To celebrate Countryfile’s 30th Anniversary Garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (3 – 8 July), the RHS has commissioned research to find out what gardeners are doing to support wildlife and what creatures are visiting our gardens.*
The survey found that gardeners are very aware how important their outside space is for wildlife with just over three quarters (77%) of people, who have a garden, having actively done something to attract more wildlife into it. And for people who have had a garden for more than three years** this rises to 79%.
The RHS is especially encouraged that 40% of people have specifically planted wildlife friendly plants in their garden, with over a third (37%) growing plants for bees, butterflies and other precious pollinators.
RHS Chief Horticulturist, Guy Barter, says: “We’re no longer a nation of gardeners, we’re a nation of wildlife gardeners! These results show that supporting wildlife in our outside spaces is really important to many of us.
“However the results suggest that some areas need more attention as only about one in ten of us (11%) has built a pond which is extremely beneficial to wildlife, especially when the weather is warm as they make gardens cooler and provide water for thirsty animals.
“Surprisingly twice as many people reported quite advanced wildlife friendly measures, such as leaving decaying wood (22%), nearly the same as those who put out bird boxes (28%) or made a compost heap (25%).
“It’s great to see nearly half of people with a garden are proactively planting for wildlife. One of the biggest problems for pollinators like bees is a lack of flowering plants, which is why in 2011 we launched our Plants for Pollinators logo to encourage gardeners to grow more of them.”
The top five wildlife we see in our gardens are birds (83%), bees (66%), snails (47%), butterflies (46%) and squirrels (28%). The wildlife we least see in our garden is moles (2%), deer (1%), badgers (1%), snakes (1%) and weasels / stoats (0%).
Whilst a third of people overall don’t think the levels of wildlife visiting their gardens in the last three years has changed, sadly nearly half of us have never seen a hedgehog (42%) or bat (45%) in our gardens and over a third (37%) have never seen a frog, toad or newt.
Whilst butterflies are in the top five type of wildlife seen in gardens, nearly half (48%) of all people who have had a garden for more than 3 years think butterfly numbers have decreased.
Guy continues: “Whilst some gardeners probably don’t mind that we’re not seeing some wildlife like moles and deer in our gardens, there is much we can do in our outside spaces to attract and support creatures like hedgehogs, frogs, toads, newts and bats.”
For hedgehogs the RHS recommends creating a hole in your fence so hedgehogs can forage between territories, leaving log piles for a safe site for breeding or hibernating and creating compost heaps as these can provide good nesting site and food with lots of insects. For frogs, toads and newts ponds are vital and for bats night scented flowers, ponds and reducing artificial light can help make gardens a haven.
RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is brimming with ideas, plants and initiatives for wildlife lovers to take home and create their own haven for creatures that are important to our eco-system.
In the Countryfile’s 30th Anniversary Garden, designed by Ann-Marie Powell, wildlife initiatives include planting for pollinators in a garden and wildflowers both in a meadow and cropped field. There is also a stream that runs through the garden and becomes a pond with stepping stones for both human and pond life.
Other wildlife friendly content at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, includes The Family Garden where adults can relax and small creatures thrive.
The Urban Woodland Wonder Flower Box demonstrates how a miniature wildlife haven can be created in a city environment and the Floral Marquee will be filled with hundreds of plant displays.
The RHS Grow Your Own with The Raymond Blanc Gardening School shows how beneficial composting can be for wildlife.
The RHS top tips for supporting wildlife are:
- Choose the right flowers with pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies and other insects pollinators
- Grow a mixture of plant types including trees, and shrubs, annuals etc.
- Add water, ideally a pond, but a container of water will suffice
- Look after mature trees
- Leave a pile of dead wood in a shady spot
- Compost, compost, compost
- Provide food and water for birds all year
- Allow a patch of grass to grow longer
- Garden sustainably to help protect wildlife
- Avoid the use of pesticides and accept some plant damage