Birds and insects will visit our gardens to eat, drink and be merry. The better the refreshment and hospitality we provide, the more likely they are to come and the longer they’ll stay. If we’re lucky, they might even choose to make a home close by. Choosing plants attractive to visiting fauna will also enhance the beauty and productivity of our garden, whatever its size.
Combining a range of both native and exotic species in our gardens ensures there’s a constant food supply for birds and insects, regardless of annual variations in flowering patterns. Large clusters of flowers provide an easier target for visitors and a longer-lasting food source, but even a few blooms scattered about are welcome snack stops. Bees collect both nectar and pollen. They’ll congregate to drink from wet surfaces on a hot day, and will only use a water supply that’s available and accessible without risk of drowning. A flat rock in a shallow container kept topped up by a slowly dripping tap is ideal. Birds will appreciate it too. I notice there are plenty of sneaky sips by thirsty beaks visiting my dog’s drinking bowl when she’s not about.
Zealandia is a predator-free oasis for birds in Wellington, and they’re spilling over into our gardens seeking out food, water and a safe place to build a nest. They need our protection once outside the fence if they are to stand a chance of raising a family. Even if we don’t see predators, there are many rats, mice, stoats, hedgehogs, weasels and possums about, even close to town. They’ll disturb nesting birds and eat their eggs and chicks. Setting traps and using bait stations keeps their numbers down and lets us monitor their activity in our gardens.
Minimising our use of chemicals, particularly sprays, is important in keeping the ecosystem balanced in our gardens. Natural pest controls often require a bit more effort but are kinder to those species we want to encourage. Even insecticides applied as a seed coating seem to affect insects that later collect pollen from the plant, so choosing untreated seed is vital. Single flowers are easier for insects to collect from than double, highly modified versions.
Birds and insects are an essential part of our gardens. They pollinate our plants, entertain us with their activity and fill the air with their songs and sounds. With a little care we can make our space as inviting to them as it is to us. We’ll be rewarded by a garden overflowing with wildlife of the best kind.[success]
Try these flowers in your edible garden:
Calendula, chives, cucumbers, pumpkin, rosemary, sage, sunflower, thyme.
Kings Seeds sells ‘Bring on the Bees’ and ‘Butterfly Beauties’ seed selections (kingsseeds.co.nz)
Try these trees and vines in your orchard:
Apple, grapes, kiwifruit, lemon, pear
Try these New Zealand native trees and shrubs for shelter:
Akeake, cabbage tree, flax, hebe, kōwhai, lacebark, lemonwood, pōhutukawa, rewarewa, wineberry
Try these exotic trees if you have space:
Acacia, banksia, bottlebrush, eucalypts, tree lucerne[/success]