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Take a walk on the wild side

If you would like to see an added interest in your garden and space allows, consider creating a “wild garden” to encourage avian activity, insects, lizards, butterflies and moths.

Such areas can have a controlled, but natural appearance, and meld in with the more formal/informal garden if planned carefully. Bird life in the garden is not so common these days, but with a little encouragement it may offer the chance for a tasty meal, be it from the insect activity on the plants or seed produced within the garden in general.

When considering a “wild area” the selection of plant material can be varied with the emphasis being on “attraction and function”; soft foliage and flower are a succulent meal for chewing or piercing-type insects. With insects, there is a good possibility of encouraging avian activity, not only for the present but as an ongoing visitation.

In older or “designed” gardens containing old Bermuda stone walls, fences, bird baths, wood piles and rotten wooden on the ground will encourage a multitude of insect activity, as well as potential nesting places for bird life. Leaving fallen leafage on the ground to decompose will add nutrients to the soil as well as encourage insect activity.

By creating multi levels of activity, the mix of interest for nesting, hiding or simply resting with the various “homesteaders” is increased to the benefit of the bird life and lizards.

The Monarch butterfly is a frequent visitor in season and will be found on such plants as Pentas and Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), both species being stripped down to the leaf veins in a very short time. Milkweed is an ideal plant for the wild garden as it will naturalise easily and has attractive orange flowers.

With the heavy rainfall in May, new growth became very active in all areas of the garden. New growth being soft and lush is ideal for attracting creatures great and small.

Be they chewing, rasping, boring or sucking, they soon become a nuisance as can be seen by blighted foliage. Aphids (greenfly) will be seen in abundance on growing tips, whilst caterpillars will chomp their way through soft foliage such as Pentas, and literally skeletonise each leaf to the veins.

Leaf minor will tunnel under the leaf epidermis creating a mosaic appearance to the leaf; borers will literally bore into the trunk or stems and, if not noticed at an early stage, will kill branches. With damp conditions one also finds fungal activity, especially in overgrown shady spots where the foliage dries slowly over time, creating ideal incubation for fungal spores to spread.

Of course in a wild garden, insect and fungal activity are by their very nature more active than in the “home garden” which should — but not always — require more attention. So let the broken branches fall and rot; the diseased foliage recycles itself into, eventually, humus which then becomes a growing medium in the continuous cycle of a wild garden natural habitat. Allow self-seeding — in a controlled manner — to proliferate, thus creating more interest for all concerned.

Of course, though a wild area may well be of interest, one should consider the impact on the cultivated garden, and be ever vigilant inspecting the garden plants for unwanted intruders.

If the garden is large enough to accommodate the mix of styles it will certainly enhance the experience of interest from an aesthetics view whilst encouraging a microclimate for insects and bird life, which in itself can be an education for young and old alike.

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Published June 15, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 15, 2016 at 8:54 am)

Take a walk on the wild side

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