How to Nurture Wildlife When Developing Landscapes 
PUBLISHED 11 Feb, 2022

Give wildlife a helping hand  

Wildlife extinction rates have greatly risen in the UK over recent decades, with over 50% of wildlife species in decline, and a further 15% under threat.  
Therefore, it’s more vital now than ever, to increase our environmental efforts and create safe havens for wildlife.  

When it comes to designing landscapes—such as SANGS (Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space) and POS (Public Open Space) —there are many features to include in developments that can help protect the local wildlife, from creating habitats and building shelters, to growing specific varieties of plants that are perfect for pollinators. 

It’s incredibly important to consider local wildlife when creating landscapes; wildlife conservation helps to provide protection against climate change, provides food sources and encourages pollination and continuity of native plants. 

How to build habitats and shelter for wildlife 

Wildlife–including birds and butterflies–need safe habitats to breed and shelter. Trees, bushes and hedges all provide excellent habitats and shelter for birds and small mammals, such as hedgehogs. As well as vital shelter from predators and other elements, trees also provide a safe spot for nesting. Additionally, their role in reducing CO2 emissions is vast, making them a very important part of your landscape design. Some great varieties consist of Birch (Betula), Holly (Ilex) and Rowan (Sorbus). Hedging also has some great benefits, as it can offer food, including berries, fruits and nectar-rich flowers, and also allows wildlife to move easily between boundaries. A few ideal hedging varieties, to consider incorporating into your landscapes, include Dogwood (Cornus), Hawthorn (Crataegus), Field-Maple (Acer campestre), Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and Beech (Fagus sylvatica). 

Other methods of creating habitats and shelter for wildlife involve using borders and climbers. Borders, made up of flowering plants and shrubs, provide butterflies and bees with nectar-rich food, berries and seeds, as well as cover for small mammals and birds. Climbers are also very beneficial when it comes to wildlife, such as Ivy (Hedera helix). Ivy offers year-round cover for insects and birds, in addition to food and pollen. Other particularly great varieties of climbers are Honeysuckle (Lonicera) and Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris). Climbers also provide butterflies with a place to hibernate, as well as shelter from the rain for bees.  

Ponds are another great feature to add to your landscaping design. Ponds act as an aesthetically pleasing habitat for many different species and also provide a useful drinking source. Dragonflies, frogs, toads, snails and water beetles are just a few of the local species who benefit, and particular birds also collect insects from the water surface to use as a food source.  

Which plant species are wildlife-friendly? 

We’ve already covered a variety of plant species which benefit the local wildlife, however there are some particularly valuable varieties of plants for certain species of insects, birds and mammals – we have grouped these key plants below with the creatures that thrive on them: 

Plants for nocturnal creatures and night-time explorers 

Overnight, there are a plethora of wildlife out and about, and insects are busy pollinating plants which release their scent at night, such as Honeysuckle and Evening Primrose (Oenothera). These night-flying insects then become a great food source for local bats. Unfortunately, many species of bats are considered vulnerable or endangered and their population has significantly declined; this is due to reasons including habitat loss and reduced food supply. 

Recently categorised as “vulnerable”, hedgehogs are now on Britain’s red list of mammals, even though numbers of hedgehogs have fallen by up to 50% since 2000, there are plenty of strategies you can utilise to help their declining population. It’s crucial for hedgehogs to have freedom of movement, best achieved by providing gaps in boundaries and by including plenty of hedging within your plan. Hedging is also an ideal habitat for hedgehogs, as piles of leaves accumulate underneath and provide an area for feeding, hibernating and breeding. Native hedges are a bonus—such as Hawthorn, Buckthorn and Beech—due to moths being particularly attracted and then laying their eggs. The eggs will eventually grow into caterpillars—an excellent food source for hedgehogs. 

Plants for Butterflies 

Butterflies will generally feed on most flowers’ nectar; however, this is not the case for caterpillars, who only feed on host plants. Caterpillars are more particular about the plants they feed on, with some of their favourites being Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus). As a general rule, you can encourage butterflies into your landscape by planting a variety of species which flower during different seasons. 

Plants for Birds 

Some top plant species for birds consist of those which bear berries during the winter. Examples include Holly, Skimmia, Ivy and Firethorn (Pyracantha). Birds will also appreciate when plants are allowed to go to seed, as this provides a winter food source and also offers winter-interest in the garden. Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) is another bird-friendly plant with its beautiful autumnal red berries. 

How can I create a bee-friendly landscape? 

Pollinators–such as bees–are currently facing huge threats for a number of reasons, including climate change, a reduction in plant variety and the use of pesticides.  
Thankfully, there are some steps we can take when designing landscapes, to help protect bees and our ecosystems. 

Utilising plants with single, open flowers is a great way to encourage bees into your garden, as they make it easy for them to access pollen and nectar. Examples include Marigold (Calendula officinalis), Dahlia (Dahlia hortensis) and Crocus (Crocus sativus).  

Bees are also particularly drawn to purple flowering plants, as they can see this colour much more clearly than others. Catmint (Nepeta), Lavender (Lavandula) and Heliotrope (Heliotropium) are all excellent for this reason. Another popular purple flowering plant is Foxglove (Digitalis)—a tubular-shaped favourite for garden bumblebees in particular, as their long tongues can access the pollen and nectar easily. 

With bees actively on the search for food from early spring, it’s great practice to combine a mixture of plants which provide nectar throughout different points of the year, until the colder months set in. During spring, plants such as Dogwood, Lungwort (Pulmonaria) and Crocus will provide early nectar. Summer sees plants such as Lavender and Foxglove blooming, and autumn will provide pollen and nectar through plants including Honeysuckle and Dahlia. Not only will the bees appreciate your efforts, but potential homebuyers and local residents will also see this as a benefit with year-round interest in these green spaces. 

If you require any further information or have any questions regarding largescale landscaping that promotes healthy habitats, do not hesitate to get in touch with our experts. 

As you can see, there are an abundance of creative options that you can consider, to nurture wildlife in your landscaping plans, and with the ongoing concern around extinction rates in the UK, we can each do our bit to help the environment and make a real difference. 

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