I don’t mean the slogan from the 1980s seen on Wham tee shirts, but the provision and maintaining biodiversity in a garden. This is a subject that gets raised regularly and has become a little bit of a drum I like to beat every now and again.
As a designer, I can only advise clients on what works and what may not be as successful – my clients have to live with the new garden for many years and may not want, or think they may not have time for, some of the styles or areas that they perceive will take more input to maintain no matter how good for nature they may be.
I am a member of many industry forums and across the country there seems to be a tidal wave of immaculate artificial lawns and uniform porcelain paving in a search for ‘perfection’ in modern gardens. ‘Instagram-able’ gardens with little or no room for plants (god forbid a tree should drop a leaf on their private patch of the Earth!) are not welcoming to the full bio-diversity needed by nature to survive successfully. In fact, if you discourage some parts of nature, it lets the other unwanted parts thrive.
Domestic gardens are so important; they make up a large percentage of ‘green space’ that nature needs. It is so important we maintain at least something for nature. Establish a complete food chain let nature look after itself.
We, as humans, are also part of nature and we have our needs. Recent research shows that just 3 minutes a day in surrounded by plants has a huge positive effect on our mental health. 3 minutes! Just sitting, looking at natural things.
A healthy natural garden starts with good soil laden with healthy bacteria, fungus and micro-organisms that feed everything else. The food chain starts here. Healthy plants start here. Nature thrives from here.
Water provision is very important – a full wildlife pond would be brilliant but very few of us have the space – an upturned bin lid or plastic container in a sheltered spot will help.
A small log pile left in a quiet corner of the garden provides a habitat for insects. Leaving a pile of fallen leaves in a planting bed, letting the grass grow a little longer, leaving the clearing up of deciduous plants a few weeks longer, all adds to the bio-diverse micro-environment. Embrace the mess for a while, leave the weeds – even in a small area of the garden.
Dense hedges provide cover to hide, even better if they provide nectar or fruit. A diverse planting scheme is best, but choosing plants that allow pollen or nectar to be collected easily is essential. Developing a suitable planting scheme does take a bit of knowledge (I can help with that). Nectar rich plants in early spring and late autumn.
Real lawn over artificial. The majority of life in a garden is in the lawn. I admit that a real lawn is not always feasible but it should be the first choice.
Let nature have space, let it drink, let it consume, let it reproduce. There is space for everything and everything is entitled to its space.