Designing a Wildlife Garden & Eating It Too

Selina Botham
Wednesday, 2nd July 2014

Garden designer Selina Botham has worked with the cereal company Jordans, to create an edible and wildlife friendly garden, which will be featured at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower show from July 7th 2014.

Incorporating wildlife friendly areas into our gardens is very important. Bees, bugs and butterflies all help in the pollination process, as well creating balanced ecosystems. Even larger wildlife have a place in the ecosystems, helping control pests and spreading seed.

This year, Jordans Cereals have enlisted award winning garden designer, Selina Botham to design the Jordans Wildlife Garden. A mix of both edibles for humans and wildlife, the wildlife garden is to feature at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show from July 8th - 13th 2014. Alongside the garden, Edd Kimber (Great British Bake Off - BBC2) has created three delcious recipes from foraged foods. 

We spoke to Selina who explained the thoughts and processes behind creating a wildlife garden.

Edibles & Wildlife

A lot of the features in the garden are edible for both humans and wildlife. For example, the amelanchier tree has some wonderful red berries that taste of raspberries. I only discovered this when I saw that birds were helping themselves to the berries - this is often a great indicator of edibles for humans, seeing what the birds are eating (but of course being safe at the same time).

The best way to make sure that both humans and wildlife are able to eat from the garden is to grow high-yield plants that are also quite easy to maintain. For really high yield plants it’s also worth putting them in pots so they don’t overrun the rest of the garden!

If you’ve got a lot of edibles in your garden it doesn’t matter if your garden wildlife is helping themselves to a couple - in fact in a lot of cases it actually encourages the plants to produce more!

It can however be challenging including both wildlife and edibles.

Challenges

The biggest challenge is keeping the garden looking well maintained whilst still being practical. The best way to tackle this is to make sure that the planning stage has a lot of time put into it - the growing and maintaining will be a lot easier if you consider how it’s going to be laid out ahead of time.

It’s amazing what I’ve learnt from creating a garden designed for both wildlife and humans – there are so many things I didn’t realise were edible beforehand. Since experimenting with different edibles, I’ve found that Hemerocalis (Daylilies) have delicious flowers and a clover is full of nectar if you suck it. I’ve also started sprinkling daisy petals and violas on salads, just another way we can make the most of the lovely things in our gardens!

Techniques & Designing

As a designer of course I believe that the garden must look good for you as well as taste good and do wildlife good. Luckily bees don’t mind if you plant the nectar rich plants they love in straight lines or blocks, so if you are a tidy and neat person then this doesn’t mean you can’t still help wildlife. Choose varieties that seem to attract the bees and butterflies - it’s often quite easy to identify them when you go round the garden centre.

Choose plants that grow best in your soil and choose sun lovers in the sun and shade lovers for the shade. I know this sounds obvious but clients sometimes plant lavender in the shade of a tree and then wonder why they die.

In the Jordans Wildlife Garden I am putting together a scheme for the sunniest areas that is inspired by a meadow with plenty of different shaped flowers. It’s this variety that helps insects. In the hedgerow inspired area I am putting a variety of fruit and nut trees and hedges together. Where there is semi shade I will use Alpine strawberries that seem to grow almost anywhere. 

Attracting Wildlife

Choosing plants depends on what animal you’re trying to attract - trees are actually great for bees as many are an early source of nectar eg.. willow. Buddleia, origanum and sedum are all great for butterflies. The more nectar the better is the general rule for flowers, and heavily inbred species such as some annuals like pelegoniums are the worst.

Another helpful tip for attracting wildlife to the garden is to select a range of plants that flower at different times of the year. The other great thing about this is that you’ll have some colour in your garden throughout the seasons!

Design Brief

My brief was very much to create a larder and promote Jordans’ belief that the best tasting food is that which is closest to nature. I took a lot of inspiration from my own garden, which is the place I try out a lot of my ideas. I love the feeling of being gently enclosed by nature but still maintaining a sense of openness and so I’ve really tried to include this in my garden.

Grow Your Own

Creating your own wildlife garden at home is easy. It's all about making it easy for yourself wherever possible. I have certain areas of my garden I don’t need to touch except perhaps in early spring if there are any weeds. If you can leave plants to die gracefully and enjoy their shapes in the winter then hibernating insects can enjoy them too.

Gardens are supposed to be fun and therapeutic so you don’t want to make it too much work for yourself. By choosing high-yield plants that are easy growers, it’s just a matter of planning prior to planting. One of my favourite things about a wildlife garden is incorporating areas of meadow grass with a variety of species of wild flowers in it. I have found that mown paths should be designed too, partly for access but also to give a sense of structure and control.

Further resources

For more information about the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show www.rhs.org.uk

For more information about Selina Botham and her garden designing visit www.designsforallseasons.co.uk

For Jordans Cereal visit www.jordanscereals.co.uk

In collaboration with the garden, Edd Kimber, from Great British Bake Off (BBC2) has created three delicious recipes from foraged fruits. Visit here to read more: www.permaculture.co.uk/readers-solutions/foraged-fruit-recipes-strawberries-berries-cherry-plums-cobnuts 

Permaculture magazine will be attending the show so watch this space for photos of Jordans Wildlife garden.

Permaculture - practical solutions for self-reliance, a magazine filled with useful and inspiring features, stories and ideas about all aspects of sustainable living from gardening and farming to green building and renewable technology. Check out a free digital copy HERE. You can subscribe to the print edition HERE.

Jayne Gale |
Sat, 05/07/2014 - 02:34
Our garden is very steep (40 - 45 degrees), mostly clay and fairly cold but near the sea does not get snow or much frost. The main problem is strong wind most days, sometimes gusts up to 140km/h during storms. The site faces the sun (north here) and prevailing wind (nor-westers) but our house shades most of the garden near the house. Nothing seems to grow and nothing seems to set fruit. I would love to have some edible plants but our apple trees, feijoas and lemons are wind burnt and I think the bees get blown away so low fertilisation. The only thing I have succeeded at so far is my worm farm! I love the idea of permaculture but most seems based on flat sunny sections. Can anyone offer advice?

add comment

Log in or register to post comments