Wildlife gardening ups and downs

My garden earlier in June

I’ve written a couple of previous blogs about my tiny urban garden and the things I’ve done to try and make it more attractive to wildlife. It was the inspiration for the recent Garden Bioblitz event that took place across the UK, and it has brought me enormous pleasure in terms of bringing a little bit of nature into a very urban part of a city.

So it was hugely upsetting to get back from holiday last weekend to find that next door’s landlord had not only hacked down half of one of our bushes, but had dumped the lot, complete with broken pieces of wood, brick and nails, across my entire garden. My pots, flowerbeds and miniature ponds were completely buried and I feared that all my hard work had been ruined.

How my garden looked last week The remains of the bush!

Just what I wanted in my garden... some massive nails!

Nature bounces back

Luckily, with the bulk of the debris cleared away and the surviving plants watered, the garden has already made a good recovery, although it doesn’t quite look as glorious as it did a few weeks ago!

The garden looking a little flattened... Pots starting to recover

Although I was extremely upset by the thoughtless (and downright rude) destruction that had happened, an hour or so outside clearing up this afternoon was enough to restore my joy in my little urban oasis.

My buddleia, undamaged by the pile of debris, is now flowering, filling the garden with its sweet, honey-like scent and attracting numerous bumblebees and even a butterfly or two. I made sure I took 15 minutes out to take part in the Big Butterfly Count, spotting a nice small white flying over – you can now enter your results for this survey via a really easy-to-use iPhone app so there’s no excuse not to take part!

I love how lush all the vegetation is at this time of year – I had to do a bit of pruning back in order to reach parts of the garden and to prevent my bucket ponds being swamped, but the rest I just enjoyed. The jasmine and clematis at the bottom of the garden were  attracting bumblebees plus a few hoverflies, while those flower that had survived in the pots were feeding a couple of hoverflies and a solitary bee.

Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) on buddleia Small solitary bee species on flowers

My bucket ponds are also doing well, despite problems earlier in the year with blanketweed. My great pond snail – a pretty massive beast – appears to have bred, and I’ve now got several large snails in each of my three buckets. They’re also full of daphnia and, although perhaps not welcome by everyone, quite a few mosquito larvae – hopefully these will go on to feed some hungry insect predator!

The bucket ponds as they're currently looking 'Gigantor', my great pond snail - he's huge!

Buzzing with life

Ironically, the plant that is proving most popular is the one that next door’s landlord tried to hack down. I’ve yet to confirm what it is (if you know, please tell me!), but its tiny greenish-white flowers appear to be irresistible to every fly for miles around. I’ve never seen so many insects in my garden – the whole bush is literally buzzing. The wasps seem to like it too – they’re the first I’ve seen in a long time – although they appear to be just as attracted by the flies, as I spotted one in a dramatic tussle with a green bottle fly it was attempting to sting to death on the ground!

Close up of the bush's flowers Green bottle fly enjoying the bush's flowers

Flowering bushAnother highlight of the afternoon was finding the skins of several ladybird larvae / pupae. On getting them identified it turns out they belonged to the invasive, non-native harlequin ladybird, but I also managed to spot a native seven-spot ladybird on the same plant – the first I’ve ever recorded on my patch. I also found what appeared to be perhaps a recently emerged harlequin, with its spots not quite showing through! The same plant (a small goat willow sapling which suddenly appeared last year and has since shot up dramatically) was also home to hordes of tiny caterpillars, further showing how the presence of just one plant species can be beneficial to a range of different creatures.

Harlequin ladybird larva - appears to have died while changing its skin Harlequin ladybird larval skin

Weakly spotted harlequin ladybird Harlequin ladybird seen in the garden a few weeks ago

Caterpillars feasting on goat willow leaves

It was great to see the garden so alive with insects – I’ll be keeping a close eye on what visits as I’m constantly finding new species! It really does prove that you don’t need a huge garden to support your local wildlife. Sadly the gardens around mine are little more than sterile patios, but imagine if everyone in the street grew even just a few plants – my patch wouldn’t be so much of an island in a sea of concrete, but more of a vital link in a corridor of green spaces. Hmm… next project to work on perhaps?!

An intriguing weevil visitor I recently found on my buddleia

4 thoughts on “Wildlife gardening ups and downs

  1. A thoroughly engaging post. I was wondering what a ‘bucket pond’ was – but then a link explained all. The next-door landlord should have only cut overhanging vegetation – and he/she might have had the decency not to chuck it into your precious little urban patch in its sea of concrete.
    The scent of buddleia is always unique, every year when scented, and for me at least stirs something in the memory, although quite what it is impossible to say.
    The garden, though, is certainly lush, or is that rampant? – at this time of year, the summer full of fruitfulness, not mellow yet but determinedly strong in its flowering.
    Apologies for the clichés but your natural writing ability is much appreciated by this poster.

    1. Thanks William – I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Yes, the scent of buddleia certainly brings back memories – for me, they’re memories of sitting in my parents’ garden in the summer enjoying the sunshine and listening to bees buzzing around!

  2. Love this post Liz. Great to find another urbanite providing a safe space for wildlife. You have a tiny garden, just like me, but with a little thought it is amazing what you can achieve. It must of been devastating to come back and find everything cut down. Thank goodness that nature is able to bounce back. My neighbours did a similar thing while we were away in Cornwall. They had a lovely buddleia growing against their fence which was ready to bloom but when we came back it was just a pile of dead sticks in the middle of their garden. We really need to spread the word about the value of urban gardens (no matter how small) to wildlife so with your permission I would like to link this post to my next blog entry. Good luck with your recovery.

    1. Thanks Della! I never understand why people want to ‘tidy up’ their gardens and make them sterile and lifeless, when they could be looking amazing and bringing them so much joy (as well as benefitting wildlife). You are more than welcome to link to my post in your blog – I look forward to reading it!

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