A once common sight, after a survey taken by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, it turns out that less than half of us have now seen a wild hedgehog. So we decided to speak to the Big Hedge Co., a company that is passionate about providing hedges to create more natural habitats, to ask them what we can be doing to help encourage wildlife back into our gardens…
‘Imagine your garden is a town or city; a metropolis in your back yard?! Hedgerows are a living network of highways and homes. They provide motorways for mammals such as hedgehogs to travel safely and supermarkets for birds to enjoy a rich larder of goodies such as berries and nuts.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a hedgerow; simply create a tunnel through the fence by making a hole no bigger than a CD case to allow hedgehogs and frogs to travel through. If you like building things in your garden city, then constructing a hedgehog house is right up your street. This can be as simple as tepee-shaped log pile or a specially made box covered in soil. Line the box with newspaper then fills with dry bedding. Once you know that hedgehogs are hibernating in the winter, you can deliver cat and dog food, dried fruit and cooked vegetables. Make sure you leave milk and bread off the shopping list though because it makes them very ill.
Stack bricks between wooden pallets to create your luxury floors. Then, cut off the top two-thirds of plastic bottles; fill them separately with canes, straws and rolled up cardboard before placing them inside your newly built hotel. Fill the remaining spaces with bricks, leaves, pebbles, bark and straw or any extra materials such as pipes or plant pots. Not forgetting to paint a sign and name your new hotel.
As an alternative to big city living, imagine moving to the countryside. Any large trees give birds somewhere to nest and can provide fruit for small mammals. You can also put up bird boxes and bird feeders to enjoy birds all year round. In the garden, taller flowers will attract flying aircrafts such as bees, butterflies and dragonflies. The nectar and pollen from flowers act as a five-star restaurant for those aircraft who also perform a very important pollination service. Pollen is transferred from one flower to another, bringing about fertilisation and ensuring plants continue to reproduce. Planting a range of shrubs which flower at different times will also improve the variety of tourists to your garden.
To enjoy the beauty of birds throughout the year, it is important to provide them with a steady supply of food through careful planting and gardening too. Winterberry and fruit-producing shrubs are great for providing much-needed nutrients throughout the year. Night-scented plants such as buddleia are great for moths which are then a midnight feast for bats. Planting roses, honeysuckle or clematis against walls also scents the air as well as making ideal nesting habitats.
And where space allows, creating a pond will provide a great habitat for frogs and mammals as well as a bath and drinking establishment for birds. Before installing a pond in your garden look into how you can childproof it. If you want to leave some areas of your city untouched, then you can create some wild spaces including leaving the grass untrimmed or building piles of logs will all encourage visitors to your garden each year.
And finally, remember nothing is perfect. The most vibrant cities are dynamic; alive with wildlife, just like a natural landscape and should be enjoyed by adults and children alike.’