Gardening with Wildlife in
Mind Introduction by Sir Martin Doughty, Chair of English Nature
English Nature is the Government
agency that champions the conservation of wildlife and natural features
throughout England, so why are we involved with this CD?
Virtually none of the English landscape is truly natural and too much
of what we call "the countryside" is now, sadly, almost devoid of wild species
as a result of modern farming policy and practices. Most of the surviving areas
richest in wildlife are protected to some degree but these cover only a small
That leaves towns, villages and cities - and within them, some
15,000,000 gardens - as a significant refuge for wild species. Gardens are
already hugely important for wildlife, interest in wildlife gardening has never
been higher and is now being increasingly reflected throughout the media. But
the untapped potential is still very great and gardens could become more
valuable still, if more people gardened with wildlife in mind.
create gardens first and foremost for our own enjoyment. But any garden, no
matter how small, can also be a haven for some wildlife. It's my belief that a
wildlife-rich garden provides a far greater source of interest, relaxation and
pleasure than one from which nature has been virtually banished by pesticides
This CD is designed to help people make their gardens
better places for wildlife, but this doesn't mean turning them into wilderness
areas! It has some practical advice about creating habitats important for wild
species. It also suggests plants likely to attract bees, moths, butterflies,
birds and other wildlife. Most of these are native species as these are usually
of most value. But many exotic plants can also be helpful to our wildlife and a
selection of these has been included too.
This is not a definitive
guide to all the wildlife likely to occur in your garden, which may support as
many as 2000 species, most of them invertebrates! Instead, it focuses on a
relatively small number of "creatures" that are both distinctive and desirable.
It would have been illogical, though, to exclude all the species that most
gardeners would rather not have, such as slugs and snails. These may be seen as
undesirable but there is no escaping them! On the plus side, they provide food
for animals and birds which people enjoy seeing - such as song thrushes,
slow-worms, frogs and toads. They also play a valuable part in breaking down
dead and decaying vegetation.
Our advice over "pest" species is
therefore to live and let live and, as far as possible, to rely on natural
methods of control. However selective chemicals are claimed to be, they will
almost certainly harm beneficial species as well as those targeted and should
only be used as a last resort.
I would just make three pleas. First,
avoid the use of peat. This is a non-renewable resource, taken from
wildlife-rich sites and almost exclusively for horticultural purposes.
Secondly, don't introduce any plant from your garden into the wild: it
could be an invasive species and cause problems. Finally, get native plants
only from reputable suppliers and never from the wild.
garden and your gardening! Remember, gardens cover a bigger area than nature
reserves. Without too much effort, you can make a personal and a positive
contribution to the conservation of wildlife in England.
Doughty has been Chair of English Nature since May 2001. He was previously the
Leader of Derbyshire County Council and Chair of the Peak District National
Park Authority. He is a Patron of the Institute of Ecology and Environmental
Management (IEEM) and a keen gardener.