Attracting Wildlife to the Garden

Attracting Wildlife to the Garden

‘Hello Dr Kris
We are making a new garden. What are the best local plants we can plant to attract birds, butterflies and bees in a Sanur garden. Big thank you. Margot’

Growing plants that are native to your area is the best idea for most gardens, not only will they be easier to grow they will also be much more attractive to all pollinators. Every garden benefits from having wildlife and pollinators. Birds, bees and butterflies are among the best. Without them there would be fewer flowers, fruits and vegetables. Attracting pollinators to the garden is another cog in the wheel of holistic gardening. Thankfully the same gardening practices that help to attract wildlife also improve air, water and soil quality. It only takes a few plants and a little planning to create a habitat for birds, bees and butterflies, which are helpful additions to your own garden at the same time. Birds, bees and butterflies will not only pollinate your garden, but they will also bring the canvas to life. Birds fluttering, bees buzzing and butterflies flopping about provide a calming ambience to the overall feeling of the whole garden. To start making your garden more sustainable, mulch your garden beds, collect rainwater and definitely don’t use chemical pesticides.

To attract birds to your garden you will need to provide the three main requirements for their survival in any environment: water, shelter and food. Bird baths, ponds and other water features can supply this but the garden must be free of cats, otherwise situated in an open area where the birds can see if a predator is approaching. Remember that water features will need ongoing maintenance in order to keep them clean and to avoid producing a haven for mosquitoes. Clean out bird baths every few days, and you may need to put goldfish and minnows in your ponds. Birds will use the water to for drinking and bathing, and water sources will also likely help attract butterflies and dragonflies.

Growing dense shrubs will provide birds with shelter, protection from predators and possibly even a nesting habitat. Trees with hollows (both dead and living trees) also provide nesting sites for birds. Assess whether or not you need to remove dead trees, otherwise simply leave them where they are. Food is best supplied by planting nectar, fruit or seed producing trees, shrubs and grasses. Try to provide different food sources, not just nectar, so that a range of bird species are attracted to your garden. Some birds will feed high up in the trees, and some will feed on the ground. Birds are generally attracted to elongated tubular type flowers. For flowering shrubby plants that will provide protection grow bougainvillea or dwarf bamboo. Try growing trees with small berries or fruits, such as palms, wild guava and bananas. For flowers try frangipani, heliconias, hibiscus or creeping plants for vertical walls such as passion flower and thurnbergia grandiflora.

Plant flowers to attract bees, plant as many as you can! Bees are really only looking for two things when they visit your garden, nectar and pollen. Nectar is loaded with sugars, and is their primary energy source. Pollen provides them a balanced diet of proteins and fats. These days many popular flower varieties are hybridized for features that are valued by the gardener, such as colour, flower size, length of bloom and disease resistance. Unfortunately this process has reduced the production of nectar and pollen and sometimes leaves the resulting plant completely sterile and useless to bees and other pollinators. So try your best to plant native un-hybridized flowers. Grow ixora, aster, lantana, marigolds, jasmine, saraca indica-pohon asoka, champaca-cempaka, oleander and groundcover nasturtium. They will even like the daisies and dandelions growing wild out of the garden. Whilst not native, culinary herbs such as lavender, thyme or rosemary even if potted, will do well to attract bees. Native bees are primarily ground dwelling and prefer soil free of chemical pesticide and fertilisers.

Butterflies like bees will be attracted by flowers. Butterflies prefer open faced type flowers, which provide a landing pad for them whilst feeding. Butterfly attracting gardens will provide both food sources and host plants. If butterflies are attracted to your garden they will also likely lay eggs. Yes, some leaves will get eaten, but you can’t have one without the other. Water sources, shrubs and trees provided for birds will also help attract butterflies. Trees and shrubs provide butterflies with food and offer protection from wind and predators. For growing flowers to attract butterflies try, lantana, gardenias, saraca indica – pohon asoka, magnolia, morning glory, milkweed, and candle flower – bunga lilin. Having butterflies in the garden may also attract more birds, which will help control other insect populations in the garden.

If you can incorporate a few combinations of these plants around your garden you will be attracting wildlife and end up with a stunning landscape at the same time. Plants that attract bees and butterflies will overlap with each other and even attract the birds to some extent, whilst growing a frangipani tree for the birds will also attract bees and butterflies! Don’t be too concerned about details, just grow a variety of native flowers that are scented and bright that appeal to you and can be easily incorporated into your existing landscape. Trial and error is often the best method, as wildlife populations, types of birds and butterflies can significantly vary over a small geographical area.

Other points to remember

To grow flowers well you’ll need at least six hours of sun a day. If you’ve got limited space, consider gardening upwards by making use of vertical structures, such as walls and fences to grow vines such as morning glory or jasmine. Even planting a hanging basket can attract pollinators. Select a wide variety of plants and flowers of all shapes and sizes, to provide constant blooms and a wide selection of flower shapes and types. Deadheading flowers regularly will help maintain linger blooms. When flowering has finished and they are beginning to shrivel, cut them off to promote fresh production. Lantana will grow and spread quickly, bees and butterflies love it, grow it in pots to avoid it taking over your garden. Morning glory and oleander have toxic flowers and leaves so take care when gardening with children and educate them on which plants are edible and which shouldn’t be touched or played with. Always avoid using pesticides.

Dr. Kris
Garden Doctor
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