It's here - and wildlife time, too!

The unexpected arrival just after lunch of the Dobies 2013 catalogue has taken me unawares and out-performed my scheduled topic for this week. Indeed, as I removed it from the postal wrapper, I realised just how clever the package is. For it is so much more than a catalogue – it is a Wallet, into which slot TWO main ‘annual’ brochures incorporating seeds, plants and equipment for 2013: one focusing on fruit and vegetables, and the second on flowers. Then additionally, there are three special leaflets covering ‘bedding, basket and container plants’, special offers, and ‘easy steps to grow ‘potatoes, onions, garlic and shallots’. The latter is packed with recipes produced especially for Dobies by Michelin-starred chef, Simon Hulstone.

The aim of the Wallet is that it is – and will be – the perfect receptacle for these and future mini-catalogues and leaflets. And how appropriate is the front cover image, for it perfectly encapsulates the importance of bio-diversity, where the garden merges into the landscape, and there are wildlife corridors between the two. OK, so we don’t all live in glorious Devon, or even with rural surroundings, but it is perfectly possible to provide suitable wildlife havens within urban gardens – even in the midst of bustling cities (a topic we will return to at a later date.

From my sketchbook (2001)
Which brings me back to the scheduled topic for this week: birds. They are vital to the well-being of any garden, help to keep insect pests under control, and other nasties. Consider their needs: The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) is seeking help from gardeners, for the effects of a cold and wet spring could cause yet more problems for wildlife through the autumn and winter, 

The shy Jay (copyright
Ben Andrew, RSPB)
Ben Andrew, RSPB Wildlife advisor, says: “It’s been a difficult spring and summer for wildlife, with our make Your Nature Count survey in June highlighting that birds were struggling to find enough natural sources of food for themselves and their chicks.   Natural food is very important at this time of year and a lean autumn crop is the last thing that our wildlife needs.”

A perfect garden habitat for birds (copyright Andy Hay (
Providing food like fatballs and seeds for birds is important, but the RSPB is also urging people to manage their gardens and land with wildlife in mind.  That means not cutting back berry-bearing hedges and shrubs, so that any berries on them can be eaten by wildlife, and leave fallen fruits on the ground for species like blackbirds. Nut-bearing bushes and trees mean wildlife can access the food, and can shelter among the leaves and branches as the weather turns colder. Ben Andrew continues: “Our gardens can be lifelines for wildlife, especially when conditions are tough.  A good garden, no matter how small, can provide food and shelter for a variety of wildlife during the winter and still be attractive to look at.”

Spot the nuthatch on the middle feeder (copyright Ray Quinton)
This plea set me thinking, and this evening I will be sitting by the fire, working my way through the wealth of printed material, and listing flowers that can be left to run to seed next year – so if 2013 proves as difficult as it has been in 2012, my garden will be well-prepared to welcome wildlife.

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