We moved into a new build property five years ago, the garden completely bare, and in that time we’ve made it into a mini wildlife haven. We put in a pond, a tree, bushes and shrubs, lots of plants for pollinators, a bird bath, a log pile, a bee waterer, a bug hotel, a bird box, the garden is a little wild jungle in suburbia. It’s not big, only 8mx10m with space taken up by a shed and water butts for eco friendly watering, but as much as possible is green and growing. We don’t mow the lawn, it’s grazed by our guinea pigs and rabbits and is only a small patch in the centre of the flowerbeds.
The garden is the perfect place to potter and unwind. I am endlessly fascinated by the changes happening in the garden day to day. I can lose myself following the path of a bee buzzing from flower to flower, admiring the flower buds, seeing what has changed since the previous day.
Small dramas are playing out all the time. A band of hunters are on the move across the garden, preying on a pestilential band savaging the crops. Aphids have attacked the plum tree and the honeysuckle, but a large number of ladybird larvae have swept into action, destroying aphids as they grow larger each day, before forming cocoons, which bounce up and down in response to perceived danger. Three of these we have brought in from the wild, onto our nature table, to see what emerges, ladybird or parasitic wasp, maybe there is an extra layer to this story, the predators being preyed on in turn. They have larger predators too, the blue tits can be seen hanging on the delicate stems of the honeysuckle, methodically removing creatures from its soft leaves, swallowed inside their probing beaks.
Bees, butterflies and moths visit the garden, a constant delight. A painted lady, all the way from Africa to alight in our Berkshire garden, an amazing feat for a creature so small and seemingly fragile.
The garden smells different depending on the time of day, in different weather conditions. On a warm evening the sweet scent of honeysuckle perfumes the air, walking down the path the floral bouquet of lavender greets you, joined by the fresh scent of rosemary, their aroma lingering on the breeze. On damp dull days the earthy petrichor is the underlying scent. As rain begins to fall on a summer day there are top notes of sharp ozone as the first raindrops hit warm rooftops and asphalt.
Drifting over from the rough grassland beyond the houses the trilling complicated song of the skylark, gentle chimes as goldfinches fly overhead, tits shouting their territory, the coo of woodpigeons, squabbling starlings, raucous magpies, a wild soundscape overlaying the noise of nearby roads, people gardening, children playing.
This is my wild place, my peaceful place, the place I shape and am shaped by, my little slice of calm in the urban jungle. I love to watch its changing mood, the subtle changes day to day, week to week, year to year as it grows and develops. The small joys as plants dormant for winter shoot up again the next Spring, the sadness when old friends don’t make it through the winter, the pleasure of finding a new plant a space in the garden, nurturing it from seed or seedling, watching it bloom, getting to know it, the excitement of a new visitor to the garden or an old friend returned, the privilege of having this opportunity to connect so deeply with a window on the natural world.