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Obsessive tidiness is no subsitute for good design

It is the goal of a garden maintenance team to leave a garden looking “neat and tidy”. Of course it is! But what about the garden wildlife, the insects and their larvae, the field mile and frogs, the birds and bees. Where will they find a cosy refuge in this clean-swept, dead-headed and trimmed “outdoor room”?

The answer lies, of course, in good design.

Designing for wildlife, and keeping the needs of wildlife in mind during the whole design process, is what every designer should aim for. We are fortunate in having a huge knowledge base and years of experience in firstly knowing which animals are present, and secondly what they need to thrive. Thirdly, and most importantly, we know how to maximise the wildlife appeal of a garden, to build in more beautiful creatures, which were not already there.

What does any animal need?

Firstly-food- this means usually plants, or other animals. Just because an animal in your garden is eating plant material, that does not automatically make it a pest! For example, many species of slug, indeed most the biggest and most noticeable, do not eat green, growing plants at all, but specialise in eating dead and rotting stuff. Many other plant-eaters will only eat weed species, and so are helpers in the garden. And of course all the creatures that eat other animals, are welcome, like the lovable ladybirds, and the maybe not so lovable spiders.

Secondly - shelter. All of these predatory insects need a place to hide away safely, either for a night, a day or even all winter. The dead-heading and leaf-sweeping that goes with good garden maintenance is a great destroyer of hidey-holes, so it is necessary to provide alternative dwelling- places, such as: piles of logs or branches hidden behind shrubs, or bundles of canes, piles of stones or slates in hidden places.

Garden centres and catalogues sell ready-made “bug-houses”, but we can make similarly useful refuges o the larger scale, and they make very attractive features.

Thirdly-love or what passes form love among birds and creepy- crawlies, that is- the opportunity to mate and raise young.Providing nest-boxes for birds is a must, also planting climbers and trees, which provide natural nesting places (clematis and hawthorn for example).

A garden pond is absolutely essential to the breeding of newts, toads and frogs.

And a host of other species, many of them large and beautiful like dragonflies. A pond does not necessarily have to have moving water, but if it is still, and near leaf-dropping trees, it will need to be cleaned out each winter, a job for professionals (like us!)

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Frognal Gardens

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