Sid Valley Biodiversity Group: A wildlife-friendly garden

PUBLISHED: 10:00 02 August 2020

John Twibell's wildlife-friendly garden. Picture: John Twibell

John Twibell's wildlife-friendly garden. Picture: John Twibell

John Twibell

The Sid Valley Biodiversity Group contributes regular reports to the Herald. This week member John Twibell points to the hazards of having a garden devoted to wildlife.

John Twibell's wildlife-friendly garden. Picture: John TwibellJohn Twibell's wildlife-friendly garden. Picture: John Twibell

I was asked to write a short article about our gardening for biodiversity in this garden, which seems particularly galling this morning as I woke up to find that a fox had killed my chickens.

The garden at Farthingwood is a 2.5 acre slice of the former grounds of Balfour Manor and is a partly wooded hillside with many specimen trees and a spring-fed pond. The perimeter is largely fenced to exclude larger species such as deer (but clearly not foxes), but the garden contains part of a large badger sett which is shared with the manor grounds.

The garden was relatively overgrown when we came and we have cut back the understorey of more aggressive plants such as Portuguese Laurel, Sweet Bay and brambles, making space for fruit and veg production and ornamental flowers.

We have replanted an understorey of more ornamental or insect-attracting shrubs, and incorporated fruit trees.

John Twibell's wildlife-friendly garden. Picture: John TwibellJohn Twibell's wildlife-friendly garden. Picture: John Twibell

This combination of trees and shrubs provides food and shelter to a wide range of birds.

Most of the trimmings are shredded and composted, or chipped for mulch, or dumped around the periphery to increase habitat and store carbon.

Larger log material is stored for firewood or left to slowly rot down as beetle habitat.

The central area is grown as a perennial wildflower meadow which is cut down in stages through the late summer to favour different groups of wild plants, but minimize disruption to the wide range of insects and small rodents such as voles that in turn support the local owl population.

John Twibell's wildlife-friendly garden. Picture: John TwibellJohn Twibell's wildlife-friendly garden. Picture: John Twibell

We keep bees to help with pollination, but let them do their own thing without management.

The pond supports many native waterside plants, various wildlife from damsel and dragonflies through amphibians to grass snakes.

Part of a raised bed area is used to grow plants from endangered local coastal habitats such as dune shingle and saltmarsh, for attempted introduction to the beach garden along the Millenium walkway by the sea.

The garden is also the home of the National Collection of Artemisia, and is open for members of the public to come and see by appointment.


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