and promotes sustainability amongst retailers and consumers. Every year MCS volunteers also tidy up beaches across the country and conduct projects with local communities to ensure our seas are clean and healthy environments for everyone to enjoy.
Butterfly Conservation is a charity dedicated to protecting the UK’s declining butterfly and moth populations. The organisation has established reserves around the country, works to survey the UK’s butterflies and moths and raises awareness of their plight.
Named after one of Beatrix Potter’s most famous characters, Tiggywinkles is one of the world’s leading wildlife hospitals. Based in Buckinghamshire, it’s open every day and every hour of the year to treat injured and orphaned animals. It takes in over 10,000 every year and aims to release them all back into the wild.
Bumblebee Conservation Trust
Following an alarming decline in bumblebee numbers, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust was established in 2006. The charity works to establish bee-friendly habitats and encourages the general public to make changes to their own gardens. They are currently working to reintroduce the short-haired bumblebee (declared extinct in the UK in 2000) back into the country.
Donations from sales of our gift boxes for bird and wildlife lovers support the amazing work that WWT and Butterfly Conservation do.
What to Do If You Find a Baby Bird
In the spring or summer, as baby birds are hatching and fledging, it’s not uncommon to find one sitting on the ground. But what should you do if you come across a baby bird?
First you need to determine whether it’s a nestling or a fledgling.
What is a Nestling?
Nestlings don’t have feathers and may be covered in fluffy down. They are unlikely to fall out of the nest by accident.
What is a Fledgling?
Fledglings have most of their feathers. It’s common for fledglings to leave the nest a few days before they can fly. Parents are likely nearby and still providing food.
Helping a Nestling
Nestlings sometimes fall out of the nest. Unhealthy or ailing nestlings are sometimes pushed out of the nest by a parent who chooses to focus on their healthy offspring.
If you find a healthy chick on the ground, you should try and return it to its nest. With clean hands or gloves, pick up the bird and place it carefully back in the nest. You need to be 100% certain that you’ve found the right nest before attempting this.
If the nestling you find is injured or you can’t find the nest it came from, you should call a wildlife rehabilitation centre who can advise you on what to do next. Don’t offer any food or water in the meantime.
Helping a Fledgling
In most cases, it’s safe to leave a fledgling exactly where you find it. A protective parent is usually nearby and the fledgling isn’t in any danger.
If, however, you find the bird on a busy walkway or road, in danger of being attacked or trodden upon, you can move it to a safer spot. Only move the fledgling a short distance so it can continue to communicate with its parents.
Keep an eye on the fledgling from a distance to ensure that its parents are still close by. If, after close monitoring, you’re sure that a fledgling has been orphaned, do as you would for a nestling and call a rehabilitation centre.
Taking a bird out of the wild is always a last resort. But sometimes expert care is needed. Whilst there’s lots of internet advice on how to look after a wild bird yourself, only a specialist can offer a baby bird the care it needs to survive and thrive.
Best Garden Wildlife Activities for Kids
As we have just launched our Children's Bird Gift Box we thought it would be a good time to put together some tips to help children enjoy the garden!
Introducing children to garden wildlife is a sure fire way to spark their imaginations. Creepy crawlies, frogs, birds, hedgehogs - they can be just as exciting as anything you’d find down at the zoo. Most children love the opportunity to explore and discover the animals and habitats that exist right in their very own garden.
If you’d like to embark on a wildlife adventure with your little ones, take a look at these garden wildlife activities for kids. They’re easy and lots of fun for everyone.
Make a Hide
Create a birdwatching hide out of branches and leaves. Or just pitch up a tent on the lawn. Then sit quietly to get a good look at the birds who pay your garden a visit. A reference book to help children identify the birds they see can also be lots of fun.
Hunt for Mini Beasts
This is a particular favourite with younger children. Tour the garden to discover the various creepy crawlies that live there. In doing so, children will find out about different insects and the habitats they live in. You could download a bug spotter sheet so they can tick off the beasts they find and use a magnifying glass so everyone can get a closer look.
This one’s perfect for longer nights when it’s getting darker earlier. Hang a white sheet from the washing line, turn off the lights and shine a torch onto the sheet. You’ll soon have a collection of moths to examine and identify.
Let your little ones play detective by finding footprints. Put some damp sand in a baking tray and leave it in the garden. For the best results, put out some wildlife friendly food too. Come the following morning, kids will love identifying the footprints any wildlife visitors leave behind.
Create a Wildlife Retreat
From bug hotels to bat boxes to hedgehog hides, children will enjoy creating and decorating their own wildlife habitat to put in the garden. There are plenty of online guides available, giving instructions on materials and method. Most can be made from odds and ends you’re likely to have lying around the house.
Getting to know and appreciate wildlife at a young age can lead to a lifelong love of nature. Make sure your activities are lots of fun and your kids will be learning about different species, habitats and life cycles without even realising it.
- Nikki Boxwild