Winter Wildlife Garden

Guest blogger Michelle Storm writes a regular blog on increasing wild flower meadows in UK gardens and public spaces.

A winter wildlife garden

In mid November a carpet of leaves covered the garden. The stalks of summer perennials were brown and shriveled and the seed heads of Hollyhocks, Lavender and a host of summer flowers haunted the failing stems of withered plants.

Guest blogger Michelle Storm - Perennial Stalks

Perennial Stalks

To many this garden may like it needs a good tidy up, but to me an untidy winter garden is a happy wildlife friendly garden. Think of an untidy garden as an invertebrate metropolis. Each hollow herbaceous stem is a tower block of winter accommodation, each seed head a high rise winter apartment. If you don’t believe me start looking inside seed heads you’ll be amazed at what you find sheltering there.

Guest blogger Michelle Storm - Thistle heads

Thistle heads

If leaf fall makes you want to run out with rake in hand to sweep it all away just remember it’s the equivalent of a Glastonbury campsite for beetles, woodlice, worms and spiders and provides a welcome winter lunch for garden blackbirds. So if you really don’t like leaf litter then brush it onto your borders and under your hedgerow it will feed your soil, offer great shelter for invertebrates which in turn will provide a much needed winter food source for birds.

Guest blogger Michelle Storm - Leaf fall

Leaf fall

Last winter when the garden was covered in snow for a few weeks, a flock of hungry goldfinch stripped the lavender heads of their seeds.

My mother had suggested pruning my lavenders in April after winter rather than in September as I had done previously. I’d moved to a colder higher altitude garden a couple of years earlier and was struggling to keep my lavenders alive over winter. Not only did the seed heads help the goldfinch but my lavenders survived the harsh winter for the first time and bloomed beautifully in summer providing a rich nectar source for a variety of pollinators.

So if you get the urge to tidy tidy tidy, just spare a thought for all those homeless creatures you’ll be responsible for. What you regard as messy is a valuable wildlife winter habitat. Try gardening in step with nature and benefit from a garden that is alive and thriving all year round, especially in winter.

Find out more about wildlife gardening on Plantameadow’s blog.

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3 Comments

  1. karen francis says:

    Hi, I just wanted to say what a lovely and very simple article this was! I have been gardening for wildlife for over twenty years and just love to see ALL species using my garden, not just the cute and fluffy kind! What this article basically states is that without helping our mini beasts there would be nothing else. It’s all very well feeding our garden birds with supplementary food, but nothing compares to fresh natural food sources!

    • Michelle Storm says:

      Hi Karen
      Thanks for your comment and well done for being a pioneer if wildlife gardening. We can do so much good by looking after the invertebrates as they are the start of the food chain. It’s also one if the easiest ways to help create or maintain a healthy habitat for a huge variety of wildlife. A healthy chemical free soil is a good place to start and with a few untidy areas Nature will work its magic. Enjoy your gardening.

      • karen francis says:

        Hi Michelle,
        You’re absolutely correct!! Everyone can do a little bit to benefit not just ourselves but wildlife and the environment too. I have a lovely garden, with a pond where common newts and several dragonfly/damselfly species (amongst others) call home. I would have to say that every garden should have one, or at least a barrel! My mother-in-law has a barrel with plants and a resident frog! So even people with small gardens can be helpful! Plant as many different colours of single flower species, especially native types, to try to entice more beasties into the garden. Last year I found that ragwort was the clear favourite with hoverflies and honey bees, so please consider this in your own plot too. It has had such a bad press recently, which is a great pity. Good luck with your garden and I hope you get to enjoy yours as much I do mine!

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