Wildlife Gardens

The aesthetic of wildlife gardens can be as varied as the wildlife that lives within them. If we consider the fact that gardens (much like their elements) do not exist alone and instead form part of a far-reaching network of ecosystems and habitats; this variety in design could even be considered a benefit.

I think it’s a common misconception that, when people think of gardens created for wildlife, they think the space needs to be wild and unruly, where the requirements of the human being are left as purely an afterthought. This is simply not the case. A common carder bee is equally attracted to the pungent aroma of Perovskia atriplicifolia whether it’s planted in an overflowing cottage garden border, or situated as a feature piece in the gravel-mulched border of a sleek, contemporary garden. 

In its simplest form, a wildlife garden is a series of elements that all work cohesively to meet the requirements of the natural world – flora, fauna and fungi. By encouraging living creatures such as birds, mammals, amphibians, and insects back into our local environments, we can work towards rebuilding ecosystems and restoring the natural equilibrium of our green spaces, thus reducing the need for human intervention and allowing us to spend more quality time enjoying the space with those we love. For every wildlife garden I design, my aim is to create a uniquely tailored space that puts you front and centre of your very own rich and diverse ecosystem.

A wildlife garden is a garden that emulates nature and provides a space reflective of the wild areas nearby, and one where the requirements of the local ecosystem have been thoughtfully considered. It will ideally contain a variety of habitats that cater to native and local plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, mammals and so on. Wildlife gardens play an essential role in the biological control of pests, and they will also promote biodiversity, sustainability, and soil health, all for the benefit of the wider environment.

Wildlife gardens can take many forms, but any space that works collaboratively with its local ecosystem to meet the needs of wildlife (regardless of design style or aesthetic) can be considered a wildlife garden.

  • A pond or body of water provides a breeding place for frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies and all the other aquatic fauna, as well as a drinking and bathing area for birds and other animals. It is perhaps the most important element of any garden designed for wildlife.
  • Native plants help to link the garden and its wildlife to the wider environment. Not only are pollinator-friendly plants important for wildlife, but they’re also some of the most beautiful and interesting plants out there.
  • A lawned area is less about wildlife, and much more about the human residents, as they can serve a variety of functions from playing fields for children and pets, to picnic areas at the height of summer. The reality is, however, that they’re not that beneficial to wildlife and they usually take a lot of energy and effort to maintain. But there can be compromise!
  • Compost heaps are the digestive system of the garden, and no garden is complete without one. They’re a vital form of recycling and they ensure that all ‘waste’ created on site, stays on site by being fed back into the soil. Compost provides the perfect environment for a whole host of wild species, from woodlice, centipedes, and beetles, which in turn attract birds, amphibians and reptiles. Long term, compost heaps can be very cost-effective and, in my opinion, they’re one of the most satisfying elements to a garden. Remember, there is no real waste in nature.
  • Log piles and detritus (decaying organic matter) are another essential part of a wildlife garden as they enrich the earth and provide a plethora of habitats for insects. It’s possible to utilise this element in a way that doesn’t draw away from the aesthetics of the rest of the eco space. It simply takes some imagination and a small bit of artistic flair.
  • Trees, hedges, and shrubs provide shelter for birds and animals, leaves for caterpillars (the natural prey of birds) to eat, and fruit, flowers and berries that support all manner of species. It’s especially important to include native species such as hawthorn, hazel, oak and beech, as they work as breeding grounds for native moths.

It isn’t necessary to include all elements in every design – even one or two can boost the diversity of attracted wildlife.

  1. Site visit & consultation – I start with a site visit and consultation, which gives me the opportunity to meet you, view the space and listen carefully to what you need and want in terms of function, design, and planting. I can then offer relevant advice on what I think will be the most beneficial design package for you. This garden design consultancy is charged at a one-off fee of £60. This fee is appropriately adjusted for any clients outside of a 15-mile radius.
  2. Design brief – The next stage involves the construction of a design brief, beginning with a client questionnaire. This gives me an understanding of your requirements, your preferences, and your budget. This information is used to trigger further discussion and develop ideas so that a comprehensive design brief can be agreed upon before any design work takes place.
  3. Site survey – Before work begins on the design, the site is surveyed to record existing conditions and features. For smaller spaces this may be a simple measurement survey, and for larger or more complex spaces it could include a full topographical survey completed by a qualified third party.
  4. Concept plan – This is usually a 2D scaled drawing of the proposed layout of the new wildlife garden, with highlighted areas such as proposed hard landscaping, pond, lawns, and planting. Mood boards and other visual aids may also be included at this point. A meeting will usually follow on from the completion of this stage to communicate and develop the ideas in person, and for the client to identify any preferences.
  5. Presentation plan – The final step is the creation of the presentation plan, and will be the fully adjusted, modified, and updated version of the concept plan with relevant details and finished to a high standard. Accurate construction costs will also be able to be gathered from this final version.

Fees for design vary depending on the scale and complexity of each project.  A detailed quotation is provided for each client after the initial consultancy. For more information, please get in touch.

“Visualise any wooded area you remember visiting. It is beautiful, majestic - and no one ever fertilised any of the plants there. Not one single time.”