Wildlife Aware Gardeners
"Wildlife gardening" raised its ugly head again in Saturday's Telegraph, by which I mean the Press's obsession with pigeon holing every approach to gardening so that it's mutually exclusive. This includes "wildlife gardening", whatever the hell "wildlife gardening" is supposed to be. It's now called "wildlife aware gardening" (WAG), which sounds more inclusive, I guess. As if you could be a "wildlife unaware" gardener.
The garden scene in Purley
In the Telegraph article anticipating gardening trends in 2013, Anne Wareham is quoted as saying: "Indiscriminate love of wildlife will take a beating, as animals such as panthers, boar and deer reach the suburbs. 'Hug a slug' may become less fashionable". I've no idea about panthers in Purley (humour? Hard to tell) but she has got a point about the "indiscriminate love of wildlife". Frankly I garden for myself, like most gardeners. The wildlife in my garden generally gives me enormous pleasure, which is why I encourage it. If I can help an endangered species then so much the better - I can feel smug as well. I might "do" wildlife gardening but there's wildlife I can't be doing with. I don't exactly encourage* rats and grey squirrels, for example. Like the squirrels, Roe deer
are very unwelcome too (and need to be more aggressively culled).
In the same article Ken Thompson looks forward to the results from RHS Plants for Bugs project, which he says he expects "to knock on the head the idea that native plants are always best for wildlife". This is not startling news, Ken. Native plants aren't always best for wildlife but, unfortunately for the horticultural business, mostly they are. Non-natives can provide fantastic sources of forage for bees,
particularly at potentially problemmatic times of year; any decent reference book on plants for bees will recommend non-native and native plants alongside each other. I'm not sure how many non-native plants can be eaten by our butterfly larvae, however, although non-native shrubs can be the best berrying plants for birds. Fruit trees
(native or non-native?) are fabulous for biodiversity... Is this more complicated message going to get out in the Press? No it's not, because apparently you either have to be for or against planting all native species like you have to be "aware" or "unaware" of all wildlife.
People just don't garden like that, and why should they? Many garden designers would like you not to have wildflowers or fruit and veg in your "formal garden area" but I like them in mine, rubbing shoulders with "proper" flowers. My predecessor at our house was an "Avian Aware Gardener", whereas I'm more of your general "Ecosystem Aware Gardener" - both WAGs in our own ways. I put up with slugs as tasty treats for toads and slow worms whereas I'm sure he liked them for the thrushes. Like Anne, we're not slug huggers but belong in the mainstream of the gardening world.