Ten top tips for improving biodiversity
How to turn your garden into a haven for wildlife and which plants to grow to encourage birds, animals and insects.
Biodiversity is literally the ‘buzz’ word at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show as the glorious sunshine brings the show gardens into flower, the local insect population has woken up to a bountiful week of nectar at the show.
In this the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity a five metre tall woven willow tree forms the centrepiece of the RHS stand in the Great Pavilion, each leaf an idea of how to encourage and nurture our native wildlife as gardens become an all important refuge of habitats and connecting green corridors.
David Bellamy’s lively message about the value of composting states, ‘ Be proud of your solar powered compost heap it buzzes with biodiversity the year round, while reducing, reusing and recycling garden waste’. Biodiversity encompasses all living things from microbes to man, all are interelated and interdependant, we cannot separate our continued existence on the planet from the plants and animals that sustain it, as the stark message illustrated by the Global Stone Bee-Friendly Plants Garden informs that if we lose the pollinating power of the honey bee, we have have only four years of life left on the planet.
The Chelsea Flower Show provides a rich crop of ideas to take away and try in your own gardens that will help you to attract, feed and provide habitat for as many living things as possible. Ideas abound as you walk around the show, here’s our top ten:
Small gardens may lack large trees but when seen within the context of the wider environment they provide a corridor to local green spaces for many mammals, insects and birds. If nesting boxes don’t fit with your design scheme a novel take on this can be seen in the Growing World Class Talent urban garden where stone panels actually set into the courtyard walls incorporate a hole and a space behind in which a nesting family can take up residence.
Devise planting schemes that include flowers for all seasons like the early spring flowering Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ and nectar rich flowers such as the stunning lavenders and alliums in the M & G garden and in the Laurent Perrier garden, showy heads of Baltic Parsley, Cenolophium denudatum, are a magnet for beneficial insects.
Incorporate a variety of habitats, wet and dry areas, including mosses and ferns as well as flowering plants. Drystone walling features heavily in many gardens this year, the spaces between provide shade and damp for plants and other creatures to colonise. A good example is in Jamie Dunstan’s Go Modern Garden that has incorporated a raised dry area and sunken levels that favour moisture loving plants. In a small garden this works well to provide both beautiful structural planting for the owners to enjoy and somewhere that biodiversity can thrive in diverse conditions.
Not forgetting the all important soil environment, a compost bin is a must though not often seen as a feature in Chelsea show gardens, look out for those tucked away in a quiet corner as a place for the all important creepy crawlies. The Pine and Conifer enthusiasts garden has a bin, a fine example of a minibeast heaven.
Everything in nature is interconnected and interrelated, the plight of the honey bee is highlighted in the Global Stone Bee Friendly Plants garden, if we are to prevent further decline gardeners can select bee friendly plants to nurture these busy pollinators without which, many fruit trees and other food crops could remain barren.
Artificial grass has made it’s first appearance at Chelsea, an easy to maintain solution for the gardener no doubt, but choose a grassy meadow as an incredibly diverse habitat for both plant and animal species. The food plants of many of our native butterfly species are found in meadows and The HESCO garden is fronted by a beautiful display of meadow flowers an example of linking green spaces along the Leeds Liverpool canal and to be relocated after Chelsea back to Roundhay park in Leeds. The Growing World Class Talent urban garden features restful sedum and mixed meadow squares snugly nestling between the paving, softening the stone like a living rug.
Green roofs and walls feature on several gardens this year as examples of maximising all surfaces to create habitat especially in stark urban spaces where stone and concrete prevail. Kazahana, the Children’s Society, Tourism Malaysia and Strutt and Parker’s Sustainable Highland Garden all have examples of this planting style.
Grow heritage vegetables, another example of preserving biodiversity of our food plants and ultimately of future food security as gardeners and allotment holders have maintained these valuable genetic reserves. The crimson flowered broad bean is a triumph of seed saved and nurtured by one family and now widely available again, it’s pretty flowers a delight even among the borders and a favourite of bees too.
Make use of all the space in your garden, edibles can be fitted in vertical containers, the John Joseph Mechi garden has fruit adorning the corners hanging with rhubarb and strawberries.
The aquatic environment provides another whole area for a host of species as well as beautiful planting opportunities for water lilies and architectural plants like rheums and irises. The Childrens Society garden with it’s plunge pool, Music on the Moors' rocky granite stream and Naturally Fashionable’s novel log waterfall, all a different take on bringing water and life into the garden.
Take home an idea and incorporate it in your garden to make Chelsea 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity be celebrated for embracing the message for life and a sustainable future for us all.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.