My Wildlife Garden

My Wildlife Garden

© Andy Sutton

Southampton local, Andy Sutton, introduces us to his wildlife garden and what's been going on in the summer.

The sound of screaming from above causes me to glance skywards  -  swifts, at least 30 of them wheeling, soaring and diving overhead. What a fabulous and uplifting sight.

Swifts are one of the many species of bird that we see either overhead or in our garden in the course of a year.

Wildlife garden

© Andy Sutton

Ten years ago we started an ongoing project to make our garden into a 'mini' nature reserve in a cottage garden style. Definitely a work in progress! I'm sure plenty of people might view some aspects of our garden designs as eccentric, but they do seem to be working to a degree.

Our soil type is a very light, gravelly, free-draining loam, so much organic matter is added each year. We have reduced the area of lawn to expand the borders and increase the plantings of herbaceous perennials, including some wildflowers. Part of the back lawn is permanent meadow mown once a year in late September. All garden fences are covered in roses, clematis and honeysuckle.

There are a lot of pots too.

Wildflowers in plant pots

© Andy Sutton

Our aim is to provide habitat for as wide a range of wildlife as possible, so we try to extend the  flowering season by using early Spring bulbs and early flowering plants such as hellebores and  pulmonaria's, and by growing Winter-flowering plants like Winter-flowering jasmine and honeysuckle.

Two years ago, we installed a small pond which is a now the happy home of up to 6 frogs.

Frogs in wildlife pond

© Andy Sutton

We are now in high Summer, the garden is bursting with colour and insects. It has been a remarkably late season  -  at least 2 or 3 weeks behind last year, and until recently we saw very few honey bees on the flowers, though lots of bumble and solitary bees. But now the garden is 'abuzz' with honey bees, particularly on the large clumps of marjoram. Again, very few butterflies prior to this hotter weather, but are now getting meadow browns, comma's , small and large whites, though hardly any gatekeeper's (hedge browns).

Through the pandemic, we have constantly felt so fortunate to have this garden and it has brought us closer to nature, to appreciate its beauty -  and importance. It has helped to keep us sane - well, fairly sane! It is good to have the opportunity to share it with you.

I look forward to following up with more progress in the garden.

Andy Sutton

Andy Sutton lives in Totton and is now retired from a career in agriculture and horticulture. Before the pandemic, Andy was helping a local primary school with their wildlife projects and looks forward to returning to the project soon.