Gardeners Blog | Garden Landscaping

Garden creatures need your help

In our ever-changing environment within the gardening world we seem to forget the importance of our wildlife and their habitat.
The hedgehog, a native animal to the UK is now an endangered species, in fact its disappearing as fast as tigers are worldwide! also many gardens are being enclosed with fencing, which prevents the movement of the hedgehog. The little chaps also need somewhere to live and hibernate in the winter months.
Look at the food we all consume and that we take for granted, such as vegetables, fruit etc. these need cross pollinating by bees and butterflies etc. Did you know in the 1950,s there were around 50 species of bees in the UK and to date there are now only 25…..! The decline is highly likely down to the heavy use of pesticides in farming and domestic use in our gardens. 
So what can we do to help all the little creatures in our garden……build a bug hotel is the answer!!

Get the kids involved and build a bug hotel in your garden, it can be done for free or next to no cost at all and you would be giving a much needed home to the bugs and creatures we all need in our garden as well as educating the children.
Go to the woods for twigs, barks, pinecones and small logs. Hunt in skips for old pots and drainpipes etc. (make sure you ask the owner of the skip first, its only rubbish but its polite to ask). A builder’s merchant gave us the broken engineering bricks for free when we told them what they were for. Remember use your imagination

Where to site your bug hotel

Some invertebrates like cool damp conditions while others prefer the sun. To cater for as many of them as possible, site the mansion where some of it will catch the sun but with the rest of it in shade - say partially under a tree or near a hedge. Choose a level, even surface: the hotel may end up fairly heavy, so will need a firm base. Firm level soil will be fine

The basic structure

The basic framework is made of wooden pallets, these can be sourced for free, we got ours from gumtree. The more you can use recycled or reclaimed materials the better. The bug hotel does not need to be more than five pallets high. If you place the bottom pallet upside down, this should create larger openings at the ends, which can be used for a hedgehog house. Although the structure should be stable, you might want to secure each pallet to the one below. you can see from ours we used to [pallets and some recycled slates to create a roof to keep our residents dray and warm

Filling the gaps

For the hedgehog basement, use straw, hay, twigs and garden leaves. This will give them somewhere to burrow into and hibernate nice and safely in the winter months
There are many different ways to fill the gaps in the structure - here are some suggestions.
Dead wood
Dead wood is essential for the larvae of wood-boring beetles, such as the stag beetle. It also supports many fungi, which help break down the woody material. Crevices under the bark hold centipedes and woodlice.
Holes for solitary bees
Hollow stems, such as old bamboo canes, or holes drilled into the ends of logs or blocks of wood, make good nest sites for solitary bees. Holes of different diameters cater for different species. You place canes or hollow plant stems in a length of plastic drainpipe or a section from a plastic drinks bottle.
Straw and hay
This provides many opportunities for invertebrates to burrow in and find safe hibernation sites.
Dry leaves
More homes for a variety of invertebrates; this mimics the litter on the forest floor.
Loose bark peeled from logs
Beetles, centipedes, spiders and woodlice all lurk beneath the decaying wood and bark.
Toad hole
Although frogs and toads need a pond to breed in, they can spend most of the year out of water. Stone and tiles provide the cool damp conditions they need. The center of the mansion will provide a frost-free place during the winter.
Many garden invertebrates need a safe place to hibernate in through the winter, and cracks and crevices in the mansion are ideal.
Lacewing homes
Lacewings and their larvae consume large numbers of aphids, as well as other garden pests. You can make a home for lacewings by rolling up a piece of corrugated cardboard and putting it in a waterproof cylinder, such as an old lemonade bottle.
Ladybirds and their larvae are champion aphid munchers. The adults hibernate over winter; they need dry sticks or leaves to hide in.
Every spring, queen bumblebees search for a site to build a nest and found a new colony. An upturned flowerpot in a warm sheltered place might be used.
Nectar-producing plants
Why not plant some nectar-rich flowers around your habitat. These provide essential food for butterflies, bees and many other flying insects.

One other thing you can do for hedgehogs is make a hedgehog motorway by creating small entrances through your fence somewhere out of view behind the shrubs and bushes, even use your imagination and come up with something artistic….

For cross pollinators introduce shrubs, trees and perennials that will encourage bees and butterflies etc. to the garden. Please, please try to avoid such nasty pesticides such as Roundup in the garden

Go on build a bug hotel in your garden, its fun, educating and a very friendly thing to do for the wildlife

Send me your pictures of your bug hotels so I can post them on here and my facebook page

I will even come and build your basic structure on a weekend, eve if you are local and may even have pallets to get you under way, contact me for help and advice.

Good luck and remember to have fun ☺


How to Decide Whether to Use a Landscape Gardener or a Builder

When you are about to embark on a landscaping project that will involve hard landscaping such as walls, paving, fences and water features who would you call?

Maybe you are having or have just had an extension built by a builder who has done a fantastic job in building a two storey extension, I know I will ask him to quote and perhaps a couple of landscape gardeners too.

I hear this story time and time again to such a point I will not quote for a job if I am competing alongside a builder, why is that I might hear you ask???

Every time I have submitted my quote in direct competition the builder have always come out cheaper and this is nine times out of ten what the client excepts as they believe it is value for money.

Most builders do not submit a quote they submit an estimate, so what I hear you say again, well a quote is a fixed price and cannot be added to without written authorisation from the client and agreement with the contractor and this will usually be for added work to the original quote. An estimate is what is says an estimate of what the builder (or even landscapers) thinks it is going to cost. So when you compare all quotes and estimate and there is a huge difference you need to ask the question WHY??? I have had differences of a few hundred pounds up to tens of thousands of pounds. I hear the same old phrase which is “oh that was not included in the estimate” and then the cost starts to escalate and before you know it you are probably spending the same if not more than the landscapers quote.

Why else would you think it’s important to hire a landscaper over a builder, the answer is landscapers undergo a lot of training to lay paving, build walls, water features and put up fencing, turfing, planting, garden lighting and all other features involved in creating beautiful gardens. Not many builders are aware that random paving should never run for more than four paving units before the joint is broken or have joints that cause cross road type effects (targets). I have even seen a design I created built by a builder, due to being much cheaper, lay the whole terrace of Indian sandstone, and wait for it, UPSIDE DOWN!!!

We haven’t even started on plant names etc; there are many reasons why you should use a landscaper over a builder. When you are going to create a stunning outside living space make sure it is done professionally, looks fantastic and you never have to do it again.

Ask yourself one more question would you ask a Landscape Gardener to quote to build your extension or loft conversion???

Thanks for taking the time read this article.

Paul Bentley


How to Design Landscapes for Narrow Gardens

Garden Design 

Narrow Gardens by a Landscape Gardener

Narrow gardens present a great challenge when designing and building and this can be overcome by some imaginative ideas such as:

  • Introduction of curves
  • Changes in levels
  • Water features
  • Planting

Firstly when planning any landscape gardening project you need to carry out a thorough detailed survey and take photos to remind yourself of any aspects of the original garden.

Then begin the design process starting from the inside (the heart of the garden) and work outwards. Do not design a garden around the boundaries or you will only reflect the boundary lines, keep playing with curves, lines and junctions until you are happy with the flow.

When designing the garden be mindful of the client brief, this is about the most important part as not listening to the client will result in a design they will never be satisfied with and subsequently you are unlikely to be successful in sealing the contract for the build.

Small narrow gardens are great fun to work with as you can achieve so much and introduce many features and aspects to create an interesting garden design.

From the above pictures you can see how the curved path takes your eye away from the straight boundary lines and leads you down the garden, once the blocking structural shrubs, that are located in strategic positions, fully develop will change the aspect once again and give the impression of ‘what’s down the path and around the corner’.
Here we have many features that the client wished for such as:

  • Raised shrub borders
  • Water feature
  • No lawn
  • Substantial terrace for entertaining
  • White, blue and pink planting
  • New fencing
  • Aggregate pathway (8mm – 10mm Scottish pebbles)
  • Textured paving (Indian Sandstone)

This garden was designed by Paul Bentley MBALI MSGD and constructed by a Landsape Gardener in September 2011.


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