Containers are a way of attracting wildlife to areas where you can’t plant directly into the ground or the more formal parts of your garden.
Planting herbs and nectar-rich plants will attract important pollinators like butterflies, ladybirds, bees and other insects which in turn attract birds and small mammals. And if you group planters together you provide shelter between them for wildlife as well as increasing your watering efficiency.
Window boxes, troughs, hanging baskets or terracotta pots will add another element to your garden, so fill them with wildlife-friendly plants that can be enjoyed by animals and people.
In your garden
- Fill hanging baskets, troughs and pots with peat-free compost and plant up with insect favourites, such as snowdrops, English bluebells, species crocuses and aubretia. Later marigolds, knapweeds, lavender and heliotropes will provide a great show and attract butterflies and hoverflies.
- Bees love herbs such as marjoram, rosemary, sage and thyme. Plant them in a window box or a pot by the kitchen door so you can easily access them for cooking. Leave herbs to flower for a really well-attended wildlife buffet.
- Climbers, such as honeysuckle and ivy are easily grown in containers against a trellis and can provide food and shelter for birds and insects.
- If you have room, shrubs and small trees make good container plants and can be used to hang bird feeders. Try to use drought-tolerant species though. Buddleja will attract bees, moths and butterflies. Holly, berberis and cotoneaster species provide much appreciated berries to feed birds over winter as do trees such as crab apples and rowans.
- A great way of attracting amphibians and insects is to make a water feature out of any watertight container. Old sinks, troughs and tubs work well. Try to use rainwater for filling or if you use tapwater, let it stand for a few days before planting, to allow any additives to disperse. Use marginal plants such as flag irises around the edges, to give smaller creatures some cover and make sure there’s a ramp or make a shallow platform from rocks or stones to allow frogs and other amphibians to get in an out and enable birds and hedgehogs to drink, providing the water level is kept high enough.
- The simplest way to produce a container full of wildlife heaven is to buy a packet of mixed wildflower seeds containing flowers like oxeye daisies, campions, scabious, cornflowers and harebells. Sprinkle the seed onto peat-free compost in spring (check the packet for sowing times and don’t add any fertiliser) and apart from keeping the pot watered, the job is done.
- Don’t forget to add a bird bath to your collection of containers. This should be at least 30cm (12in) in diameter and allow a depth of 5cm (2in) of water. Remember to keep topped up during summer.
- Why not tuck in a bee hotel among your pots? This can be made simply by packing a wooden frame or short length of plastic or terracotta pipe with hollow stems, like bamboo, bramble or reeds, with their cut ends facing outwards.