Dear Readers, today we have three books that have been indispensable to me in my endeavour to make my garden a haven for wildlife. First up is Adrian Thomas’s Gardening for Wildlife, a superb all-round book on everything from the species that you might see to how to create a particular environment.
Thomas describes the different requirements for different species, but also points out that it’s difficult to actually ‘attract’ wildlife to your garden (though having been awoken at 5.30 this morning by the starlings I’m not sure I’m convinced!) His point, though, is to cherish what you already have locally – there is no point in growing flowers for a butterfly that was last seen in your area in 1786 for example. The book is full of fascinating facts: for example, speckled wood butterflies much prefer the honeydew secreted by aphids to any flower.
There are lists of flowers for bees, butterflies and moths, and these are by season too. There’s stuff on ponds and bat boxes, but also on making your own woodland garden or area of scrub or bog. In particular, I like that when Thomas recommends a plant, he gives you an idea about the variety that works best, so you don’t waste a lot of time on something unsuitable. If I only had room for one book this would definitely be it.
This is a great, great book – I heard Jan Miller-Klein speak at a meeting of the Wildlife Gardening Forum, and she is such an enthusiast. This book is a real labour of love: Miller-Klein doesn’t just look at planting for adult butterflies, but also considers their foodplants. She has ideas for planting an insectary, which encourages predatory invertebrates such as lady birds and spiders, and a dyer’s garden with weld and woad and all sorts of exciting plants. There are ideas for a moraine garden, and for containers and raised beds.
The beneficial plants are laid out by season, so that you can make sure that there’s always something going on for pollinators.
She doesn’t forget dragonfliies, beetles and moths either.
And at the front of the book there’s a quick gallop through the best plants for each time of year. I would never have thought of hemp agrimony for the pondside in my garden without Jan Miller-Klein, and it’s probably the most popular plant that I grow with the butterflies and bees.
And here’s an old favourite.
This book is such a delight. It concentrates mainly on the behaviour of birds, and I learnt a lot from it. I had no idea that the male wren builds lots of ‘starter homes’ in his territory to attract the ladies, and then abandons each one to get on with rearing the youngsters on her own. And starlings will lay eggs in the nests of their neighbours when they aren’t looking. And a small number of unpaired male swallows will perform infanticide if a female is widowed or unhappy with her partner. Goodness! The shenanigans is really something to behold.
The illustrations, by Peter Partington, are lovely too. This is a book that aims to increase the richness of our understanding of the creatures closest to us, and I am always dipping into it.
Dominic Couzens has done a number of books for the RSPB, but somehow this is the most charming.
So, those are my favourite wildlife gardening books, though I have a great pile of books still to read. Dave Goulson, who wrote the excellent ‘Sting in the Tale’ about bumblebees, has a new book called ‘The Garden Jungle’ which I got for Christmas and still haven’t read, so i think this is a subject that will bear some revisiting. Let me know what your favourite garden wildlife books are, I am always keen to add to my book pile!