Take A Walk On The Wild Side…

Do you fancy being a wildlife warden in your own nature reserve?  If you go about creating a wildlife garden correctly (and not just leaving a bit of your garden to go wild) you will be rewarded with countless visits by new birds, insects, animals and amphibians. You might even get an increase in crop yield from your veg and fruit. And helping out wildlife doesn’t mean you have to compromise on design either.

A wildlife garden doesn't need to compromise on style

A wildlife garden doesn’t need to compromise on style

Why should we encourage wildlife into our gardens?

Lots of indigenous creatures like hedgehogs, sparrows, stag beetles and song thrushes are continuing to struggle in the UK. But with more than 16 million gardens in the UK, imagine the difference we could make if we all did a little bit more in our gardens to help.

We have recently redesigned the gardens at Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre for the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It’s been incredibly rewarding seeing how our designs can make a real difference to wildlife on that reclaimed industrial wasteland and look beautiful at the same time. Whether you are thinking of a whole new garden design that centres around wildlife or if you have an area you could designate for them, there are lots of ways you can really make a difference.

The new Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre which Vialii designed features funky bug hotels as well as a pond and living walls

The new Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre which Vialii designed features funky bug hotels as well as a pond and living walls

Before you embark on your wildlife garden…

If you’re looking at a new garden design, you first need to determine just what you want to use your garden for and who will be using it. Once you have the basic structure of patios, seating areas, paths, veg areas, borders and lawns sorted you can then start thinking about the smaller creatures who also enjoy hanging out in your garden (wildlife that is, hopefully you’ve already thought about children and pets!)

The pond we built in this Edinburgh garden is a haven for wildlife

The pond we built in this Edinburgh garden is a haven for wildlife

Things to consider in a wildlife garden


The single most beneficial item you can introduce in your wildlife garden design is a pond. Ideally don’t add fish as they will eat visiting wildlife which kind of defeats the purpose! Make sure one side of the pond has a more gradual sloping side to allow creatures easy access.


By being intelligent with the choice of flowers you can provide pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. That has the added benefit of helping with any pollination in your veg and fruit plots. Pick a range of flowers so that nectar and pollen is available from spring (e.g crocuses) through to autumn (e.g. Michaelmas daisies). Also ensure you have a mix of trees and shrubs.  Larger trees are great at providing food and shelter for a range of wildlife. Also, 96% of our native wildflower meadows have been lost in the last 60 years so by including one in your garden you can help restore the balance. They are relatively low maintenance and you can even mow a path through it to add intrigue and encourage exploration in your garden design.

View across the lower pond

A stunning garden pond we created

Wood piles

Decaying wood is increasingly rare in the countryside so by leaving a pile of dead wood you’ll benefit stag and bark beetles and their grub as well as many fungi.   You can be creative with the structure of the pile and can make it look quite architectural or funky.

Create alternative habitats

Another more rustic idea is to make a rock garden that will attract important flying insects such as mason bees.  During their 6-8 week life they will help pollinate your fruit trees. They need a source of mud but with our climate in Scotland this is not normally a problem! They also need a shelter.  Mason bees’ nesting holes are ideally 5mm diameter and 15cm deep.  You can provide paper straws or bamboo tubes in these dimensions and perhaps tuck them in an upturned flowerpot or buy a commercially available option.

Solutions for smaller spaces

If you’re short on space or can’t commit to a complete garden design, you can still help out wildlife.  You could plant up a hanging basket with ox-eye daisies, lavender, wild pansies and honeysuckle to encourage bees and butterflies. Or just fill a planter with wildflower seeds rather than having a full meadow area.

A bee on sedum

The correct planting will help encourage wildlife into your garden

If you hanker after a pond but think you’ve not got the space you could create a pond in a pot. You just need a water tight container – how about up-cycling an old Belfast sink with the hole plugged? Place 2-4cm of peat-free compost in the bottom and cover with gravel. Fill the container with water (rainwater is ideal but if using tap water leave for 2-3 days). Then plant up once the water has cleared. Use oxygenating plants which will survive in water.  You can make a little shelf and plant marginals. All you need to do then is keep the water levels topped up (again using rainwater to reduce likelihood of algal blooms) and enjoy the new wildlife.

Think about your boundaries

Another option for a small wildlife garden is to make a functional item such as a fence into a living boundary by covering them with wildlife friendly flowering and berry producing plants. Honeysuckle bark makes good nest building material for birds and the flowers attract a plethora of insects. Clematis plants provide burst of colour for us and attract insects and provide shelter for birds. Ivy is another excellent option as the flowers provide autumn nectar for honey bees and red admiral butterflies, birds love the berries and lots of wildlife can use the plant for shelter.

If you are interested in creating a wildlife garden and need some help, contact us for a free design consultation.

Thanks for reading,

All at Vialii

Do You Do Room Service?

Everyone likes a nice, comfy home and bugs are no different from the rest of us. Many are happy to set up home under a pile of leaves or logs. But why not go a step further and create your own bug version of Gleneagles in your very own back garden with a 5 Star Bug Hotel? Here’s how to make a bug hotel…

A stunning bug hotel from the Chelsea Flower Show

A stunning bug hotel from the Chelsea Flower Show

Many of us like to have a neat and tidy garden and by doing so we often eradicate the natural habitats bugs can call home. Or in a new garden with lots of hard landscaping and container planting there may be limited places for invertebrates to set up home. Bug hotels are purpose built structures which can be as simple or grand as you like.

A bug hotel on Seil Island with a green roof

A bug hotel on Seil Island with a green roof

Designing A Bug Hotel

The first rule of creating a bug hotel is to incorporate a variety of materials and different shapes and sizes of nooks and crannies. Different bugs have different requirements so in order to be diverse and encourage as much wildlife as possible into your garden make sure you use a wide array of materials.  Offer everything from single rooms up to penthouse suites with a spa thrown in for good measure!

[[image:blog/blog-roomservice-3.jpg=A stunning bug hotel from the Chelsea Flower Show using lots of different materials]]

If you can, do a rough design of what you want your bug hotel to look like. Most bug hotels are made from reclaimed material thus making them cheap and easy to build as well as good for the environment. You could use some old pallets which are easy to get hold of to create the different layers of your bug hotel. Or if you are feeling adventurous you could create a real focal point in your garden by building a tower similar to the fantastic work of art at the Chelsea Flower Show a few years ago.

Building A Bug Hotel

Building a bug hotel is a wonderful project to build with children and you can encourage them to collect the materials you are going to use. Many of these you will have lying around the house and you can ask friends and family to donate to your hotel. Ideal materials include:

Pack the various materials into different sections of your “hotel” and soon you will have created a home which looks interesting and will have wide appeal.

A pallet incorporating a bug hotel at RHS Cardiff Show

A pallet incorporating a bug hotel at RHS Cardiff Show

Bug Central

So what sort of bugs might pack their bags and move into their new home? Well , common sights include mason bees, woodlice, ladybirds, spiders, beetles and centipedes. By encouraging these bugs into your garden they will help you combat the pests which eat your plants and ruin your grass. Great guests to have and ones which always be welcome back! Wonder if you get Trip Advisor for beetles…

Lots of bamboo canes make an ideal home

Lots of bamboo canes make an ideal home

If you want advice on building a bug hotel or other ways of turning your garden into a haven for wildlife please get in touch.

For more information on making your own bug hotel please visit our blogs Make Your Own Bug Hotel and How To Make A Bug Hotel.

All at Vialii