Books : reviews

Chris Baines.
How to Make a Wildlife Garden.
Elm Tree Books. 1985

Chris Baines’ garden covers a quarter of an acre in the West Midlands, and even such a tiny area as this can play a vital part in providing the habitat of many forms of wildlife. In towns, rows of gardens may provide the only continuous green area for miles around. Yet conventional gardening, with its emphasis on cultivated flowers, tidiness and ‘killing things’ can create a pretty hostile environment for insects, birds and wildlife in general.

How To Make A Wildlife Garden describes the various types of habitat – flower-border, mini-meadow, pond, woodland edge – and gives practical advice on how best to develop natural resources to benefit wildlife, whether by adapting an existing garden or starting one from scratch. This can vary from digging a garden pond to choosing plants that will extend the pollen and nectar season. The variety of animal life, from earthworms to kestrels, from butterflies to hedgehogs, and the enormous range of ‘natural’ plants which can form part of a wildlife garden will provide an endless source of fascination to the observer.

The book also takes into account the human element, stressing the fact that gardens are for sitting in and enjoying. Plant the most colourful displays in sight of the house; make sure the sweetest smelling flowers are near the garden seat or patio; put up the bird-table where you can enjoy the entertainment; arrange the garden for relaxation as well as conservation.

This inspirational book will give both and instruction to wildlife gardeners, enabling them to contribute to conservation while creating gardens full of beauty, fascination and life.

Chris Baines.
The Wild Side of Town.
BBC. 1986

Following the success of How to Make a Wildlife Garden, Chris Baines takes his wildlife crusade beyond the garden fence and into the green deserts which make up an astonishingly high proportion of our towns and cities.

Recent destruction of woodland and hedgerow means that ‘the countryside’ can no longer sustain a rich variety of wildlife and ironically, the built-up areas can provide a much needed refuge. Railway cuttings, wasteland and sympathetic parks and gardens combine to produce essential corridors, leading foxes or badgers from one feeding ground or haven to another. Birds, frogs and insects may not need the same continuity of green cover, but they do need safe breeding areas, freedom from chemical pollution, and reliable sources of food.

We spend millions of pounds a year on mowing grass – but why not let lawns grow longer and allow buttercups and daisies to flourish in them? Why not leave decaying leaves on the ground to provide shelter for hedgehogs and food for harmless creepy-crawlies?

Chris Baines has asked these questions of a lot of ‘authorities’ and had an encouraging and positive response. Now his TV series and this inspirational book show how everyone can help to turn our towns and cities into one huge nature reserve – for wildlife and for people.

Chris Baines.
RHS Companion to Wildlife Gardening: revised edn.
Frances Lincoln. 2016

Wildlife is a more significant subject for gardeners than when the best-selling How to Make a Wildlife Garden was first published in 1985. Fully revised, updated and freshly illustrated, this new edition brings RHS research and best practice to a multitude of controversial areas: from the use of pesticides to bird boxes, bird tables and planting for birds; whether tidiness in the garden is a good thing for wildlife; the relative merits of planting native species and exotics; the idea of habitat creation to preserve diversity; how to attract and sustain butterflies; pollinating insects and the crash in bee populations and how gardeners are involved. Wildlife forms an increasingly important part of a gardener’s responsibility and that duty of care has become integral to our decision-making. New gardeners can use this volume to become better informed guardians of the planet’s resources, while seasoned wildlife enthusiasts will find infinite ways of following expert and RHS advice to continue to make their gardens more welcoming.