The Wildlife Pond by Isle of Wight Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Yellow Flag Iris – A favourite plant for pond side insects

The trouble with having a wildlife pond is that I supposedly ‘waste’ a great deal of time watching it. It is the most fascinating habitat in the whole garden. I have had mine for some years now and the first inhabitants, pond skaters, arrived within an hour of it filling up. Since then we have had Damsel flies, Dragon flies, Water Boatmen and lots of other unidentified little bugs that skitter and wriggle about in its depths.  That’s the thing about ponds, if you get it right you don’t have to stock it, it stocks itself.

A newly arrived dragonfly assesses the pond

So what makes a good wildlife pond? Firstly it must be deep enough in the middle for creatures to overwinter successfully, mine is about three feet deep with a shallower shelf around the edge. I used a butyl liner with the correct padding underneath, it pays to get this bit right as a hole in the liner is an expensive mistake to rectify. The edges have a gentle slope and because mine abuts the lawn I laid turf over the edge to hide the liner. I then did something that a lot of gardeners would hold their hands up in horror at, I chucked some clay soil (devoid of stones) into the bottom. Well, those newts have to have something to hide in, don’t they?

Bees are attracted to wildlife ponds

Be choosy about the plants you want to have in your pond. I chose native plants as far as possible, although I did succumb to a small, white waterlily . My favourites are Watermint, Brooklime and Water Forget-me-not. Avoid really rampant growers such as the Bull rush and Canadian Pondweed in your pond as these will soon choke it. I made use of the wet clay soil behind my pond to plant yellow Iris as well as Purple Loosestrife and Meadowsweet. I planted the pond lily in a pot but everything else I anchored under the turf edge or weighed them down in bunches on the shallow shelf to do their own thing.

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A pair of wild ducks give the pond their seal of approval

You can get as artistic as you like with decorating the outer edges to attract residents and visitors. I chose a couple of semi-rotten large branches to drape over the back edge and dip right into the water and these have been a great hit with all types of birds as bathing and drinking perches. Insects love the flowering plants around the outside and in winter finches feast on the seed heads.

Damsel flies are attracted to the wildlife pond

My pond is never going to be the tidiest and, yes, I do get some duckweed and blanketweed (a revelation in itself when you see what takes up residence in it) but it most certainly is one of the busiest.

And don’t forget that essential item a Garden Seat!

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email  phone 07890 869918 logo & name 26.10.21

Attracting birds and other wildlife by Isle of Wight Garden Designer Tim Brayford

A successful garden will  contribute significantly to our well-being and quality of life.  It may play host to a broad range of flora and fauna enhancing local biodiversity and collectively benefiting the wider world environment by absorbing CO2. Here are just a few examples from gardens on the Isle of Wight and elsewhere. 

Blue Tits are a popular garden bird

The presence of wild birds are one of the things that many people enjoy about their gardens but what do these birds like and how can they be encouraged?
Feeding birds is a good start, especially during the colder late autumn to early spring months, October to April. Place a bird table where it can easily be observed, ideally close to a thick hedge or some dense shrubs. This will help small birds to evade the predatory patrols of a marauding sparrowhawk, expect a few casualties though as the hawk needs to feed as well.

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A nut hunting red squirrel!

Choose a variety of foods such as seeds and nuts and fatty strips of bacon or fat balls as these will help to feed a broad range of birds. Putting the food out in the morning and during the early afternoon will allow plenty of time for it to be cleared up, spilled feedstuffs left on the ground after dark will encourage rats so is best avoided. Cease feeding during the spring as nature comes back to life, the natural foods that a good garden habitat will now provide is far preferable for the birds and their young.

Sparrowhawks feed opportunistically around bird tables

Birds and other wildlife thrive in a litter free and slightly untidy garden. Variety is they key, areas of mown and unmown grass with an array of meadow flowers and clovers will be attractive to grazers, seed eaters and insectivorous birds which will feed on the invertebrates to be found there. Mixed borders of nectar rich herbaceous and flowering shrubs will attract a multitude of insect life too, whilst the damper environment of a decaying log pile will provide a home for creatures such as toads and woodlice.

Hawthorn Hedges feed many birds

Thick native hedging like Hawthorn will provide both dense nesting cover for many birds and autumn berries for migrants such as fieldfares to feast on. Nest boxes of different designs and sizes are available to suit both small birds even for the larger species such as Barn Owls, as a rule of thumb sight these out of direct sunlight and away from prevailing winds.
Don’t forget about water, a regularly filled birdbath is good but a wildlife pond is even better. Insects such as midges, dragon and damsel flies will feed birds such as swallows and swifts, whilst surrounding vegetation can provide nesting cover for aquatic birds like moorhens.

A large skipper butterfly feeding on geranium “Wargrave Pink”

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email  phone 07890 869918 logo & name 26.10.21