SnowdropsAconites

Apart from all the rain it's seemed a very warm winter, at least here in middle England. The snowdrops are not pushing up through snow, but into sunny 10c+ days. These examples are at Anglesey Abbey – worth visiting at this time of year for the winter gardens alone. The rest's great too.

NotcuttsWheelbarrow

We welcome this guest post by Mr McGregor who has been working in the garden industry for over 27 years. He is a gardening enthusiast who also loves to grow his own fruit and veg, and regularly shares his opinions and advice on many gardening blogs.

Wildlife plays a vital role in the garden; bees help to pollinate plants while some insects can help to discourage predators that can damage flowers from entering your garden. You may automatically think that bugs are pests and are be something you should control, but in reality these insects are imperative to your garden’s ecosystem. 

You may or may not be aware but your garden walls and home can provide a safe haven for wildlife, offering shelter, food and a range of climates that enable them to thrive. It’s just as important to take care of your home’s exterior as it is the interior. In every nook and cranny you can find an array of wildlife nesting and making themselves at home.

Walls are fantastic places for wall mason wasps, snails and harvestmen along with many other invertebrates. Cracks can serve as a refuge over the winter months and flat surfaces can provide a feeding ground for such creatures. Butterflies can also benefit from garden walls. During the spring, wall surfaces can offer a basking ground for small peacock, tortoiseshell and comma butterflies; and during the winter can provide a home for white butterfly chrysalises. Walls are extremely popular with birds, not only for the amount of food these premises harbour, but if you’re growing climbers they can also provide a nesting site.

To keep attracting butterflies to your garden I would recommend you grow such plants such as the following, though you'll find many others at your local garden centre:

  • Buddleja
  • Echinacea purpurea
  • Cheiranthus wall flower
  • Erysimum wall flower

What is more unusual is finding species of lizards. Old and rundown walls in more rural areas can surprisingly be inhabited by common small lizards that are on the hunt for food.

If you are planning to undergo any repairs it’s extremely important to be wary of any wildlife you could potentially disturb. Check every nook and cranny, crack and crevice to see if bats have decided to reside there, or if birds such as great tits and redstarts have nested there. Also be cautious of the season you decide to repair the wall; please keep in mind the nesting season and work around it.

Nest boxes and feeding tables can also help to attract birds into the garden. A nest box can be extremely useful if you want to carry out repair work to your wall as it provides an alternative home for offspring.

The walls of our garden and home can be a wonderful place for wildlife to relish in, and there are many simple ways to encourage further wildlife into your garden. I hope this article has encouraged you to consider and conserve the magnitude of wildlife your simple garden wall can harbour.

Butterfly attracting plants, nesting boxes and bird tables can all be found at most popular garden centres.

Disclaimer: this post provided courtesy of Notcutts, for which no money (or anything else) has changed hands.

GardenSpiderDark

Howard sent this picture, wondering whether it was a walnut orb weaver, or a melanic garden spider. My dictionary describes melanic as "unusual darkening of body tissues caused by excessive production of melanin, esp. as a form of color variation in animals" in case the word is new to you.

I'm sure he's right that it's a melanic garden spider (araneus diadematus) thanks to the classic cross of white blobs on its back. It's also a great close up photo.