Getting Wild About Gardens

Blog post by The Wildlife Trusts on 24 Mar, 2022
The buzz of a bee, the sweet scent of honeysuckle, the splash of a frog hopping into a pond, the feeling of (real) grass under your feet, the chattering of birds in a hedge. These precious moments are not only a delight to experience in our gardens, they're absolutely vital if we're going to protect, restore and reconnect UK wildlife.

Since 2013, The Wildlife Trusts have partnered with The Royal Horticultural Society (often known as the RHS) on our Wild About Gardens initiative - encouraging everyone with a garden to provide food and shelter for wildlife, or simply a safe space for them to pass through. In fact, you don't even need a garden to get involved: window-boxes, a bee brick in your wall, or wildflowers on balconies can all make a difference.

Wild About Gardens follows a different theme each year, inspiring gardeners everywhere to help a different species, or find a new love for a habitat they can create in their own green space. For example, one year we championed the beloved hedgehog, promoting the creation of 'hedgehog highways' in fences - a 13cm hole cut into the bottom of your fence to allow free passage of hedgehogs. Sticking with mammals, in another year we worked with The Bat Conservation Trust on a guide to welcoming these winged wonders. Whilst in 2019, water was a winner, with over 4,000 people pledging to create a wildlife pond - making for many a happy newt, dragonfly and pond skater.

Swallow by Nick Appleton

Swallow by Nick Appleton

The campaign has even taken us to Hollywood (well, the Yorkshire Moors). In 2020, working alongside production companies StudioCanal and Heyday Films, our butterfly booklet aimed to inspire people to create a 'secret garden' for butterflies, akin to Mary's beautifully wild space in the 2020 remake of The Secret Garden.

So why is it so important for us to dedicate our own patch to wildlife? Incredibly, almost 90% of UK households have a garden, making for over 20 million gardens that cover a larger surface area than all 2,300 Wildlife Trust nature reserves combined. With many UK species in decline, using these spaces means we can collectively make a huge difference to our struggling wildlife. It doesn't even have to involve lots of time and money; the good news for the lazy gardeners among us is that letting nature take its own course can often be the best way. Try leaving a patch of grass to grow wild and you'll soon have lots of new visitors, winged, petaled and otherwise. Of course, with those sensory wonders from the buzzy bee, the hopping frog and sweet honeysuckle, a wild garden can also work wonders for our own wellbeing.

Swallow by Nick Appleton

Swift by Elizabeth Dack

This year, we're dedicating Wild About Gardens to our high-flying summer visitors - swifts, swallows, and house martins. Whilst these amazing birds rarely touch the ground and are only in the UK for a few months a year, there are still things we can do to help them. Swifts and house martins were recently added to the UK's Red List for birds, meaning that they're seriously threatened, have suffered severe declines, and require urgent action.

The simplest thing you can do is to make like a lazy gardener and let a patch of grass grow long - this will encourage insects in your garden, that will then provide food for these amazing birds. You can have a similar effect by planting a colourful, insect-friendly wildflower border. Creating a boggy garden patch will provide mud that swallows and house martins use to build their nests - and to provide a home for a swift, consider installing a swift box or brick.

To get more ideas for helping wildlife and to keep up to date with our Wild About Gardens campaign, visit The Wildlife Trusts website.

Header image: Wild About Gardens by The Wildlife Trusts / Stephen Barlow
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