Timber garden decking never seems to lose its popularity, and why should it, when it's such a useful way of extending your living and entertaining space. Andy Taylor explains why decking is so easy to install and how best to look after it.
In order to promote and enhance biodiversity and conservation of our wildlife, there's a selection of habitats and boxes you can purchase that are specifically designed to attract various small animals and insects to your garden. Here we look at some of the products available which also make unusual and very engaging gifts.
Wildlife World, just celebrating 20 years of successful trading, are a company that has all the right credentials for designing, manufacturing and supplying innovative products that help attract wildlife to our gardens so we are very happy, and have been for many years, to feature and promote their products on GardenSite.
They display a strong commitment to the conservation of all species and produce habitats that display quality and, innovative as well as eye-catching point of display material that is engaging to young and old alike. Any product from Wildlife World makes conservation fun, value for money and rewarding. This is a great place to start.
Their design team works with wildlife experts in different fields and all their products are thoroughly tested so that they are fine-tuned and fit for purpose. This process can take up to two years and ensures that the targeted wildlife will fully benefit from the final product.
One such product that first caught my eye at the GLEE 2017 trade exhibition was the Dewdrop Wild Bird Window Feeder which won the award for best product in the wildlife and pets category.
Designed to stick to a window, and as the feeder is made from perspex you have an unobstructed view and the opportunity to closely observe feeding birds from your kitchen or lounge. Suitable to fill with all kinds of bird food and simple to clean, a rubber sticker makes the feeder easy to re-position. Not only is this feeder engaging for all ages but it is also inexpensive too.
Bird feeders and boxes. There are now 44 million fewer birds than in the 1960s. Feeders are vital for extra nourishment in the winter, but remember to keep them full and continue during the summer. They search out places to nest fairly early in the year, so put up a range of boxes to suit different species in late winter. We also suggest that you do not feed birds bread.
Frogs and toads are also great garden friends and need to be encouraged and loved too. The Wildlife World Frogilo Frog and Toad House is an attractive location and safe retreat throughout the year that will surely make them feel welcome. It looks a little like a Moroccan Tagine but this earthenware pot is certainly not designed to get too hot as part of the base is cut away so the frogs and toads always have somewhere cool to chill out, even during the warmer summer months.
The house has a glazed roof and is fully frost resistant so it makes great overwintering quarters too. Add extra vegetation over the roof if you want to hide the house and provide extra insulation during the winter. Other than that this is a house that does not require any maintenance but always looks good. Your tenants will love you back for it.
Building a pond is probably the best way to increase your garden's biodiversity. Whether it's large or small, pre-formed or butyl lined, it will provide amphibians with a habitat and attract other species seeking water. You can make it more diverse by including a marshy area, shelving and sloping edges to enable easy access.
There’s something magical about seeing bats dart by in the twilight at the end of the day. You don’t see too many here in the UK but I can remember seeing more when I used to holiday in rural Spain. So we need to encourage bats too and providing an ideal habitat is the perfect solution.
To make your own bat box remember that bats do not like draughts and prefer a well-insulated environment in which temperature and humidity are constant. So make sure joints are tight fitting and sealed. Rough textured wood is also important, giving the bats something to cling to.
Use untreated timber for the bat box, as bats are very sensitive to chemicals. A bat ladder or similar landing area is essential and the entry slit should be wide enough (15mm – 20mm) for bats to get in but not predators.
If you want to purchase a ready-made roost for bats The Chavenage Bat Box from Wildlife World is the perfect place to start. It is a single chamber bat box which has the required limited space entrance to keep predators at bay and is well insulated inside to keep the occupants dry and insulated. It has a landing pad and is made of durable FSC certified timber and can attract a variety of different bats.
If you want to go up-market then The Double Chamber Original Bat Box is a great buy if you already have a Bat Box in use or you are near to a feeding or flight route that the bats in your area already use. It comes complete with a pre-drilled back plate for easy mounting and again is constructed from FSC certified timber. Remember bats are a protected species, but that does not stop you monitoring them as they come out to hunt when daylight dwindles.
As the name suggests the Conservation Bat Box is particularly suitable for use in projects designed to conserve bats and their habitats in the wild. There are two access ‘ladders’ that allow the bats to climb over the grooves into the multi-chamber box. This box is designed for multi-species of bats to use and is highly attractive as the wood has been slow-dried to preserve it but without the use of any chemicals. Only a non-toxic water-based paint is used to colour the box.
The Vincent Wildlife Trust has collaborated with Wildlife World to design the Vincent Pro Bat Box, which has been recorded as attracting at least seven different species of this fascinating mammal. Colin J. Morris from the Trust took the leading design role and he has devised three different sized entrances to attract different bats into the vertical chambers. The roof and front elevation are finished in black to absorb heat in the hope that Barbastelle, Pipistrelle and possibly Brandt's bats may be attracted.
Bat boxes are more likely to be populated if they are placed in areas where bats are known to feed. It's a good idea to face boxes in different directions, so providing a variety of conditions.
Interestingly, some bats use a line of trees or hedgerow to navigate, so placing a bat box near these features may help. Don't hold your breath if bats don't immediately arrive, it might take several years for the bat box to be occupied. One warm evening though you'll hear chattering noises from the inside and you'll know that the wait has been worthwhile.
As with all Bat Boxes it should be placed high on a tree or wall between 2.5 and 5 metres high, and not facing direct sunlight.
Attracting bats is not easy, but it is worth the effort as it will bring you great joy and help conserve these masters of the night time sortie.
The State of Nature Report, described by David Farnborough as a 'stark warning', highlights the dramatic reduction in British wildlife. 60% of animal and plant species have declined in the past 50 years - and one in 10 could end up disappearing.
So let’s look at some more affordable, fascinating and educational ways that we can all help.
All sorts of insects will be happy to move into your garden and will be delighted with their choice of accommodation if you buy right.
The Complete Butterfly Biome is probably the best place to start as it is such a valuable addition to any garden as it provides a complete year-round haven for Butterflies. The front panel drops down in the summer months exposing two different sized trays. The larger tray is great for any overripe fruit whilst the smaller tray at the front is ideal when filled with a little sugar water. As winter approaches fold up the feeding station and create the protected winter quarters inside. The interior of the Biome is bark but you can also add extra dry material which will act as a safe haven for overwintering Butterflies such as the Small Tortoiseshells, Commas and Peacocks.
Complete with a free pack of British wildlife flower seeds and a Butterfly species guide this Biome really is a gift that keeps giving.
Betty’s Butterfly Bistro works around the year in a similar way to the Biome but it is very brightly coloured and comes complete with a Butterfly project book. After using as a feeding station in the summer, slide in the removable cassette during the winter months to provide the type of retreat that non-migratory butterflies will love.
The Butterfly and Bee Nectar Feeder from Wildlife World is very simple and pocket money priced too. Place it in a warm and sunny location and watch it attract a host of butterflies and bees to your garden when the sponge is soaked in a solution of sugar water. There are also two cups that can offer nectar-rich food such as soft fruit which will also attract wildlife to your garden.
They can also check into the Dewdrop Moth Motel. Here they also accept reservations for insects and butterflies at this very attractive looking accommodation. Add your own twigs or dry straw to give it that personal touch and you can guarantee a 5-star rating from your guests after spending time in this beautifully woven bamboo hide with its pastel blue frontage.
Ladybirds and Lacewings, who find aphids an irresistible meal, can be encouraged by the Original Ladybird Tower where they can overwinter or simply retreat to in the summer. It has a central chamber that can be filled with straw or bark to provide insulation and safety. The many holes are drilled at an upward angle for the insects to crawl into the insulated, and very safe, inner chamber. It comes complete with a ground pole which makes it easy to locate anywhere in the garden but make sure it is out of the prevailing winds and in a warm spot.
Again, there is a version for children and it’s called Bobby’s Bug Box which consists of hollow bamboo and drilled holes into half log which is topped off with a heavy duty roof to keep everything together. It will also attract lacewings, solitary bees and other beneficial bugs as well as ladybirds. A children’s project book is also included.
Check out the Urban Insect Hotel before your guests check in as it’s ultra-modern design, using Clayplas+ and 30% recycled plastics making up the outer shell, means it will be at home in any stylish suburban setting. It has a removable central cassette with overwintering chambers and 4 triangular compartments which can be filled with drilled canes or hollow stems to personalise your hotel.
Both should be sited in a sheltered position in the garden or on a wall.
One-third of hedgehogs have been lost in the last decade, the number of small tortoiseshell butterflies is down by 77%, and there are now 93% fewer turtle doves than in 1970.
Non-swarming bees, who increasingly find it difficult to settle down in our tidy gardens, will also love to move into the Solitary Stacking Bee Hive. Look out for the Red Mason bee, which is non-aggressive and are very important in helping to pollinate our domestic gardens. The nesting trays stack neatly in rows one on top of another and are held together by two stainless steel bolts. It is, therefore, easy to clean at the end of the season. It is complete with a laminated guide to help understand and educate.
If you want to combine different guests into one nester the Ceramic Bee and Mammal Nester will attract bees as well as voles and shrews. The attractive ceramic nester is hi-fire glazed making it frost resistant and dry. Natural nesting material is also included with this unique nester along with instructions for correct siting.
For a more detailed blog in The Gardener by Martyn Loach about bees read How Can I Help To Save Our Bees
Gardens now play an ever important role in conserving endangered species as intensive farming and the destruction of natural habitat takes a huge toll on native wildlife. So what are the best ways to attract these welcome visitors, who are not only interesting to observe but can do a vital job of eradicating pests and pollinating plants?
Help a hedgehog. Only about 50% of our spiny friends live to see a second winter, help them out by installing a hedgehog house. When you're out in the garden, don't disturb log piles. Leave out pet food and a bowl of water. Make sure there's a gap in your fence to allow them in and out of your garden.
Don't forget other small mammals and the beneficial but somewhat less attractive creepy crawlies. Nest boxes and artificial habitats can be built or bought for many species including bats, dormice, moths, butterflies, bees and ladybirds.
Grow nectar and pollen-rich flowers – old cottage garden varieties that flower throughout the year such as forget-me-nots, bluebells, buddleia (see below), campanula, potentilla and foxgloves, rather than modern varieties that have little to offer insects. Herbs are also useful. Don't be tempted to chop down ivy even though it may have spread a little too far, it's an invaluable winter food resource and small bird habitat.
Undoubtedly, butterflies with their multi-coloured wings and dancing flight are among the most beautiful of our summer visitors. If you want to attract these lovely creatures into your garden, you need just to do one thing - plant a butterfly bush, or given is the correct name, a ‘Buddleia Davidii’.
A Buddleia in full colour is a spectacular sight. Its fragrant 18-inch flower spikes are often covered with butterflies. The bush acts as a magnet, pulling in the insects to enjoy a feast of nectar. All of the commonest varieties of butterfly, including such beauties as the peacock, tortoiseshell and the red admiral, will be attracted, as well as some of the rarer kinds, like the sunshine yellow brimstone and the comma, with its lacey edged wings.
The shrub can be planted at any time of the year, provided contained grown plants are bought. Choose a site in full sun or partial shade, and water the plant well in dry conditions until it is established. Although in time a Buddleia will reach 12 feet or more, a hard prune in March, removing all the previous year’s growth from the base will keep the shrub compact, inducing it to produce new shoots, and because flowers are only borne on new growth, more flowers.
There are many varieties of Buddleia to choose from, in a wide range of colours. Some of the best include ‘Royal Red’, with purple-red flowers or its variegated form, which has the bonus of white edged leaves. ‘White Profusion’ has gorgeous snowy white flowers, while Black Knight's are deep purple, velvet-like.
Buddleias are easily grown and suffer little damage from pests and diseases. So why not plant one this year, and wait for the beautiful butterflies to gather around this king among shrubs?
Neglect an area so that it 'goes back to nature'. We all like a well-tended lawn and weed free border but designate one patch of your garden as a nature reserve. Let some brambles and nettles grow there, pile up a few logs and refugees from more manicured gardens will find a home there.
Plant a mixed hedge rather than erecting a fence, preferably using natives species that will provide food and shelter for birds during the winter when there are few alternatives.
Other new innovative products include a Barn Owl Box, a solar-powered illuminated Hedgehog Feeder, a Bat Rack for roosting bats, and a Triple Action Bird Box that can be used as an open-fronted, small birds nest box or a feeder.
In addition to feeders, nesting boxes and insect houses of varying sizes and specifications, if you have been inspired by television programmes then you'll be interested in a selection of camera systems that allow you into a birds nest or to watch fascinating nocturnal garden activity.
There's even the 'Ultimate Wildlife Hide' designed with Simon King, made from camouflaged and shower proof polyester with various viewing options, the robust frame quickly pops up and comes with a carry bag.
Try not to disturb butterflies who like to overwinter in sheds. Avoid destroying spiders' eggs and moth larvae when digging borders. If you do happen to disturb a hibernating amphibian, cover it up quickly with leaves or if you see a hedgehog who hasn't successfully hibernated, feed it on water and dog food, if it's small or out during the day it might be best to contact a specialist organisation for advice.
Wildlife World's exceptional products cater for a huge variety of species from birds and bees to dormice, frogs, moths and a host of insects that need our helping hand to survive.
Wildlife World are naturally committed to high environmental standards. Wooden products are constructed with FSC timber from sustainable sources and only water-based stains and sealants are used. Recycled materials are extensively employed including plastics obtained from farm waste.
If conservation is important to you, then the impressive range and high quality of Wildlife World's products will satisfy anyone's desire to create a varied and thriving environment in their garden or in fact in any outside space.
For further information about our commitment read GardenSite Donates to Wildlife Aid Foundation.
Although the days are short and the view from our Garden Centre is dull and overcast, David Coton suggests various jobs that can be done in the garden during the month of January.
The Halls range of highly popular greenhouses has featured on GardenSite for many years, and for the 2019 season the UK's leading greenhouse manufacturer will have a new corporate image and a revolutionary new product – the Qube.
Robert Hall reviews the new Halls Qube Greenhouse, stating that; this is a major evolutionary step in greenhouse design. Read his full review of the new range here.
GardenSite were once again pleased to support the Boldmere Community Festival which took place on 18 November, with the Christmas Lights switched on by Alan Gardner, well known for his appearances as TV's Autistic Gardener.