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Wildlife Garden Design Ideas

Wildlife Garden Design Ideas for the UK

It’s easy to forget how important our gardens are to the country’s overall green space. In fact, private gardens cover more ground than all of Britain’s nature reserves combined! That means they play a vital role in supporting biodiversity – and we can all do our bit to help. Here are some ideas on how to make your garden a haven for wildlife.

Plant native species

One of the simplest and most rewarding ways to attract wildlife into your garden is by planting native flowers, trees and shrubs. Native plants are those that have evolved in the UK over thousands of years and they provide a perfect habitat for many creatures. Not only will they give you plenty of colour throughout the year but birds, bees and other insects will be drawn to them as sources of food or shelter.

 Native plants massively increase biodiversity by allowing invertebrates to complete their lifecycle within the garden.  These larvae, bugs and caterpillars then provide food for beneficial predators such as birds, bats and insects that predate on aphids and other so-called garden ‘pests’.  In reality, all these creatures form part of the healthy ecosystems we all have an opportunity to rebuild in our gardens. 

Examples of native species for wildlife garden design ideas

Native plants generally can be overlooked in favour of their more ‘showy’ cultivated relatives.  Here are a few unsung heroes: 

Nettle (urtica dioica)

Wildlife garden design ideas is the larval plant of many beautiful butterflies and moths including the red admiral, comma, peacock & small tortoiseshell. 

Blackthorn (prunus spinosa)Wildlife garden design ideas 3

the early spring blossom is not only very pretty but also an excellent source of early season pollen and a perfect nest cover for birds.  

Cow Parsley (anthriscus sylvestris)

Wildlife garden design ideas 3provides  food for a wide variety of insects, it’s also a favourite nectar source for the beautiful Orange Tip butterfly which is on the wing in gardens in May.


Wildlife garden design ideas 3is richly biodiverse and home to hundreds of invertebrate species. It has beautiful spring blossom for pollinators with easily accessible flowers for a range of insects. The dense, thorny cover is used by nesting birds and in autumn the berries are a source of food for thrushes. 

Common ivy

Wildlife garden design ideas 3is regarded as the best single plant to have in a wildlife garden, native ivy offers food for pollinators at the very end of the year, plentiful berries for birds and small mammals over winter, shelter for over-wintering insects, nesting sites for many garden birds such as robins, wrens and thrushes, and is a food plant for several species of butterflies, moths and other invertebrates. 

For more ideas on planting native species visit the Wildlife Trust website.

Wildlife Garden design ideas using water

Wildlife garden design ideas 3Another great way to bring wildlife into your garden is by providing water. A pond, bird bath or even just a shallow dish filled with fresh water can all be used to attract birds, frogs and other animals – it may even become home to newts! Make sure there’s easy access for animals so they don’t struggle if the bowl becomes empty during dry spells. Adding a pond to your wildlife garden design is an ideal way of providing some essential hydration for the animals inhabiting the area. Ready-made pond kits are available, making pond construction simple and straightforward. Read how we designed and landscaped a wonderful garden in Oxfordshire complete with wildlife pond here:

After constructing the pond, you might even want to forget to stock it with fish, frogs and other water species to further add life and beauty to your garden! Read our post on garden ponds here for more ideas.

Avoid using Chemicals in the garden

Chemicals such as insecticides could harm any visiting creatures. Instead opt for natural alternatives like companion planting – this involves growing certain types of flower together which naturally repel pests from one another without harming beneficial insects like ladybirds who keep aphids at bay. Read more about companion planting here.

Nesting Sites for Birds

Why not making a home for our feathered friends? Installing nesting boxes in your wildlife garden is a great way to make it immediately more hospitable for birds and other creatures. By providing birds and other creatures with suitable sheltered sites to build their nests, you’re making the birds feel safe and allowing them to create their homes close to your own. By creating nesting sites you’re helping birds adapt which can help increase their numbers in your local area as birds create even more nests, setting a chain reaction of birds thriving in your neighbourhood!

Put the Lawnmower Away

Mowing the lawn is one of those quintessential summertime activities. But did you know that by doing so, you could be harming local wildlife? Leaving your grass to grow even if it’s just one month, for example in ‘No Mow May’, can make a big difference for insects, small mammals, and reptiles because long grass provides valuable habitat and refuge from predators.

After a long winter’s sleep, queen bumblebees emerge for a good drink of nectar to replenish their energy reserves before looking for somewhere to call home, so dandelions and other wildflowers in the lawn are a real boost early in the year.

If you want to make a difference to your local ecosystem, consider leaving an area of grass a bit longer all through the year. Some people just leave the edges of a mown lawn longer for the wildlife to enjoy.

When you nurture the natural ecosystems within your garden, less welcome garden creatures such as aphids and slugs will be kept in check by the wildlife that feeds on them – and you’ll be providing insect food for birds which they need to feed their young in the breeding season. A win win!

Gardens can be much more than just a place to relax in the sun or host summer barbecues. With a few simple changes, your outdoor space can become a haven for wildlife and help to boost biodiversity across the UK.  

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