Creating the nursery Wildlife Garden

Cirsium rivale 'Atropurpureum' in the Bee border

When we arrived at the space the nursery occupies five years ago in 2015, all the terraces apart from half the top terrace were overgrown wildernesses of grass and wild flowers. Gradually we have developed gardens on the terraces, keeping as much of the wild flowers as possible on the banks and in the wildflower meadow. A garden of "rooms" and different areas is evolving to make our customers visits an experience rich in colour, scent, sound, seasonal interest, an interesting collection of plants and inspiring ideas. We started working on the bottom terrace in the autumn of 2015, beginning with the Scottish native plant borders at the entrance, putting up an arch and building the bug hotel. In 2016 David put in the bottle edging for the path and then we got diverted for three years while we did other things in the nursery and gardens that needed more attention. This included more stock beds, more propagation and the scented and herb gardens for our wedding in 2017! In 2019 I decided my garden project for that that year would be to finally get on with the first half of the bottom terrace which was to be the wild life garden. 

The bottom terrace in 2015

In January 2016 when I first started rescuing and creating the willow fedge

and looking the other way

Putting in the bottle path edges in 2016

January 2019

Once I'd decided this was my garden project for the year I also decided to take a different approach to creating the borders. Previously I had de turfed the area of a new border then dug it over, opening up the soil and removing as much perennial weed root as possible, digging in compost and then planting. For the wildlife garden I decided to try out the no dig method of creating borders. This involved removing as much perennial weed growth as possible and then putting down two to three layers of thick cardboard (all donations were gratefully received). I then used our own compost from our compost bins in a layer two to three inches thick. This was then topped up with soil I had from big plant containers that were no longer needed. I then planted into the compost soil mix, though shrubs and trees were planted into the original soil below. This was all then topped off with a layer of landscape bark to help with weed suppression. This has worked very well and I only occasionally have to remove a persistent piece of couch grass or creeping thistle and when you think how choked with perennial weeds and grass these terraces were, I would call that a successful experiment. All of the wildlife garden has been completed using the no dig method and I have carried on in the next garden along and the Railway garden on the middle terrace.

Creating the Bee border in 2019

Summer 2020

Because the terraces are very linear, varying in width but pretty narrow, its makes for an interesting area to design gardens. The terraces curve to create an amphitheatre style area around the farm shop building which means that as you walk along the terraces we have used the curve to hide what is "around the corner" to create an element of surprise and interest for our visitors. The narrowness of the terraces means we don't have massive space to create swathes of gardens but it's also a great way to think creatively about space and how to use it best and create the feeling of more garden rather than less. Meandering the path means the borders vary in size and using the widest parts to create an area you can't see around imediatly makes it more interesting and feel like a bigger garden than it actually is. The first three borders are planted specifically for different types of wildlife: bees, butterflies and then birds and bats.

Sweet Williams in the butterfly border

The planting in the bee, butterfly and bird and bat borders are all designed around what these three groups require and what they attracted too. I have used lots of native plants, herbs and decorative plants that are simmple and attractive to wildlife. many cultivated and bred plants have lots the ability to produce pollen and nectar, are sterile and no use to bugs and beasties. So keep as close to the native species as you can if you want to attract wildlife. I have used a few trees (small ones as the space is restricted, shrubs, perennials annuals and bulbs to get as much seasonal interest into the garden as possible. Of course the more early and late flowers there are the more beneficial to our wildlife it is too. 

You can get a list of all the plants planted in the wildlife garden on our website here.

The Butterfly Border

Part of the butterfly border 2020

Once the three borders above were completed it was time to start the biggest part of this garden project, the wildlife pond. Not essential to a wildlife garden, but it has added so much interest and wildlife to this garden and the nursery, we are so pleased we built it. It provides hours of interest for visitors and staff young and old! With in a few weeks we had lots of water insects and so far have had frogs (and tadpoles), toads, newts (and mating!), damsel flies (and mating!) its all go! 

I was beginning to wonder what
David was digging

Building any pond is quite a piece of work, lots of soil to remove, levels to get right, finishing it off and so on. I am planning to write a blog about pond building soon, so I will leave the details to that one. This pond is about 60cm at its deepest and 2 m wide and 3 m long. It is sloped to one end for access for bugs n beasties. We put several piles of stones in the centre for hiding areas and plenty plants of different shapes for colour, interest and insects. At one end we took the liner 2 metres beyond the pond, pierced it with a garden fork and then put a layer of compost and soil over to create a bog garden.

Building the wildlife pond

Some planting done, awaiting bark

The next step was to cover all the borders in bark. This makes a huge difference to the amount of weeding I have to do through the year and is well worth the expense when you off set it against how many hours of weeding it saves. You can read my blog about using bark here.

Planted and barked

Summer this year

In a year and a half the wildlife garden has really come into it's own. The pond is heaving with wildlife, bugs, beasties and amphibians. The are lots of butterflies, bees and so many other insects enjoying the plants put there especially for them. We've put up a bat box, bird boxes, bee hotels, log piles and lots of places for wildlife to shelter and live. We were very fortunate that the only thing we had to buy for this garden was the bark, everything else we had (including, luckily, the pond liner) or we recycled. That is so satisfying to produce a garden this size for very little cost and re-use so many things we had lying around.

Newts in the pond

Placing plants in the pond

Rodgersia 'Cally Salmon' in the pond border

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