Donal Hickey: Give your garden over to nature

Private gardens are a huge potential habitat for pressured wildlife. Help out by not cutting grass and hedges so often
Donal Hickey: Give your garden over to nature

THERE’S a saying that when people go into a garden they look for the roses — not the thorns. They want to see something that makes them feel good. 

Nature makes us feel good.

The wilder the area and the greater the variety of plants, the better we feel.

The pandemic is allowing more time for gardening and other pursuits. Garden centres have got busier and, encouragingly, we hear more people are looking for plants that attract bees, butterflies, insects, birds and other wildlife.

Hard to credit but there are over two million domestic gardens in Ireland. That’s around 360,000 acres. So you can imagine the difference if all those private gardens became more wildlife-friendly. Problem is, however, that the majority of people opt for tightly-cut lawns and hedges rather than leaving space for the birds and bees.

Recently, a most useful and beautifully-illustrated booklet entitled, Gardening For Biodiversity, was published with the support of local authority heritage officers and state agencies.

For decades, nature is being squeezed out, as more land is developed for housing and other developments, and farming becomes more intensive. Yet, according to the booklet’s author, Juanita Browne, people can do something about that and they can start just outside their own doors. She notes:

Private gardens represent a huge potential habitat and refuge for Ireland’s pressured wildlife.

The booklet sets out to explain some of the ways everyone can help wildlife in their own garden, no matter how big or small the space or where they live. There are many ways to open up the garden to nature. Like putting up a bird feeder, providing a wildlife pond or growing plants that will attract certain wildlife, which your local garden centre can advise on.

According to Ms Browne, Ireland’s houses are the biggest in Europe and are often surrounded by huge green spaces which can be turned into gardens to be shared with many of God’s creatures. If people did that, they would be compensating in some way for the loss of wild habitat brought out about by land reclamation, drainage and the widespread destruction of hedgerows.

On that vein, one of our largest garden centre networks is calling on enthusiasts of all ages and all skill levels to take the Operation PolliNation pledge and be in with a chance to win a €2,000 pollinator-friendly, garden renovation.

CountryLife wishes to help gardeners make their plots pollinator-friendly and show a little love for our native Irish bees, a third of which are threatened with extinction. 

See for tips and ideas.

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