Make it and wildlife will come

Originally published in the Midland Express, October 4, 2016

Striding around the corner of a friend’s Newstead house today my eyes met the steady gaze of a Grey Shrike-thrush sitting on her eggs. She took my breath away. She’d made her home in a basket nailed to the wall, within arms-reach from where I stood. She wasn’t bothered by comings and goings of her human neighbours. She’d found what she needed at the back door of that house and she didn’t flinch at my presence.

Thrush’ sing exquisite songs in my own Castlemaine garden. I was instantly inspired to hang baskets around my house to encourage more of these birds.

I’m an ecologist and garden designer and am fascinated by the possibilities of gardens that meet both needs of the people and the local birds, lizards and butterflies. In these days of a changing climate, urban gardeners can support a host of local wildlife with food, shelter and water. It just takes some thought and a little time spent pottering in the garden.

In my own garden, I’m not aiming to restore bushland or even to create a picturesque bush garden. I grow fruit, veggies and some nostalgic flowers from my childhood. I welcome cool summer shade from deciduous trees. How do I balance my needs with those of wildlife?

I find comfort and direction in considering the spectrum of home garden styles in Castlemaine, ranging between easy-care concrete and bushland gardens that meld with local Box Ironbark Forest. Wherever a garden is positioned on this pavement-to-bushland spectrum, it can be nudged in a more wildlife friendly direction.

For instance, some grass provides a place for magpies to fossick where a pavement is void of life; old style flowers provide nectar for butterflies while ornamental cultivars bred for show are nectarless; a corner planting of dense shrubs is better for Blue Wrens and Thornbills than a park-like lawn that stretches from house to fence; a dry stone wall provides shelter for hibernating Marble Geckos where cemented walls are pure architecture.

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink…. Make it and wildlife will come.

Gardens with wildlife hum with energy and interest. Spotted Pardalotes dipping in a bird bath and Blue Banded Bees darting amongst the Rosemary flowers bring spontaneous joy. Today I’m planting colourful salvias for my girls to pick and Eastern Spinebills to feed on. Tomorrow I’ll scatter basking rocks for lizards. Not big steps, but nudges in a wildlife direction.

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