Books : reviews

Jennifer Owen.
Wildlife of a Garden: a thirty-year study.
Royal Horticultural Society. 2010

For thirty years Jennifer Owen recorded the wildlife in her garden. This book presents the final results of her exacting research.

This was no wildlife garden, indeed the term barely existed when Owen started recording in 1972. Hers was a standard suburban family garden in Leicester. Using several trapping and monitoring methods she recorded 2,673 species ranging from plants to mammals, all detailed here. She discusses diversity, abundance, seasonality and annual fluctuations and relates these to weather, changes in surrounding land use and other ecological factors. The groups covered include butterflies, moths, beetles, hoverflies (Owen’s specialist area), bees, wasps, ants, flies, dragonflies, sawflies, bugs, lacewings, grasshoppers, crickets, myriapods, spiders, molluscs and earthworms, as well as garden and wild plants and vertebrates. The natural history of each group is also outlined.

Owen’s earlier book, The Ecology of a Garden (1991), presented the results of the first 15 years of her survey. It was a landmark publication that became the standard reference for all those interested in garden wildlife. This new standalone work brings the whole survey together by adding many new records and providing analysis of long-term trends.

At a time when gardens are being recognised as Britain’s ‘largest nature reserve’, this unique, long-term biodiversity study provides the supporting data.