5 ways to cre­ate an eco­log­i­cal wildlife haven

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Eco-friendly Garden -

1 Chose wildlife-friendly plants, such as salvias or Ver­bena bonar­ien­sis, that at­tract but­ter­flies and bees, and trees and ev­er­green shrubs that will pro­vide shel­ter for birds. Try to leave a patch of net­tles, as they are ben­e­fi­cial as food to cater­pil­lars. 2 Use cer­ti­fied FSC wood and re-use old ma­te­ri­als. Mar­tijn has used rem­nants of the tim­ber used for the house to make the trel­lis for the gar­den shed. He adds chipped pruned wood to the paths ev­ery year.

3 Cre­ate a wa­ter fea­ture or a pond and col­lect rain­wa­ter to re­fill the pond, which helps pre­vent flood­ing. Make sure small an­i­mals can get out of the pond eas­ily by cre­at­ing a boggy area around it.

4 En­hance bio­di­ver­sity. Don’t tidy your gar­den too much. In au­tumn, Mar­tijn and Leilah leave all plants and leaves that have died off and don’t start clean­ing them up un­til Fe­bru­ary. The dead plant ma­te­rial of­fers pro­tec­tion against frost and shel­ter for in­sects and other small an­i­mals. Most in­sects like cool, moist con­di­tions, but bees pre­fer a sunny spot. Never use pes­ti­cides.

5 Grow some fruit and veg­eta­bles. By pro­duc­ing your own food you elim­i­nate any food miles and help cut down on CO 2 emis­sions. You can max­imise space by us­ing walls and even roofs to grow ed­i­ble plants. And if you’re feel­ing very gen­er­ous, leave some cab­bage in your vegetable plot as food for the cab­bage white but­ter­fly.

drilled into them, the ‘city’ at­tracts an im­pres­sive list of in­sects, which thrive along­side var­i­ous other small birds and an­i­mals. “We have sala­man­ders, frogs, toads, bee bee­tles, soli­tary bees, bum­ble­bees, drag­on­flies, but­ter­flies, a hedge­hog, bats and many birds, in­clud­ing a king­fisher,” says Mar­tijn.

By con­struct­ing large win­dows and by plac­ing lots of plants near the house, the gar­den has be­come very much part of the home. “We don’t have tele­vi­sion, but we have a widescreen view of the gar­den and the pond, so we see the best na­ture doc­u­men­taries – in real time,” says Mar­tijn. “One of our house guests said he felt as though he was inside an ob­ser­va­tion hide. Leilah and I thought that was a great com­pli­ment.”

The L-shaped gar­den is di­vided into six parts. One of the most striking fea­tures is the way the dif­fer­ent shapes and colours of fo­liage and flow­ers stand out against the dark back­ground of the house and the gar­den shed. In the gen­er­ously planted ‘wild gar­den’ there are large groups of the cou­ple’s favourite plants and special cul­ti­vars, such as Veron­i­cas­trum vir­ginicum ‘Laven­del­turm’, Rhapon­ticum cen­tau­reoides, Agas­tache cana ‘Heat­wave’, As­tran­tia ma­jor ‘Star of Roy­als’ and Eury­bia radula ‘Au­gust Sky’. The plants are al­lowed to spread across the nar­row, brick gar­den paths.

Spon­ta­neous seedlings are pos­i­tively wel­comed in this eco­log­i­cally main­tained gar­den. “Quite a few wild helle­borine or­chids have popped up, and we don’t mind the oc­ca­sional net­tle, be­cause it is ben­e­fi­cial to sev­eral but­ter­fly species,” says Leilah. Next to the wild gar­den is a more for­mal gar­den made up of a lawn with a seat­ing area, sur­rounded by hedges and clipped blocks of Taxus bac­cata, Elaeag­nus x ebbingei and

Vibur­num ti­nus ‘Eve Price’, which pro­vide a green struc­ture in win­ter. “That was the only mis­take we made and had to cor­rect: we needed more ev­er­green plants and shrubs,” ad­mits Leilah.

A hand-made trel­lis against the shed is cov­ered by fruit bushes, and the even more in­ge­niously the cou­ple’s food pro­duc­tion has now ex­tended to the roof shed. “We’ve filled 20cm-deep boxes with a mix­ture of fresh soil and com­post,” says Mar­tijn. “Our cab­bage, cel­ery, pump­kins, cour­gettes, straw­ber­ries, pota­toes and let­tuce are do­ing well up there – they’re cer­tainly ben­e­fit­ting from lots of rain­wa­ter.”

Luck­ily, the cou­ple are both still rel­a­tively young and fit, be­cause they spend a lot of time climb­ing lad­ders to reach their crops, and car­ry­ing plants and crops from gar­den to house in nu­mer­ous bas­kets and sieves. Rain­wa­ter, which they col­lect from the roof, sup­plies the pond, around which are plants mainly se­lected for the va­ri­ety of fo­liage. Most of the plants in the gar­den come from two nearby nurs­eries: Epimedium (epimedium.be), which spe­cialises in grasses and shrubs, and Jan De Buss­chere (tu­in­planten­de­buss­chere.be), which has a large col­lec­tion of salvias, many of which have found their way into Leilah and Mar­tijn’s gar­den. “To be hon­est,” laughs Leilah. “I would much rather we lived on Salvi­as­traat than on Be­go­ni­as­traat.” USE­FUL IN­FOR­MA­TION Ad­dress Be­go­ni­as­traat 2, 8310 Asse­broek, Bel­gium. Email mar­tijn@eaplus.eu Open Sun­day, 2 July, 10am-6pm, and at other times by ap­point­ment.

This page

Top left Cool plant­ings of pale-pink asters and As­tran­tia ma­jor ‘Star of Roy­als’ line ei­ther side of a brick path. The blue-and-white Lupi­nus ‘The Gov­er­nor’ and a rich-red hol­ly­hock add spots of colour. A Bud­dleja da­vidii sup­plies more vi­brant colour later in the year and sus­te­nance for vis­it­ing but­ter­flies.

Top right In the vegetable patch near their shed Leilah and Mar­tijn have cre­ated an ‘in­sect city’ out of wooden poles drilled with holes to pro­vide homes for many dif­fer­ent species of in­sects and bees. 7 5 5 6 3 2 4 1

This page Left Or­na­men­tal grasses, such as Stipa tenuis­sima ‘Pony Tails’, pro­vide move­ment in the borders and in­ter­est in au­tumn and win­ter. Be­low left The roof of Leilah and Mar­tijn’s shed pro­vides am­ple space for the cou­ple to grow veg­eta­bles and col­lect rain­wa­ter. Be­low right Trel­lises on the side of the shed, up which fruit bushes grow, were made us­ing re­cy­cled wood.

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