Wildlife-friendly Garden Ideas That Look Stylish, Too
Invite the birds and bees into your backyard – and make it look beautiful at the same time
Boost your garden’s style and provide a place for feathered friends to grow their families by investing in a nesting box. These cute mini houses add personality and a slight countryish air to gardens – and there’s nothing sweeter than watching tiny fledglings fly the nest.
These sculptural wooden numbers fit in with the rest of the garden’s look. Or try building one yourself: there are lots of DIY kits suitable for kids, some of which you can paint yourself.
Nest boxes are best put up in the autumn, and should be sited according to species; for example, boxes for robins and wrens should be placed lower down. More advice at the RSPB website.
There’s something pleasingly retro about a rockery. Loved by the Victorians, they bring to mind alpine retreats and grand country gardens.
But they don’t just add natural structure and interest, they’re wildlife friendly, too, providing plenty of nooks and crannies for insects to inhabit. When planting, choose flowers that supply pollen and nectar to attract a variety of butterflies and bees. Cool stones will also create shady spots to which frogs can retreat in summer.
Build rockeries from local stone to reflect your area’s landscape or, if you can, even recycle broken bricks and tiles.
Piles of logs add rustic Nordic charm to gardens, and this hefty stack doubles up as a smart alternative fence. However, it has another purpose – it’s a natural habitat for breeding bugs.
Many animals and insects in Britain rely on decaying and rotting wood for their life cycles. A simple logpile house can transform into a valuable ecosystem for stag beetles, grubs, spiders, ladybirds and species of fungi and moss, and also attract mammals such as hedgehogs foraging for food. Time to start chopping some wood.
If you live in a midcentury home or have an urban balcony, rustic chic may not work with the rest of your look. But that doesn’t have to hinder a bird-friendly garden. Steer away from the usual wire mesh and wood feeders at the local garden centre and hunt for an ultra-modern design, like this cool, blocky, minimal number (by Canadian company Umbra).
Willow fences are an easy win in gardens. In the time it takes to unroll them, they can turn the grittiest urban patch into a charming rustic idyll. Best of all, they’ll help to lure Mrs Tiggy-Winkle into your backyard.
This handcrafted hazel and willow fence has gaps at the base for easy hedgehog access. The UK hedgehog population has declined hugely in recent decades, so do all you can to help these lovable prickly creatures survive. More information here.
A birdbath can make a great conversation piece in a garden. Choose a sturdy, cast-iron model on a pedestal for a classic country garden look, or opt for a modern spin on the theme, like this one. There are some stunning antique stone models around online (complete with supporting cherubs) if you have the cash and space.
A bath will keep birdies happy in summer when they’re hot, but will also be helpful in colder months when water freezes and they need a drink. Simply top up with tap water to help your feathered friends.
A perfectly manicured patch of lawn might be incredibly British, but letting grass grow longer is a far better way to encourage wildlife into your garden. Scatter on some wildlflower seeds for a beautiful meadow effect. Butterflies, grasshoppers, beetles and other insects will flourish, as will birds and bees.
Don’t fancy a full-on meadow out back? Plan for contained borders or other patches to ‘run wild’ while retaining a central clipped lawn. No more lawnmowers at dawn on Sundays, please…
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…or your bicycle store or bin box. With a little lateral thinking, any roof can be ‘de-uglified’ and transformed into a camouflaging flower garden. The result: a pretty cottage garden effect that attracts butterflies and bees, and smells fragrant.
To create a ‘green roof’, you’ll need a timber frame, waterproof lining and compost – ask your friendly local gardening company or carpenter to help. Or DIY it. Always ensure your shed can take the weight before you build!
An alternative to its humble country cousin, the hedge, a ‘green wall’ is a stylish way to entice wildlife into urban gardens. Create one by planting climbers and other shrubs that eventually cover an entire wall. Use a mix of perennials, evergreen plants such as ferns, and even herbs; plants that work well include thyme, sedum and heucheras.
As well as providing a home for bugs and birds, a green wall screens off unsightly views and can reduce noise pollution.
Clipped back, paved over and fastidiously tidy are your enemy when it comes to attracting wildlife. So allow your garden to let its hair down a little; let plants to reach their full potential and borders lapse. Think overgrown in a gentle way, and the birds, bees and bugs will love you for it.
Having a hedge in your garden is like opening a hotel for mini beasts. It provides a place for birds to nest, hibernate and hide, insects to munch, murmur and crawl, and flowers and berries to grow and provide food. Plus hedges give gardens a touch of evergreen grandeur without too much effort, and provide fantastic natural screening. Time to take down that fence…
Feeding the birds doesn’t have to mean ugly plastic holders. Instead, choose an eye-catching design like this one to entice blue tits, robins and blackbirds into your patch.
Alternatively, hang homemade balls made from lard, seeds and nuts on natural twine (just watch out for greedy squirrels). And mix up the menu to help attract a wider variety of birds.
There’s something about being by water that relaxes, inspires and soothes humans, explaining our desire to retire to the seaside, but also the enduring popularity of ornamental ponds. They add colour and variety to gardens, and another element to explore if you have larger grounds.
Even the tiniest pool will encourage water-loving bugs and beasts, such as frogs, toads and dragonflies, to venture into your garden (you could even semi-bury an old butler’s sink). If your garden is structured, choose a more formal pond, or plant the edges with wildflowers to create a softer, more natural effect.
What ideas do you have for making your garden both wildlife-friendly and beautiful? Share them in the Comments below.