I live in a 150 year old terrace house on the banks of the River Mersey in an industrial port area of town. I literally have a backyard which I call my ‘Yardinere’ or ‘Yarden’ with the sunny sides of the walls facing south-east and south. So, you can imagine there isn’t much room for a traditional garden but room for a lot expansion…upwards.
Blue Tits are an annual yardinere nester.
The ‘Yarden’ space I have available measures 12 by 13 feet and a surrounding 6 foot wall of which I have created an area for wildlife. There are pots, hanging basket and an L shaped raised bed which has little or no sunlight – this is planted with grasses, a small Bamboo and Dragon Lillie to make a Zen Garden complete with meditating Buddha and sea-shore pebbles but alas no room for the lotus position. I recycle whenever the opportunity arises so a fly tipped metal chimenea now occupies a shady corner partially hidden by a Forest Flame. The oven part of the chimena has piles of wood bricks inserted inside and liberally entwined small red solar lights give a glowing ember effect at dusk.
Bamboo canes, dried Giant Hogweed and Hogweed stems make a great place for insects and solitary Bees to secrete themselves.
Presently there are nesting pairs of Great and Blue Tit utilising the nest boxes and the Blue’s have fledged only yesterday. A Bat box positioned above the kitchen window accommodates those nocturnal creatures and in the Spring and Summer evenings they can be seen fluttering in circles over the ‘Yarden’ fixing their compass positions for a period of foraging the local night life.
The south-facing aspect of the ‘yarden’
I have recycled a discarded piece of office furniture in the form of a tree trough which I sowed with a selection of native wildflower seeds, Cow Parsley, Willowherb, Teasel, Sow Thistle and presently, the Allium that I buried last year are flowering attracting Bees and Hoverflies.
Our native Bees are in sharp decline due to the over use of neonicotinoid insecticides so every bit of pesticide free space we can provide helps these much threatened species. The Cotoneaster that spreads across the top of the wall is handy for keeping out unwelcome cats but it does attract bees and the constant humming sound is a tonic.
Flowers attract a variety of wildlife to visit the yardinere. One of my favourite plants for its attractive form and for encouraging other types of insects is the Lavender and they obviously add a fragrance to the space. A trailing Winter Jasmine adds a splash of colour in the duller days of late Autumn and Winter. A large potted Honeysuckle is brilliant for attracting Moth species in those sultry warm Summer evenings. The moths in turn provide food for the local bats and are loved much love by Cuckoo Spit aka Froghopper nymphs which have caused us some concern but a solution of water spraying helps to levitate the problem.
As I already mentioned space is of the optimum and the washing line post has been used by nesting Wasps, Dunnock, Robin and Wren and secreted inside its dense cover many species of moths use it to roost up during the day.
An erratic granite boulder (it took two of us to lift it in place) was found in a field in Daresbury close to the birthplace of Lewis Carrol and was placed close to a looking glass which was added to the wall.
A slight bit of creative pruning has given me a space to insert a garden Green Man ornament which looks wistfully over the ‘yarden’ and may give any intruders a fright.
Many years ago I planted a Cotoneaster which is quite mature now and in the winter retains enough berries to entice the local Blackbirds, wintering Blackcaps and once a small flock of Waxwing to nip off its berries.
One of my few garden centre purchases was an Easter Island figure head and provides some light relief.
The winding twisted trunk and small branches hold a selection of brightly painted bean cans which have been filled with a variety of fibre material. There are a couple of catering cans which are fitted with a specially cut wooden plug drilled with numerous holes so that Solitary Bees can access the interior to live their lives away from predators. Another way of adding colour to a dull space is to paint food cans with bright colours and fill with hollow Bamboo canes and straw to create a hiding place for Woodlice.
One of their main predators is the Woodlouse Spider that resides close by hiding behind a piece of mounted slate artwork. I am respectful of these little critters which can give a nip. I have also collected and fitted dried out Hog Weed stalks which are cut into lengths placed in between the cans – be careful collecting these because when they are fresh they have a burning agent. It’s best to collect them from the countryside in the Winter when they have dried out thoroughly.
Both Blue and Great Tits nested at the same time just yards away from each other.
The Great Tit young (2) fledged on 05.06.18.
All in all even limited space in any corner of any garden can be an inspiration…or yard can attract some brilliant birds, bugs and bats.
I’ve installed a small bookshelf on one of the walls where I can place animal skulls, aka ‘backyard skulls’ inspired from the song by Frightened Rabbit.
The Yardinere Birdlist.
A list of some of the birds I have seen or heard from my humble home over the years is impressive but remember it’s about location and keeping an eye and an ear open whenever you pop outside to tidy up your space: Whooper Swan, Bewick’s Swan, Pink Flamingo ;0), Canada, Greylag, Pink-footed Goose, Common Shelduck, Shoveler, Pintail, Wigeon, Goldeneye, Grey Partridge, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Little and Great White Egret, Kestrel, Peregrine, Merlin, Hobby, Hen Harrier, Common Buzzard (nesting within sight of yarden), Sparrowhawk, Oystercatcher, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover, Grey and Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Green and Common Sandpiper, Redshank and Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Whimbrel, Woodcock, Common Snipe, Ruff, Pomarine Skua, Mediterranean Gull, Iceland and Glaucous Gull, Little Gull, Kittiwake, Common and Arctic Tern, Black Tern, Cuckoo, Little and Tawny Owl, Long-and Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, the commoner hirundines, Yellow and Grey Wagtail, Waxwing, Dunnock (nested), Nightingale, Redstart, Wheatear, Stonechat, Whinchat, Redwing, Fieldfare, commer thrushes, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap (summer and winter), Sedge, Reed and Grasshopper Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff (summer and winter), Goldcrest, Wren (nested), Spotted Flycatcher, Coal, Blue (nested), Great (nested) and long-tailed tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Jay, Jackdaw, Raven, Starling (nested), House Sparrow (nested), Brambling, Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Siskin, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer.
…and finally we have an evil Vietnamese gnome living at the bottom of our ‘yarden’.
WSM and images.