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What is a wildlife garden?


The real differences between 'wildlife' and 'normal' gardens lie not in the gardens themselves, but in the outlook of the people who look after them.

Native plants in the garden

Wildlife gardens do not have to be dominated by native plants, though in practice, they are often included for the following reasons:

  • wildlife gardeners tend to like them;
  • they promote biodiversity;
  • they do well in a range of conditions.

Despite the clear benefits of using native plants, many non-native garden plants also offer huge advantages to the wildlife gardener, e.g. those with abundant pollen and nectar often attract large numbers of butterflies, hoverflies, bees etc.

Wildlife gardening means gardening too!

Wildlife gardens are about both wildlife and gardening. A wildlife garden is not a nature reserve, but a place where an individual is expressing themselves by welcoming wildlife.

Seeing things through different eyes

To be a successful wildlife gardener you must learn to see the garden through different eyes. You must challenge received wisdom that labels certain plants and animals as weeds or pests without qualification. By learning to relax, you will allow nature to be a partner instead of an adversary.

Are gardens important to wildlife?

Britain's 15 million gardens comprise somewhere between one and three million acres of land: a potentially huge resource to wildlife. Their value is even greater because they are arranged into networks of green-space, often going into the very hearts of our largest cities, forming 'wildlife corridors' through which animals and plants can move.

Over the latter half of the 20th century, farmland and other 'natural' areas were ecologically degraded. As a result gardens have become important refuges for many animals, e.g. frogs, house sparrows and starlings.

Gardens enjoy an unparalleled position to influence the way people interact with and feel about the environment. Being right outside our backdoors, they give us our most immediate access to nature. This is particularly important in an age when children do not have the same freedom to roam the countryside as they used to.

First published December 2002. Last revised December 2003.
Copyright Richard Burkmar 2003. Permission is hereby granted for anyone to use this article for non-commercial purposes which are of benefit to the natural environment as long the original author is credited. School pupils, students, teachers and educators are invited to use the article freely. Use for commercial purposes is prohibited unless permission is obtained from the copyright holder.

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