Gardening for Wildlife

With so much more land being built on, paved over or concreted in, our own gardens play an increasingly vital role in supporting our native flora and fauna species.  But that’s not just for their benefit, it’s for our benefit too.  We learn about the food chain in infant school but conveniently forget it when it comes to greenfly on our roses!  As gardeners, we will get more effective results if we work with nature, not against it. 

To be a wildlife gardener doesn’t mean you have to have a garden that looks a complete mess.  It can be beautiful and support a wide range of species too.  Here are a few simple and often inconspicuous tips that will ensure your patch – however small or large – becomes a sanctuary for wildlife and for you.


hedgehog drinking

All living creatures need water so try to introduce a range of water sources at different positions and heights around your garden.  What will suit a landing bird might not suit a dinky hedgehog, for example.  We don’t often think about it but even insects need water so shallow dishes with a few pebbles for them to land on will allow them to drink too.

Where you can, use rainwater rather than tap water. Although it won’t harm wildlife, our tap water can be rather hard and any pondlife will definitely prefer rainwater.

Plant range

Many of us are guilty of dedicating large areas of our gardens to a monoculture crop: our lawn. If you take pride in yours, we’re not suggesting you dig it up, just think about providing the widest diversity of other types of plant in the rest of the garden that you can. 

There are two main things to think about when choosing wildlife friendly plants. First, think about when a plant flowers or produces its seeds and berries in relation to the other plants in your garden, so you can try to provide food sources for as long as possible. If all your summer bedding comes into flower at once, for example, not only will it make for very short-lived interest for us humans, but it won’t support our wildlife as much as it could.  Second, think about different flower shapes so you can attract the widest range of insects possible.  Hover flies, for example, love flat-headed flowers, like Ammi Majus (or cow parsley) whereas some varieties of bee like crawling up into the funnels of flowers like foxglove or snap dragon to find their food.  When you can, try to avoid ‘double’ flowers as they can often be bred to have so many petals that the insects can’t find their way through to the nectar or pollen at all.

When planting native plants, ensure they are of genuine native stock and not of continental origin. Also, ensure ‘wild flowers’ have been cultivated from legally collected seed and not dug-up from the wild. (All Hambrooks plants are from responsible sources).

Think habitats

A varied garden is more interesting for us but can also provide more potential habitats for wildlife too. And some of the most under-rated garden features can provide useful homes or shelters.

Although lawns can support a range of smaller insects, they can become a really important habitat if you are prepared to leave a patch to grow longer. Borders full of flowering plants and shrubs don’t just provide food but they can provide cover for birds and small mammals too.  (Anyone who has heard a hedgehog snuffling around their dahlias will know that!)

Hedges, trees and climbers provide great opportunities for nesting or roosting; natural roosting sites are becoming increasingly hard to find so any help we can offer is welcome.  Hedges also offer valuable shelter to birds and mammals from the elements and potential predators.  And even the smallest water features can become a habitat for a variety of invertebrates and amphibians, as well as providing water and bathing facilities to other garden visitors. Even a compost heap or pile of garden clippings can provide protection for small creatures.

insect hotel

If you’re feeling particularly welcoming, why not install a bird box, bat box or bug hotel in your garden?  There are lots of guides online to build your own. Do be mindful of the instructions on where to site your new home, as some creatures have particular habits we need to bear in mind.

Don't be too tidy everywhere

As we’re already said, areas of long grass and wood piles are brilliant homes for a variety of animals, birds and insects so one of the best things you can do to encourage wildlife into your garden is not to be too neat.  Or at least, allocate areas of the garden that you will leave less neat than others!

As well as food and shelters, we need to provide suitable opportunities for wildlife to nest or lay eggs.  For example, butterflies need suitable plants on which to lay their eggs, and for the emerging caterpillars to feed on. Honesty and hedge garlic, for example, are loved by orange tip butterflies and brimstones love buckthorn bushes!

Ditch the chemicals if you possibly can

Most of us are getting better at ditching the weed killers and pesticides but, for the sake of your garden’s native inhabitants, try to cut out the chemical complete.  There are many really effective, natural alternatives now so there are less excuses today.

Of course, encouraging nature into your garden will also mean you have natural predators to help you.  Hedgehogs will help with your slug and snail problem, but they will also gobble up beetles and caterpillars too. To answer that perennial question “what is the point of wasps?”, they eat aphids and insects so can be useful to have around. That’s without mentioning the diet of more well-known garden predators like ladybirds, bats and garden birds.

So many of our actions have an impact on wildlife which goes beyond our gardens, and it’s important for us to think about this when choosing materials and creating our spaces.

spray chemical

It doesn’t take much effort to become a wildlife supporter, but it does perhaps take a little thought. So much of what we do in our gardens has a wider impact on the nature around us, we need to be more mindful of other inhabitants of our little planet.

Much of the information in this article, as well as many more useful tips on gardening for wildlife, can be found on the RSPB website.

Read more about wildlife gardening here or find our guide to feeding garden birds here.




N. Haggard 20 September 2022

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say how delighted I am with my new garden.

Jon, my designer, listened to my ideas and delivered on everything I asked for. I wanted something different to any garden I’d had before, no lawn, no landscaping but packed with plants. He designed such a lovely secret garden, around a statement tree. And I have to commend him for his unwavering patience! I changed my mind a hundred times but never did he give me the impression that he was losing patience with my endless indecision. And my confidence in him led me to place an order for over £10k.

My landscaping team, Blade and Tony, were exceptional, from their work ethic, skill and knowledge, to the way they dealt with me, the customer. My standards are very high and I couldn’t fault them.

All in all, a very professional team of people. And it showed that they all care. I’m over the moon with the finished result. I will send you a before and after photo. Thank you so much.

A delighted customer.

G. Gray. May 2022

My front garden has been transformed by Andy and Bradley who both worked incredibly hard and I am delighted with the result. Andy had the vision and skill to turn my idea into reality and I can't thank him enough.

C. Haig Sept 2021

We recently had our garden landscaped by Hambrooks and I just wanted to pass on my thanks, not just for the outcome - which is superb - but for the professionalism of all the staff involved on the job who are all a credit to you company. Mike, Dave, Les and Adam.

H. Sharp Sept 2021

I just wanted to let you know how delighted I am with my new garden. Melanie was a delight to work with and the ideas she had have worked perfectly. Also Sheldon laid the patio beautifully and him and Dave were a pleaseure to have at my house. Quiet workers and polite.

B. Rendell April 2021

I would like to say how delighted we are with the work carried out. Mel, Paul and Tony all worked very hard, they totally took on board the specific need relating to safety as well as the general garden issues. Paul and Tony were excellent at consulting and discussing with me what I felt best in terms of the brief and adjusting if and as necessary, constantly pleasant and polite to deal with. Mel had picked up on particular issues from the first consultation and offered valuable advice. The outcome means a great deal less worry for me going forward.
Altogether a very positive experience and outcome which I would not hesitate to recommend to others.

Stephen March 2021

Dom and Adam's work (garden maintenance) is greatly appreciated. Dom really listened to everything we discussed very carefully and went out of his way to understand and then act upon that discussion. We are extremely pleased with the work done - both to the pond and pyracantha.


We have been coming to Hambrooks for years and it's our favourite garden centre because of its friendly helpful staff and a great selection of plants and trees and the garden design ideas.

“We wanted to write and say how pleased we are with our low maintenance garden makeover. We are very impressed with the attitude of your staff who were prepared to listen to our requirements. Your team John and Rick brushed up and left everything tidy at the end of the day. We now have a garden we can manage and it looks great. THANK YOU HAMBROOKS.”

Mr & Mrs Venables, Southampton. April 2019

“Dear Josh & Mike We just want to say you both did a brilliant job of designing our garden along with the guys who did the work who were amazing. A few weeks on its looks even better now some of the plants are blooming. Thank you!!”

Mr & Mrs Gazzard, Winchester July 2019

“To James, John & Rikki. Thank you so much, we are delighted with our new garden. We really appreciate the attention to detail, the high quality workmanship and the standard of the finished project. We are amazed at how John & Rikki resolved the difficulties of the site and by the quality of their craftmanship. It was a pleasure to work with them and thank you for making our ideas into something we will enjoy for years to come.”