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bumble bee feasting on a sunflower copyBirds 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.

calendula fit anywhere and seed freely            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.


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 (


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]

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