Posted 5th Sep 2016
While British summertime may be coming to a close, there is still time to take to your garden and listen to some of the sounds of summer. Whether it is birdsong, the buzzing of bees or the rustling of tall grass, if you close your eyes you can hear plenty. With just a bit of clever planting, you can create your very own percussion section.
Wyevale Garden Centres is teaming up with radio and television presenter Jo Whiley to put together tips that to help transform your garden into a habitat where you can hear the true wonders of nature.
Whiley said: "Music and gardening are my two big passions. In the evenings I'm on air between 8 and 10 playing music to the nation as it winds down at the end of the day but during the afternoons, at home, I'm straight out into my garden to enjoy it's many delights and get on with the various jobs there are always to do. When I’m gardening, I consciously switch off the radio and completely immerse myself in the sounds of the garden. Sound can have such a huge effect on people’s emotions. In the same way that someone may blast out a feel good tune to lift their mood, the tranquil sounds of a garden can make you completely relaxed. Sound plays a big part of my life and my garden can provide a completely different musical backdrop compared to the studio."
1. Creating a buzz with bees and butterflies
If you are after a garden that is buzzing with bug life, you should be focusing on bright and beautiful flowers. For instance, why not try mixing up herbaceous perennials, annuals and biennials. As they all flower at different stages of the year, your garden will have a constant source of nectar for insects all year round.
Herbaceous perennials such as lavender, geranium and salvia come back each year; annuals like daisies and begonias flower once a year, generally in spring and summer; biennials such as hollyhocks and foxgloves, every two years.
If you still have extra space you can consider adding a herb patch - both bumble bees and solitary bees will be attracted to rosemary in particular, whilst other herb garden favourites such as lavender, sage, oregano and thyme will also attract a variety of insects. They will also provide a rich food source to little critters.
If you have the space, add trellis. Trailing plants such as clematis or sweet peas and hanging baskets are a great choice, with the African daisy, fuchsia or busy Lizzie all popular with bees.
Tip: Choose single-flowered varieties of plants such as nasturtiums. Bees and butterflies struggle to access double flowers, due to their layered petal or flowers within flowers.
2. Tune into birdsong
Avid gardeners will understand the beauty of birdsong. The main thing to bear in mind is that birds need four things - something to eat / drink; somewhere to shelter; somewhere to wash; somewhere to breed. This means that grass, trees, shrubs and water are all essential.
Hedges, bushes and shrubs are perfect hiding and perching spots for birds, providing foods such as berries, fruit and insects for them to eat. Thoughtfully placed bird boxes make crucial nesting spots. Birds of all kinds are reliant on trees for both food and shelter. Hanging a few bird feeders from the sturdier branches will provide additional resting places, while bird baths will provide a watering hold and bathing spot for smaller birds. Your lawn is also likely to have numerous seeds that birds like - for instance meadow grass, buttercup and dandelion.
3. Make a splash
Garden ponds are the ideal breeding conditions for frogs, newts, and toads, while they will also attract numerous fascinating insects to the area, such as the skater, water boatman and dragonflies. Don't just enjoy the gentle croaking of amphibians - you can also listen to birds, insects and other animals such as the hedgehog who will be making a splash.
4. The morning hush
Whether you're an early riser or want a peaceful haven to retreat to after a busy day, the rustling of leaves can give you complete tranquillity. Swish tall grasses such as the miscanthus and greater quaking grass will both make a lovely rustling sound, even in gentle breezes. Fine-leaved trees such as the birch and robinia will also make a similarly lovely noise, but will need watering every day if planted during the summer. Clunk-bamboo will make a lovely hollow knocking sound when it bumps together, while bigger canes can become wind chimes.
5. All creatures great and small
If you're starting from nothing, an attractive and informal approach can be beds and borders. Plant larger shrubs and fruit trees towards the back of borders and then lower-growing shrubs such as lavender at the front. By using the spaces in between for different types of flowers, you will get a varied habitat, full of light, shade and potential hiding places for birds and smaller mammals such as mice and voles. Another option is an insect hotel or butterfly feeder - you can nestle it in amongst the foliage to supply shelter and food for the smaller insects. By planting climbers against fences, on a trellis or against the side of a shed, you can create a tangle of branches - perfect for insects and secretive birds such as the wren. Honeysuckle or ivy trailing over a fence will act as a 'ladder' that will enable small mammals and insects to travel from one garden to another.
Tips and image courtesy of Wyevale Garden Centres