Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wildlife Pond, Wildflowers and Wildlife. Now that's Wild!!....

Here we are again but two moths on since my last post, which I can only apologise for! My lack of writing should actually be seen as a good thing as it generally means that the weather has been good and I've been out enjoying the garden!! I'm pleased to report that this is the case and I have plenty to tell you all about.

So with skin tanned and muscles stretched from all the recent hard work here's an update on the new wildlife pond from where we left it in my last post.

Two months is a long time in nature and just look at how the pond has come on in this time....

Three months after the pond was started it looks really settled with the wildflower area starting to come into bloom around it....

Another view of the pond as it is now, it will continue to improve as the summer goes on!!

 The two pictures  above and below hopefully help to demonstrate how the design of the pond fits into the wider landscape in this part of the garden and will in time look really natural....

With the pond starting to mature really quite quickly I needed to concentrate my attention on the wildflower area that sits along side the pond and will in time surround this water feature making it a little oasis for passing wildlife.

Below I will cover some of the wildflowers that I like to use and I will also try and let you know what wildlife species they attract....

Corn Marigold is one of my favourite wildflowers as it is simple to grow from seed, flowers all summer if deadheaded but best of all is a magnet for hoverflies. We all often forget what important pollinators hoverflies are. I also mix Corn Marigolds in with my perennial plants to provide pollinating bedding plants!!

Common & Greater Knapweed are both superb pollinating wildflowers adored by bumblebees and many butterflies (Large Skipper pictured). As with corn marigold I use them in among my perennial planting schemes and as they are perennial themselves they come back every summer! I like them mixed with Helenium where they make a great mix for Gatekeeper butterflies among others.

Californian Poppy isn't a native wildflower but it's bright colours act like a beacon to passing pollinators which may come down and feed on more suitable flowers. They do however attract some of our smaller flies and hoverflies....

Oxeye Daisy is a cheery early summer plant loved by most pollinators....

Toadflax is a superb bee plant loved by all types of bee. The purple variety is a native wildflower often pulled out by gardeners as it seeds and grows freely but often not where it's wanted! I love this as a bee plant and let it grow where ever it wants! The variety pictured is a cultivated pink form and I have found this to be just as good for bees so worth adding to the wildflower garden.

Wild Mignonette is loved by bees and a food plant for some of the white butterfly caterpillars...

Forget-me-not is one of the most underrated flowers for early pollinators and again pulled out by many gardeners as a free seeding invasive pest! It is one of the earliest flowers along with dandelion that offers pollen for lots of species. In this picture you can see it also offers a hiding place for predators like this pollinator eating Crab-flower spider... 

Birds-foot Trefoil is probably our best butterfly plant attracting many different species including this Brown Argus and the Common Blue among many others...

Perennial Flax is a strange one as it shouldn't really grow on my heavy soil as it's a chalkland plant but it seems to be doing well and will attract pollinators...

Cuckoo-Flower is a spring wildflower of damp ground and is superb for Orange-tip and Green-veined White butterflies. It grows well on our heavy clay soil here....

Mixed Grasses are vitally important to include in a wildflower mix as there are many species of moth and butterfly that lay their eggs among the grass and then their caterpillars feed on it.... 

Corn Chamomile is from the daisy family and is a little annual plant that will self seed and is visited by bees and other pollinators....

Cornflower is a blue flower that everyone knows, visited by bees and other pollinating insects but there are other colour variations such as this white version...

Field Scabious is simply superb for bees and butterflies. I have actually found that all Scabious species to be top rate pollinator plants including cultivated versions that can give you something a little different....


The above demonstrates a small selection of the wildflowers that we have growing in the garden and most are in flower now. As the season moves on more will come into flower providing a rich source of nectar for pollinating insects. I will post up another selection of my favourite wildflowers that I grow here in future posts. I hope that these at least give you a few ideas for your own patch.

Before I leave I will post a small selection of wildlife that has been visiting this area of the garden and the new pond....

The new pond has attracted really high numbers of Damselflies and I'm including a selection below so that you can see the difference in colouration and the difficulty in identifying species....

Azure Damselfly
 Azure Damselfly
Azure Damselfly
Azure Damselfly
 Azure Damselfly
As you can see the Azure Damselfly comes in many different colour forms!

Here are other types that visit the garden....

Blue-tailed Damselfly...

Large Red Damselfly

Common Blue Damselfly...

Dragonflies showing in the garden at this early stage of the summer are...
Broad-bodied Chaser....

And Southern Hawker....

There have been lots more exciting sightings in the garden over the last couple of months but unfortunately too many to list on here. I will leave you with a picture of our latest success story which has been the arrival of a family of Hedgehogs! This is really great news as the Hedgehog is under major decline and I know that we have a family of at least 4 hogs! 

One member of a new family to the wildlife garden busily mopping up fallen meal worms that have proved irresistible to the hogs!...

That's about it for this post so I will bid you all farewell and many thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Please do feel free to comment or pass on any suggestions that you may have for the blog or my garden.

Best

Higgy








Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wildlife Pond Build Continues and Leads to an Early Bath...

Hello All,

Once again time has got the better of me! But I have been out making the most of the good early sunny hot weather. It certainly beats all the wet weather that we had over the winter time and it's not only me who's been out enjoying the weather but the wildlife also, which is once again starting to wake up in the garden.

To pick up where we left off on the last post I will continue to guide you trough my main project at the moment which is of course my wildlife pond build....

On the last post we left the build just as we had finished excavating the actual pond. Being for wildlife the pond doesn't need to be to deep but I still like to have an area somewhere in the pond that is at least two foot deep, this deeper water gives a safe area for insects and amphibians to over-winter in if we should get cold winters. In a wildlife pond you wouldn't generally keep fish but I will mention here that if you do build a pond with the intention of keeping fish then the pond should be at least three foot deep. My own opinion is that it should be at least four foot in some places for fish keeping.

So here we go then....

Once excavated I crawl around inside the pond and remove any stones or roots that I can see and which could potentially puncture the liner. 

There are various types of liner and my first choice would normally be EPDM  which is a tough lining material with all the attributes of a butyl rubber liner but at less cost. Unfortunately current finances meant that I couldn't afford EPDM and I've opted for a PVC liner of a good quality. To help protect it I have also purchased a good quality pond liner underlay...

Once the layer of sand about half to one inch thick has been added around the whole pond and firmed in I add the underlay ensuring that it overlaps well where there are joins. I attempt to get a minimum of two thicknesses across the whole pond area.....

Now it's time for the liner but prior to fitting it pays to lay it out flat on the lawn in the sun, this warms the liner up and makes it more pliable and therefore easier to mold into place....
I actually laid this liner on my own but it does pay to have a few people on standby ready to help!!

Then run a hose into the pond and let it gradually fill up. Whilst this is happening you must be present to neatly fold and neaten creases as the liner molds around the contours in the pond. If you don't get it neat now then you won't be able to make adjustment once filled as the weight of the water won't allow you to change how the liner lays...

Trim around the edges but be careful to leave a good overlay as when fully filled the water could still pull down the liner a bit more...

Now you are ready to start thinking about the landscaping around the pond and how to hide the edges of the liner....

I decided to add a bridge and this was simply added by concreting some wood into footings on each side of the pond and then once dry screwing some 3"x3" posts across them as below...
This simple bridge was made out of some old fence posts and now creates a walkway to the seating pod...

I decided to hide the edges of the pond by putting large rocks on the upper shelf and then back-filling the space behind with a mixture of clay soil and fine gravel. This makes the perfect planting medium for your marginal plants....  
Note that I re-used the clay from the excavation and mixed it 50/50 with fine grit, this is perfectly OK to do and will save you a lot f money over buying unnecessary pond compost.....

So here is the pond once the marginal landscaping was finished...

At one end I have included a shallow beach area that allows easy entry / exit to wildlife to safely use the pond. This is especially important if Hedgehogs fall in the pond to ensure they can get out....

As if giving this new feature it's seal of approval my resident Blackbird has taken over the job as security guard for the pond and uses it at least twice a day for his morning and afternoon bath!!!!....


Although I have already started planting a few wildflowers around the pond and preparing areas to put back to wildflowers and make up for the lost area from creating this new feature, I will leave this update until my next post. This should give plenty of space to give you the names and pictures of the plants that I intend growing to attract all of our beloved pollinators and of course in the hope of attracting a few more new species into the garden!

This just leaves my usual round up of what wildlife we have been seeing in the garden over the last few weeks.... 

Sticking with the pond theme what about this magnificent Great Diving Beetle - Dytiscus marginalus. A first for the new pond and a first for the garden!!... 

I make no apologies for posting up another 7-spot Ladybird as they are so numerous in the garden which is great!!...

Although common a new recording for the garden was this Bee Fly - Bombylius major
Another new record, Sloe Bug - Dolycoris baccarum....
 Not a new hoverfly for us but welcome none the less was this Syrphus vitripennis

It has been a great year for us in terms of birds, not new species but great numbers of our regular birds with the highlight for me the continued daily presence of our Reed Buntings - Emberiza schoeniclus.....

These green / blue beetles are called Chrysomelidae Alticinae and were in good numbers and breeding in the garden last month.... 

Finally it is absolutely brilliant to see the return of our hedgehogs and they are actively feeding in the garden and seem especially partial to my dry meal worms that I put out for the birds! 

Hedgehogs are in serious decline so I'm really pleased to have the back in the garden again. I'm hoping that my hedgehog houses have helped by giving them a safe warm place to overwinter in. I can't check the boxes as they are buried under the hedges in the garden to provide safety and extra warmth for any hedgehogs that are using them but live in hope that they have helped.

Despite having posted my plans for a home built hedgehog house on Facebook recently, here they are again for anyone else who wants to help save our hedgehogs by providing shelter in their own garden....

  

So that's it for now, next time I will update you on the planting in and around the pond which will include my wildflower area which is currently going through a complete re-vamp!

As always thanks for reading and do please keep your comments coming in as I will always answer them and continue to enjoy chatting with you all....

Best

Higgy