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Welcoming in the wild

Hazel lives in a new build half an hour from Edinburgh. The promise of a garden tempted her from the city, only she's never had a garden before and isn’t sure where to start. She does have a book called ‘Garden plants of Scotland’, a kitchen spoon and a pair of rubber gloves though. In the First Garden blog we’ll follow Hazel as she attempts to grow her first garden with the help of the team at Pentland Plants...


Welcoming in the wild

When I was a teenager my Mum had a pet hedgehog. She fed it on steak mince and let it out of its box under the stairs every night to run up and down the corridor. She insisted it move in because apparently it was too small to survive the winter. When I grumbled that it was a noisy wild animal that was keeping me awake at night she’d point to the storms raging outside. Now I’d really like my own pet hedgehog, but it has to live in the garden.

You don’t need to give a hedgehog a home for the winter but there is lots you can do to make your garden a haven for wildlife at any time of the year. Let the grass by the edge of your lawn grow long for insects, build a bug hotel out of sticks and pine cones, put out seed for birds or plant nectar rich flowers to feed the butterflies and bees.

Our back garden still resembles a football pitch more than a garden but making space for wildlife has brought a lot of fun to our house this summer. The whole family has been frog hunting in a pile of mossy rocks scavenged from a nearby field and there are more spiders living there than I like to think about, we’ve cheered when they’ve snared midges and run screaming when they’ve moved at all.

We recycled a wooden pallet into a bug hotel complete with integrated hedgehog suite at the back, as yet unoccupied, removable glass-jar ‘observation chambers’, stacks of sticks and piles of pine cones all topped with a plastic tray planted with scabious to attract the butterflies. An old bucket became a temporary tadpole nursery; we sunk it into the ground and made shade with rocks and grass. It quickly became home to other insects too.


There are tadpoles in there.


Frogs finding their feet


Our bug hotel is ready for visitors.


The biggest hit for wild visitors though has been the wildflower meadow. When the grass was first seeded I sprinkled native wildflower seed in a strip at the edge. A family of grey partridges wandered up through the fields every night for a week and ate the lot. None of it grew. So we cheated and unfurled a beautiful roll of meadow matt. Right now it is bursting with red clover and heavy with nectar, the local bees buzz about looking almost drunk.


A wild flower meadow brings colour, bees and butterflies to your garden.


Gold finches, tree sparrows and even a collared dove are regular visitors to our bird feeder. I bought a little clear box with a perching bar and tray from Pentland Plants that sticks onto the window, it’s amazing to sit right next to it and watch the birds swoop in for a snack. Pentland Plants sell birdfeeders and seed in all sorts of styles so pick one, fill it up and wait for the flock to arrive. Don’t forget to give your birdfeeder a scrub with hot soapy water every now and then to prevent fungus from growing or diseases spreading between the birds.

One brave pair of House Martins built a nest in our kids’ playhouse, watching them turn and glide effortlessly through the tiny hole in the door was incredible. They abandoned it a few days later, probably in favour of a spot where no-one pretends to be a pirate.


Mud and grass woven into a nest in the noisiest part of the garden


The choices you make when you build your garden can help make your home a haven for smaller creatures too. As more land is turned over to housing, creating spaces that welcome in the wild can provide a lifeline to species that are struggling to find enough food or shelter. A pile of sticks bound with string is still a bug hotel, a container of wild flowers will feed a bee and a patch of long grass will shelter more creepy crawlies than you can count. That said, our favourite visitor so far is one I have to admit is not likely to wander into most gardens but he is very popular here and has helped to tame the overgrown kale patch.


Our favourite wild visitor

I’ve found watching a frog emerge from a tangle of grass or a flock of goldfinches descend greedily upon a feeder to be the most rewarding part of building our garden. I’m still hoping to meet a hedgehog and I’ve just found out that Pentland Plants has hedgehog food in stock, I’m not telling my Mum. I will send her a link to this video from the Hedgehog Preservation Society though, it tells us why now it’s more important than ever to provide a home for the lovely slug slurpers.

To read more about Hazel's gardening blog, First Garden, click here:


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