Review: A Companion to Wildlife Gardening – Chris Baines

 

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I have recently been lucky enough to receive Chris Baines’ new book, ‘Companion to Wildlife Gardening’ to take a look at. If you are old enough (and I am!) you may own the predecessor to this newly updated version, ‘How to make a Wildlife Garden’, published back in 1985. This new version is fully updated and revised and builds on research from the RHS.

Chris Baines is a leading environmental advisor to industry and government, a broadcaster and prize winning writer. He created the very first wildlife garden at Chelsea way back in 1985. If you have the chance to visit Chelsea Flower Show today, you will realise how much the British public has embraced gardening for wildlife and many of the gardens now exhibit more naturalised planting with many show spaces very much focusing on both habitat creation and creative, attractive use of species that are excellent for wildlife.

Fully revised and updated by the author, this wonderful new book has new illustrations and photographs and highlights many of the changes in garden wildlife over the past 30 years. It incorporates RHS research, updates best practice and addresses a multitude of controversial conservation issues. The book is full of lots of practical advice which is helpful to both ‘newbies’ to wildlife gardening and seasoned gardeners who very much garden with wildlife in mind.

The book is split into 3 main parts:

  • Why make a wildlife garden?
  • Creating new habitats
  • Supplementing the habitats

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It also has pages of useful addresses and websites to help you find the species and advice you need.

Important subjects such as which plants to choose for bees, birds and butterflies are covered with a whole chapter focusing on cultivated and native wild flower species to choose. These are split into colour schemes to help you plan and text tells you why they are great for wildlife.

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Of course, there is important help and advice on how to construct the ideal wildlife pond, where to position nesting boxes and it is packed with ideas on how to attract and enjoy wildlife in any sized garden. Advice is given on feeding the birds and setting up a bird table, through to creating a bee hotel and the value of your compost heap!

With a decline in natural habitats, gardens and gardeners have an increasingly  important role in nature conservation and our combined gardens form a huge ‘nature reserve’. In fact, in the UK alone, there are more than 400,000 hectares of domestic gardens – much greater area than all the nation’s nature reserves!

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Chris also states that, ‘As your wildlife garden gets better and better and as you learn about the range of animals that use it as a service station, you will, I hope develop a keen interest in the wildlife potential in your whole neighbourhood’ He explores how you can develop your growing love of nature and learn more about the wildlife outside of your garden; Where do your bats come from, before they flit around your garden? Where are the Small tortoiseshells on your Buddleia laying their eggs? How could you be galvanised into action to stop the council spraying all the local nettles?

Obviously, I garden very much with wildlife in mind, I am already a convert to the immense pleasure it can bring. I simply cannot imagine not having  a wildlife friendly garden and it is a constant source of joy, pleasure and inspiration to me.

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This is a truly superb book absolutely crammed full of interesting, helpful and highly informative images and text. It is a wonderful addition to any wildlife enthusiast’s bookshelf, whether they be experienced or new to gardening for wildlife!