The Birds and The Bees
When I say The Birds and The Bees, I am not talking about ‘that’ conversation……… I am talking about gardening for wildlife – got your attention though, didn’t I?
This time of year, my garden is alive with the buzz of the bees visiting various flowers, along with beautiful butterflies and some less pretty bugs and flying insects. I love to see any creature in my garden, I don’t even kill the slugs and snails – I do rehome them in my compost bin, but never kill them. The only thing, for some strange reason, I won’t tolerate are Lily Beetles. I think it may be because they are bright red, that is quite brazen for a bug that destroys my lilies. Plus their larvae are quite disgusting, they protect themselves with a layer of their own….can I say poo on here? Well, they do. They are destroyed without remorse. Sorry.
Back to the birds and the bees. Taking care of wildlife within our garden is a win-win activity. We get to protect the sometimes fragile habitats and food sources for insects, mammals and birds, and in return we get to observe them up close, in the comfort of our own space.
There are some really easy things we can do:
Let part of our lawn grow longer, encouraging a range of grasses and flowers that are attractive to insects and bees.
Fill our borders with plants that attract in wildlife, such as teasles or berry bearing shrubs for the birds, or lavender, poached egg flower, buddleia or fuchsia for the bees and insects.
Providing a source of water (yes, it is still raining outside, but it might dry up soon…) This doesn’t have to be an expensive bird bath, a simple plant saucer will do just as well. I have even just seen a suggestion online that screwing plastic milk bottle tops to the fence or a post and popping a little water into them can provide bees with a safe place to have a drink.
There are some nice activities we can do together to add to our wildlife gardening. Why not make a bird feeder out of an old plastic bottle? The attachments are easily purchased at your local garden centre or online. Spend some time together decorating the bottle with weather-proof pens or paints before filling them with seed, sitting back and watching all sorts of birds visit your feeder. Maybe even keep a chart or a series of photographs of who has visited.
Another simple way to feed the birds is to tie some string to a large pine cone and then cover it with either peanut butter or lard and bird seed mixed together. Making the latter is a great tactile activity and best done with gloves on! Hang the cone in the garden and watch as it gets stripped bare by some hungry (or greedy) birds.
A bug hunt is not only for children. Taking some time to walk around your garden taking notice of what is there, who is feeding on your flowers, nesting in the undergrowth or simply sitting on the fence waiting for you to top up the feeders is different every day. If you are living with dementia, it can be frustrating to know that you are struggling with memory recollection. One way to approach this is to enjoy the here and now without the need to remember anything, or indeed any need to store this moment for future reference. Engrossing yourself in your garden and all the creatures in it can be relaxing and stimulating at the same time.
Once you start encouraging wildlife into your garden, be prepared to adjust your attitude to them. Caterpillars - are they destroying your nasturtiums or have you successfully provided a food source for next years butterflies?
And bird food.....is it really only for birds. We have had for many years a local flock of sheep that will wait patiently at the bottom of the garden for me to 'feed the birds'. There is a skill to making sure there is still some left for my feathered friends without upsetting my wooly friends!
As the cooler days set in, it will be time to give some thought to those creatures who do not get to snuggle round the fire with a hot chocolate. As well as feeding your wildlife, provide some much needed shelter for hedgehogs, frogs and insects. This may be as simple as a pile of twigs, logs or leaves. Maybe have some fun building a bug hotel, putting up a bird box or even a bat box. As more and more land is built on, our native creatures are relying on us to help with food and habitats. At a time when living with dementia can feel like everything is being done for you, this is a great opportunity to be the one doing the helping, the caring. And who doesn’t get excited when they see a hedgehog or a squirrel in the garden?
Spending time watching wildlife from your window can help to distract from the potential feeling of being trapped indoors through colder months. When the weather permits it can also encourage you to venture into the garden, top up your feeders and spend time taking notice of what is happening in your garden. No matter what the time of year, something is always changing. Except the fate of the lily beetle……