Courting hedgehogs

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a hedgehog in my garden. I know they’re there – they eat the food we put out for them each night. But with the long days and lots of travelling recently, I just haven’t seen them. So I was delighted last night when, just before going to bed I had one last look into the garden. Not only was there a hedgehog; there were two!

One was quite big, and the other one much smaller. At first Dr C thought they were both interested in the food, which would be unusual as they don’t tend to like sharing food bowls – they’re not the most sociable of animals. But it soon became clear at least one of the hedgehogs had other things on his mind. The old joke sprang to mind: How do hedgehogs mate? Carefully!

The bigger one (the male) circled the smaller, female, hedgehog for quite a while. She was careful not to let him get behind her – I’m not sure she fancied him, even though he looked very handsome to me. This continued for a while, until a helicopter flew over head and the female decided she’d had enough, and scurried off. The male soon followed, so I don’t know if he did eventually manage to seduce her, or whether she gave him the slip.

Anyway, it was lovely to see hedgehogs again. I did try to capture some footage on my phone, but it was too dark. So you’ll just have to imagine it instead. Hopefully we’ll see some hoglets in due course (although whether this particular couple will have young, I don’t know…) My one consolation for the nights getting longer is it becomes easier to watch the hedgehogs.

Advertisements

Wild Garden: June and July

I haven’t forgotten my wildlife gardening challenge – it’s just been a busy few months with lots of work travel. So here’s a quick update on what I have done lately to make my garden even more wildlife friendly.

June – wildflower disaster

I’ve been trying to increase the number of types of native wildflowers in my garden, particularly for the shade planter and pallet planter. I sowed foxgloves, common dog violets, white clover, and wood forget-me-not in my propagator earlier in the spring. They eventually germinated, and, in June, once big enough, I moved them to the greenhouse to harden off.

Wood forget-me-not seedlings
Wood forget-me-not seedlings

Sadly the slugs came and ate them

all (apart from two little clover seedlings), so it was back to square one. I’m now just waiting for the new seedlings to get big enough to transplant.

 

I need to find a solution to the slug problem – they ate all my basil and chilli plants as well. I was hoping that eventually we’d get enough slug predators in the garden to keep the population under control. But that hasn’t happened. The hedgehogs ignore slugs, and if the slow worm is still around it’s not making a dent in slug numbers. Obviously slug pellets aren’t an option for my wildlife garden. I don’t want to use nematodes, as I don’t want to get rid of all the slugs, just stop them eating my precious plants. I don’t want to trap them, as I don’t know what to do with them once caught. I think some kind of barrier is the approach for me – I’ve bought some wool pellets (that deter rather than kill slugs) in the hope they will keep the slugs off my precious plants.

July – insect-friendly plants

July’s gardening has been about planting flowers for insects. We’ve dramtically increased the number of flowering plants in the garden, including:

  • even more lavender

    Salvia Amistad
    Salvia Amistad
  • several types of salvia, including Patio Deep Blue and Amistad
  • vivid violet scabious

    Vivid violet scabious
    Vivid violet scabious
  • red, velvety Cosmos
    Cosmos atrosanguineous
    Cosmos atrosanguineous

    atrosanguineus

  • Lady Boothby fuscia
  • Antirrhinum
  • First Lady Veronica

    Veronica First Lady
    Veronica First Lady

At the garden centre we hunted out plants with the ‘Perfect for Pollinators‘ logo on the label. This was quite straightforward for perennials and shrubs for the border – plenty to choose from. We made a shortlist, and tried to pick a mix of species with different colours, flower shapes and flowering times, to suit as wide a variety of insects as possible. It was harder with bedding plants for our pallet planter – most of the petunias, marigolds etc. on offer have been bred for their looks, rather than accessibility and attractiveness to insects. In the end we managed to find some antirrhinum with the ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ logo, and then squeezed some lavender and lobellia (for its looks) in as well. If you can’t find plants with the ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ logo, watch which ones the insects at the garden centre head towards.

The bees at home couldn’t wait for us to get the new plants in the ground! I knew I had made a good choice when a bee landed on one of the salvias when it was still in its plastic bag in the garden.

Seeing the effect of previous Wild Garden tasks

We’re already seeing the benefit of some of our earlier Wild Garden activities – the solitary bee house seems to have lots of residents, which is very satisfying. If you build it (or install it), they will come.

Bee house with sealed-up cells
Bee house with sealed-up cells

And the bog garden plants are growing nicely, with the loosestrife looking good and attracting insects at the moment.

Bee on loosestrife in the bog garden
Bee on loosestrife in the bog garden

Frogbert and Frogmilla are regularly spotted keeping cool in the pond (when the coast is clear of next door’s kittens). And the buddleia has exploded with flowers, attracting butterflies. The garden is full of life right now.

Riversearch June 2016: Alien invader – Japanese Knotweed

The main challenge with my Riversearch survey in June was seeing the river – since my previous survey, the plants along the riverbank. have shot up. There were stinging nettles taller than me, and inpenetrable thickets of bramble blocking me from getting close to the river in many places. Still, I did manage the occassional glimpse of the river – enough to see that, though the river level was normal, it was still quite turbid.

Intriguing holes in the riverbank

There weren’t any particularly exciting wildlife sightings to report, although I did spot some intriguing holes.

 

I did see a couple of invasive non-native species –  Himalayan balsam, as usual, and a probable sighting of Japanese knotweed. This is the first time I have spotted Japanese knotweed along by the river, and I had to use binoculars from the opposite bank to see it, so I’m not 100% sure about my identification. But I’ve shared the photos with the wildlife trust, who seem to think it is knotweed. I don’t know if it’s new here, or if I spotted it this time and missed it previously because I was doing my stretch in the opposite direction to normal. Anyway, that’s now been reported to the National Trust, who own the land, so hopefully they’ll be able to sort it out swiftly.

Japanese knotweed?

Japanese knotweed doesn’t look particularly startling (unlike Giant Hogweed), but it can be a big problem, spreading quickly and hard to get rid of. In urban areas it can grow up through patios or conservatory floors, so it’s not something you want in your garden. In the countryside it can quickly overwhelm native species.