Nature’s song to the garden
by Sarah Hill
Gardening in harmony with nature
Relaxing, rocking gently on a swing seat in my favourite Cotswold garden – the wind, whispering through the cedars, wafting the scent of honeysuckle and roses – I gaze out beyond the ha-ha wall towards the Malvern Hills.
In the borders, ants scurry across soil and stone, bees hum, insects buzz, and all about plants flourish and flower. In the pools, pond skaters and boatmen jink across the meniscus, gnats hover in a golden haze, while dragonflies and swallows swoop to drink and feed. At night, bats and moths visit, unseen. In the soil, compost heaps and woodpiles; worms wriggle, millipedes march and bacteria and fungi go about the business of digesting and recycling dead and dying vegetation.
In the bushes, blackbirds sing, greater spotted woodpeckers laugh from the woodland and high above, a red kite soars. From that lofty avian view, gardens old and new stretch out in seams of multi-faceted gems through the villages and across the valley.
Gardens are imagined, created and nurtured by people: habitats in their own right, embedded within their wider habitat and landscape. No matter their size, scale or location, wildlife will always find a way into our gardens: butterflies find balcony pots, seeds parachute into crevices – germinating in patios and car-parked paving – woodlice hunker under decks and hot tubs, some birds nest, whilst others pay pit stop visits.
Britain has an estimated 24 million gardens which cover an area larger than all the UK’s National Nature Reserves put together. With pressure on less protected wildlife habitats from construction and infrastructure projects, changes in farming practices, and climate change, gardens can make a big difference in helping wildlife find a home.
It is possible to garden with no heed to wildlife. We can spray and squish and seek to eradicate by imposing our will on nature – but this will be a constant battle. The alternative is to have faith in nature and work in harmony with it; to make small adjustments to the way we garden and use our space, trusting that more wildlife will choose to come, including the natural pesticide squad which keep the dreaded slugs, aphids and blackfly in check.
From a postcard impregnated with seeds planted in a window box, to topiaried rural acres, all gardens have the ability to grow our knowledge and experience of nature, keep us connected to the natural world, and help wildlife thrive.
There is lots of information available about gardening for wildlife and www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk is a really good place to start.