With biodiversity and habitat loss threatening our wildlife, along with a feeling of disconnect from nature with our technology-dominated lives, there is no doubt of the benefits of creating gardens which help to reverse some of these effects.
I think one of the important roles as a garden designer is to try to convince our clients to adopt some of these wildlife-friendly features into their gardens by highlighting the beneficial effects on nature and mental health. I believe that these features are not only great for the planet but can be a beautiful addition to your outdoor space, and need not be expensive or time consuming to maintain.
Bringing water into the garden is one of the best things to attract nature into your space. Birds will come in to drink and wash, frogs will eat your slugs and snails and dragonflies will lay eggs in the foliage. I created a very simple nature pond in my small garden a couple of years ago, using a second hand zinc circular bath, gravel and some well placed stones. We now have frogs and toads in our garden and the only maintenance required is clearing the dead leaves and weeds from the pond and topping up the water levels in the Summer.
2. Bug hotels
My clients, a family with primary school aged children, were really keen to involve the children in the creation of the garden. I designed some Corten steel bug hotels which the children filled during walks in the nearby Epping Forest and these have been installed on the fences of their new garden. These ever-changing sculptures should help draw beneficial insects into the garden, with the Corten steel providing a materials link with the edging and trellis at the back of the garden.
3. Wildflower Turf
In my opinion too many gardens are dominated by expanse of under-used law which is high mainteance and adds little to the biodiversity of a garden. I convinced my clients that a wildflower lawn would create an ever-changing colourful tapestry which will bring in the insects and be easy to maintain, with one cut a year required. The image above shows the wildflower turf in June. I look forward to seeing how this develops over time.
4. Green Roofs
All family gardens require storage for tools, furniture, bbqs and childrens toys. One way to make use of those additional surfaces is to install a green roof which will provide colour and attract pollinators into the garden. This sedum green roof has really thrived in my E11 Industrial Style Family Garden with the yellow flowers harmonising with the yellow garden furniture on the patio.
5. Water butt/planter
Water butts are a great way of conserving rain water which can then be used to irrigate the garden over drier periods but they usually don't look that stylish and can detract from the overall look of a garden. This grey water butt/planter, used in my E8 Urban Sanctuary Garden, not only looks good but also incorporates a planter to provide some additional greenery.
So if you're thinking of redesigning your garden this year, consider some of these features, which will really help rebalance the biodiveristy loss seen in recent years and create an enticing space for you and your families to enjoy.