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Blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings appreciate windfall apples left for them and will turn to crab apples and other hard fruits too. Lucky gardeners may even tempt waxwings. Fruits can also be an important winter food for blackcaps — warblers which usually migrate to warmer climes, but which are increasingly overwintering in southern parts of the UK. Small birds such as blue tits and even blackcaps seek out these energy boosts from early or late-flowering mahonia — a firm favourite.

Providing clean, fresh water alongside food is very important, particularly for seed specialists such as finches. They need to drink regularly to counterbalance their dry diet — all that seed grinding is thirsty work. Help keep bird baths and ponds ice free by floating a small football on the surface to disturb the formation of ice sheets.

Or in really cold weather, fill a metal or ceramic dish with water and set it on bricks over a tea light candle. Once you start feeding birds, try to keep regular in your topping up habits. While most visitors will adapt and move to new feeding grounds when natural food gradually runs out, a sudden drop off in feeding puts them on the hop. In winter when alternative food sources are already scarce, this could mean the difference between life and death for some. Small birds like tits are especially vulnerable to sudden changes in food supply. While feeding birds in your garden can help see them through the winter, it also has its down sides.

Trichomonosis for example, a nasty bug that can be fatal for finches and pigeons, is passed from bird to bird through saliva. Sick birds have difficulty feeding and will regurgitate food, contaminating feeding stations and spreading the contagion. Scrub your bird feeders regularly with hot soapy water and give them a good rinse.

Sweep away any accumulations of droppings or spilled seeds and keep feeders free of wet or mouldy foods. What to feed Different birds are attracted to certain foods, often reflecting their special adaptations for natural food types. Goldfinch, siskin, redpoll — smaller seeds like nyjer Greenfinch, tits — sunflower hearts Sparrows, woodpigeon, collared dove — large grains Woodpeckers, tits, starling — fat balls and peanuts Robin, thrushes — mealworms and live foods Thrushes, waxwing — windfall fruit.

Fortunately I had the opportunity to taste the melons later when writer and grower Mark Diacono, of Otter Farm , prepared a range of cocktails to showcase the fruit, vegetables and herbs from the garden. Each melon resting in its own individual hammock. This is one to drink at the end of a visit to the show though — not before touring the gardens!

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Beware Mark Diacono preparing delicious cocktails. This tiny tomato combines a diminutive stature with a deliciously sweet taste — the holy grail of patio tomato breeding. Lovely to have one of my nature pieces included on the Landlines: British Nature Writing, site this week. Land Lines: British Nature Writing, There are many different types of snicket and each has its own story to tell. I surface in these riven-pathways early; they tower above my head. View original post more words. This year the rain and cold winds were the biggest challenge in the build phase — risking damaging delicate plants, creating banks of mud and making working conditions wet and chilly.

The teams all did a magnificent job and by Wednesday afternoon as the rain started to clear, the gardens were immaculate, ready for the show to open the following morning. Richard Parry, chief executive of the Trust, explained that volunteers David and Hilary Godbehere inspired the garden and also worked with Chris Myers, the designer, to develop this serene and undisturbed space. Credit: Steve Granger. Airy planting of geranium, nicotiana and salvia in the canal-side garden. As these changes become more extreme, gardens will be subject to longer periods of drought and possible flooding, making it vital for gardeners to store water, create effective drainage and make plant choices to cope with changing conditions.

Her border includes both damp and dry areas, and Tessa suggests using cm depth of gravel as a mulch around plants. She also advises incorporating water putts into the garden, like the stylish water butt planter by Garantia at the centre of her border. Drought tolerant artemisia and Mexican fleabane in the Embracing Change Garden. The Embracing Change Garden, designed by Lucy Miller , also addresses the issue of changing climatic conditions.

Her border channels rain water runoff into planting areas and she has chosen versatile plants that tolerate both wet and dry conditions to ensure that they have the best chance of surviving whatever the weather. Both beautiful borders include plants that add colour to the garden during late spring and summer.

They also tolerate dry conditions so they minimise the need to water. These vibrant candelabra primulas create colour and interest in the damp area of the Resilient Garden and are very happy in damp, wet or pond-edge positions in the garden. The Wedgwood Garden, designed by Jo Thompson, marks the th anniversary of the company, founded by Josiah Wedgwood in The hard landscaping is inspired by Etruria — the pioneering Staffordshire village that Wedgwood built for his workers — and the canals that transported his pottery throughout the UK. One of the vistas through the garden. The importance of the Staffordshire canals are referenced in the watercourse that flows through the garden, connecting the architecture with the surrounding planting.

The overarching conifers Pinus nigra , Sequoia sempervirens and Cedrus atlantica and soft colour palette of the shrubs, perennials and annuals creates a warm, secluded atmosphere, perfect for relaxation. I am particularly drawn to certain plants — as are many of the visitors to the garden — these are all cultivars that would be easy to grow at home in both formal and informal gardens:. A gorgeous bearded iris with a name that belies its delicate peachy falls and intense tangerine beard.

Feed the birds

This iris creates drama and height among the lower perennials on the margins of the garden. The fragrant flowers will reach 60cm and bloom throughout May and June.

How to Attract Birds to Your Garden-Tutorial

Iris need full sun and well-drained soil in a sheltered position. If you can give them the conditions they require sadly not easy in my garden , they will repay you with bursts of peachy joy in your early summer borders. Without a doubt, my favourite plant in the Wedgwood Garden.

This delightful annual has glaucous feathery foliage and ivory flowers with a creamy eye. This herbaceous peony has semi-double flowers that last well in a vase. Peonies prefer well-drained soil in full sun, and prefer a sheltered position. It will reach 90cm and produces scented blooms throughout May and June.

The glowing coral-pink flowers fade as they age, revealing a centre filled with soft yellow stamens. I grow this cultivated variety of wild carrot for its light burgundy umbels and ferny foliage. Another bonus is the concave seedhead which is almost more beautiful than the flowers themselves. Verbascum flowers attract a wide range of pollinating insects — bees, butterflies and flies. Rather wonderfully, hairs are also combed from stems and leaves by wool carder bees to use as nest material, and males guard areas of the plant for potential mates.

Related Articles:. Cutting Patch: Into The Limelight. The gardens are awash with hornbeam, birch, willow, yew, guelder rose, cow parsley, foxglove, ragged robin and sedum. The pinks of red campion and ragged robin are particularly conspicuous across the showground, creating a frothy haze around the garden borders. While pollinator mixes and seed mixes for pictorial meadows do provide pollen and nectar for pollinating insects, unfortunately they do little to support the huge numbers of other invertebrates that feed on indigenous flora.

So if you can keep even a small area of the garden for native meadow flowers, you will be creating the best garden habitat for all manner of invertebrates that, in turn, support healthy local ecosystems. One way to create a mini-meadow is to add wild flower plants as we are doing in our garden this year. Plants include a range of shade and sun lovers — ox-eye daisies, red and white campion, garlic mustard, mallow, yarrow, field scabious, knapweed and selfheal. Wildflower turf contains a mix of many native annuals and perennials.

Another way to create an area of meadow is to use wildflower turf. When I talked to Lindum , who are showcasing their turf at Chelsea this week, they explained that wildflower turf is now a hugely popular product — demonstrating the growing desire of UK gardeners to support biodiversity in their own backyard. The wildflower turf is grown on a biodegradable backing that breaks down completely as the plants establish, and it includes a wide range of plants — 27 native wildflower species in total.

Lindum also sell sedum matting. As always, I made a bee-line for Dalefoot Composts , who are launching their new peat-free tomato compost at Chelsea this year. Dalefoot Composts have a wide range including the new tomato compost. Image Credit: Dalefoot Composts. The Morgan Stanley Garden, designed by Chris Beardshaw, considers ways to manage resources in more sustainable ways, beginning with the creation of the show garden itself. From the domed yew balls to the spherical sculptures, the shapes in the garden depict the cyclical pathway of recycled products that keep materials in circulation for as long as possible.

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The Hi-Vis jackets and plant pots are made from recycled materials, the flooring is constructed out of bamboo, a rapidly renewable resource, and the rear relaxation pod is clad in an ultra-thin layer of stone that reduces demands on natural resources. These lightweight materials also lower the transportation carbon footprint and reduce the structural demands on the building. In the past few years, the RHS has made huge steps in ensuring that gardens and their products and plants are reused across London and the UK.

It would be great to see the commitment to reuse, recycling and minimising energy use embodied in the Morgan Stanley Garden rolled out across all Chelsea show gardens in future years. Providing such a wide range of different cultivars helps to conserve genetic variation for the future. Blight has become more prevalent in the past 30 years and there are no chemical controls available. Pennard Plants is also one of the best UK nurseries for unusual edibles — this year I picked a new plant to try — Epazote or Wormseed Chenopodium ambrosides.

A native of Central and South America, this leafy herb was used by the Aztecs in tea, as a leafy vegetable used sparingly and to favour bean and rice dishes. Believed to be an aid to prevent flatulence, this would also seem to be the perfect companion plant for anyone growing Jerusalem artichokes this year. Forest Carbon finance projects across the UK, planting woodland and restoring peatland with support from both companies and individuals who want to mitigate their carbon footprint.

They are certified under the Woodland Carbon CO 2 de, meaning their carbon capture statistics are based on sound science, the woodland has the right species in the right place and sites are sustainably managed after planting. They also explained to me that they undertake survey work after planting to check that the woodland is having a beneficial effect on biodiversity. Riparian woodland creation in the Cheviots.

Image Credit: Forest Carbon. Carbon offsetting is a complex issue. If companies and individuals use it as a smokescreen or a way of assuaging their guilt whilst continuing to live and work in an unsustainable manner, then offsetting may well have negative net effects. If, however, offsetting is practised as part of a broader sustainable lifestyle, then it could be argued that it has a place in an environmentally responsible lifestyle. Native woodland creation near Dunbar. Forest Carbon are running a new scheme called the Carbon Club for individuals and families to offset their carbon footprint with a monthly payment which helps fund afforestation and peatland restoration.

Alongside undertaking other steps to minimise carbon footprints, this might be a suitable option for some. What are your opinions on wildflower planting, peat-free compost, sustainable design at RHS flower shows and carbon offsetting? Please leave me a comment about what you believe to be the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly options for gardeners. Thank you. As always, my observations and suggestions come from my own opinions on which companies and gardens are offering environmentally-friendly choices for the consumer.

I have, on several occasions, been given a few of packets of seed by Pennard Plants to trial, but I have spent far more buying seed and plants from them. This is also the case with Dalefoot Composts who have sent me bags in the past including the tomato compost to trial. However, I also purchase the majority of my peat-free compost supply from them and have done for several years now.

I support these companies because they offer fabulous products and really care about the environment. Oh Happy Day!

Native flock design

For my birthday this year I received the ultimate present — money to buy gardening and nature books. The author recounts the lives of famous botanists like Leonhart Fuchs, John Lindley and Joseph Banks, but also introduces less well known pioneers such as the botanist-pirate William Dampier who was collecting plants in Australia seventy-one years before Sir Joseph Banks, and the botanical illustrator and plant collector Charlotte Wheeler-Cuffe, who designed and oversaw the development of the Maymyo Botanic Garden in the early twentieth century.

Although only eight of the 35 stories focus on female botanists, they comprise some of the most remarkable tales in the collection. Who could fail to be inspired by Anna Atkins, who perfected the art of the cyanotype and produced the first book in the world to be illustrated with photographs? The text covers daring exploits and exciting discoveries, but I most enjoyed seeing how the legacies of these botanists influence horticulture and design today.

Year Of The Almanac. This year I have resolved to put nature at the heart of our garden in an effort to support the natural world in my small piece of over , hectares of gardens across the UK — a collective habitat with the potential to make a real difference for wildlife. We already feed the birds and have nestboxes; we grow plants for pollinating insects and garden organically without peat. So I am beginning to look for more ways to make our garden accessible and welcoming for wild creatures. Building, installing and monitoring nestboxes is a great activity for all the family.


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My dad made this robin box and the kids helped him put it up. Blue tits laid in one of our small hole nestboxes last year. When putting up nestboxes, it is important to ensure they do not get overheated during warmer weather. Unless they are sited in good shade, it is best to site them on a wall or tree, facing between north and east, so that they are protected from the sun for much of the day.

Unless otherwise stated, it is advisable to fit them at least 1. It is also worth remembering to put them out of reach of neighbouring cats. This traditional nestbox is frequently used by Blue Tits and Great Tits, depending on the size of the hole Great Tits need a hole with a minimum diameter of 28mm, while Blue Tits can fit through a 25mm hole.


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If you are lucky enough to have Coal Tits in your garden, they will also sometimes use artificial nest sites again, a 25mm hole is big enough for them. House Sparrows generally nest in small colonies and will readily accept boxes if there are several close together. However, the same effect can be achieved by placing three, or more, boxes in close proximity to one another.

Being somewhat bigger than Great Tits, House Sparrows need an entrance hole of at least 32mm diameter. Boxes should be at least 2m above the ground and, preferably, somewhere that is not subject to too much human disturbance. I saw sparrows with nest material on top of this box last week.

Winter Bird Feeding: The Basics

Starlings typically nest in holes in trees or under roofing tiles if they can get access. They happily accept nestboxes but need more space than smaller species, so use a slightly larger box with an entrance hole of 45mm. Boxes should be placed at least 2. This nestbox is destined for the side of the house — our neighbours already have starlings nesting under their eaves. These boxes are aimed primarily at Robins although will sometimes be used by Wrens. Being open-fronted, they are more susceptible to predation than conventional nestboxes and should be placed in a well concealed site such as under overhanging ivy or clematis.

Height off the ground is unimportant although, again, it is best to try to keep them out of reach of the local cats. My dad constructed this open-fronted box and the kids helped him install it under our winter-flowering clematis. Swifts have declined as a breeding species in Britain as many older buildings with access to the eaves have been demolished and new houses do not usually offer any access. Specially designed Swift boxes can be put up under the eaves of your house but it might be necessary to play Swift calls throughout the summer months to attract them to the site.

Artificial nests for House Martins are also available and can be fixed under the eaves. House martin boxes mimic their natural mud nests, like this one. Many species will not nest in boxes. Some that will, but are less likely to be encountered in most gardens are listed below:. Some birds — like this long-tailed tit — prefer to make their own nests.

They provide guidance on how to monitor nesting birds safely, without causing them to desert their eggs or chicks. With thanks to bird guru, Alan Garner, aka my generous, talented and fabulous dad! It took me on a vivid journey through the history of colour, to explore the unknown corners of sepia , fallow , orchil , Isabelline and vantablack. Now we are nearing the middle of February and my dining table is splashed with colour as I sort my seed packets. Here are my top picks for a vibrant vegetable patch in