As the introduction explains, this is neither a wildlife field guide nor a gardening book, but a fascinating glimpse into the lives of those unnoticed plants and unseen animals – some historically unwelcome – who share our plots. Between us, our total garden space amounts to 16 million acres, so it’s up to us to make this important habitat as welcoming as possible.
Professor Spedding lists types of gardens, pinpointing their likely residents, teaching us how, when and why to observe them, and offering advice on providing suitable environments. The book works best when he takes us for a stroll around his garden, affectionately pointing out its hidden guests. Some ideas for wildlife watching are suitable for younger members of the family although they can be slightly didactic in tone, and you would have to be a really keen nature lover to want to construct a ‘snailarium’ with any real enthusiasm.
The chapter based on Professor Spedding’s month-by-month observations of his own garden over 18 years is particularly interesting. As are the fascinating lists – best nectar and food plants for butterflies; moths that fly by day; even animals that can see through double glazing – which pepper the text, accompanied by a plethora of clear photographs and drawings to aid identification. I can see this being a real boon for when my grandchildren start asking those difficult wildlife questions.
I’m always grateful when any creature (recently a slow worm, a spotted flycatcher and a Holly Blue butterfly) decides my plot is home sweet home and loved finding out how to make life better for the 75 species of mammal, 600 birds, 60 butterflies, 2,500 moths and 4,000 beetles that might possibly take up residence in my garden. And with this informative book close to hand I’m feeling more confident I will be able to identify and cherish them all.
Francine Raymond is a gardening columnist for the Sunday Telegraph. She also runs The Kitchen Garden, an on-line shop for henkeepers and gardeners
• This review appears in the August issue of Gardens Illustrated along with reviews of the following titles.
Dog-Friendly Gardening, by Karen Bush
Hubble and Hattie, £12.99
ISBN 978 1845844103
RHS Pruning & Training
Octopus Books, £12.99
ISBN 978 1845336301
The Window-Box Allotment
by Penelope Bennett
Frances Lincoln, £16.99
ISBN 978-0711231733 (expanded and illustrated version)
The Weeder’s Digest: Identifying and enjoying edible weeds
by Gail Harland
Green Books, £12.95
ISBN 978 1900322997
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