I happen to be lucky enough to have a large garden, I suppose it is in the region of half an acre and I enjoy looking after it. Since we have lived here I have endeavoured to create a wild life garden in order to encourage both birds and insects, butterflies and bees. This has involved planting quite a lot of trees. Many years ago when we lived in Surrey we belonged to The Cottage Garden Society and, as members, we attended their summer evening garden visits. These were always very pleasant as they involved a tour of a garden followed by a picnic, a good old natter and a plant buying opportunity. A very good way of obtaining plants at a reasonable price. I recall a visit to a particular garden which was owned by a chap called Trevor and his partner. It was, as you might expect, created in the cottage garden style and it was stunning. But the thing I remember Trevor telling us was that gardens should be a series of rooms. His theory being, you walked from one room to another and each one was different, planted with differing sorts of plants and providing a different atmosphere and experience. This impressed me and I have followed that idea ever since. Incidentally, Trevor had written a number of books on the subject and was an acknowledged expert in his field. Sadly I don't remember his surname.
In any event, my tree planting has been in an effort to construct a series of rooms and I now have a garden which provides that experience. Each area being different from the previous as you walk through. The main area has a lawn and a flower bed planted with cottage garden plants, roses around the house and lots of large pots and containers full, for the most part, of bee and butterfly attracting plants. Several honeysuckles and a buddleia complete the insect feeding stations. It works, on a sunny day all of the above are covered with several species of bees and we also have a healthy butterfly population. The trees create, if you like, the walls of the rooms. I also have a Japanese garden, a large pond, which is enclosed and covered and a wild area with just a few paths cut through it. The pond area is enclosed with fence and netting overhead as we have a local heronry and I have even had the odd visit from a kingfisher. Not to mention, one weekend when we were away, a devastating visit from an otter. The trees I have planted consist of oak, field maple, willows various, cob nut and walnut and the odd hawthorn and blackthorn which I have allowed to grow into quite large specimens. All in all they attract a wide range of birds and an occasional, unwelcome, grey squirrel. Why unwelcome ? These non-indigenous pests are omnivorous and therefore they eat the eggs and fledglings of song birds, indeed any birds,not to mention the damage they do to trees.
My back, and boundary hedge, has a big and, so far, healthy elm tree group within it. I hope they have a degree of resistance to the dreaded Dutch Elm disease. So far, and they are now over thirty feet in height, they have remained unscathed . In most cases, I am told, the disease strikes before the young trees reach twenty feet so each year I watch carefully for any signs of illness but so far so good. My hedges around our field, which is beside the house and separated by a driveway, contain a variety of trees and shrubs and a good quantity of brambles which acts like a magnet for birds and insects especially when they are fruiting. So all in all,we manage to attract a wide range of wild life. This year, nesting in the garden, we have had three lots of bluetits, two great tits,three robins, a wren, three blackbirds, a pied wagtail and numerous sparrows. The sparrows nest in a large old clump of clematis which was here when we bought the place, it is very dense and provides the birds with shelter and, no doubt, some warmth. Apart from nesting in this mass they also roost in it throughout the winter.The above accounts only for the nests I have discovered in the garden and sheds, in fact I have a blackbird with fledglings in my workshop as I write. I am quite sure there have been many more nests in the hedges around the field, but my days of rummaging through thick and ancient hedgerows are, sadly, long gone.
Readers, if there are any, that follow my jottings will perhaps recall in a previous article my comments regarding the rabbits which had taken up residence in my field and my fears that they may have succumbed to the fox or disease. Well, I am happy to report they are still around and doing well. In fact, the other morning when I went out to feed the animals one of their number had come to the top of the field in an area near the feed shed. He got a bit of a shock as Humphrey, my terrier was with me and gave chase. The bunny made it safely to the bramble patch at the bottom of the field with time to spare. The trouble is, now Humpers knows we have rabbits he keeps clearing off in search of them every time he comes out with me which is twice a day. I don't imagine the rabbits are in any great danger from him but if Bertie, our lurcher, gets involved it could be another story. Oh well, as they say, that's life in the sticks.