Why wildlife gardening is the best way to make your garden bloom

Wildlife gardening

Joanna Nixon's garden has plenty of gorgeous shrubs and plants - Credit: Joanna Nixon

Taking care of the wildlife who help make our gardens thrive is an important both for them and for us. Ahead of her opening her garden this weekend for the public to see, we chat to Leatherhead honey seller Joanna Nixon about the importance of nature, pesticide-free gardening, and why you should head down to see hers…

Like many, Joanna found herself finding respite in Surrey countryside after a busy life in London – and soon so she found herself inspired by the countryside surroundings. ‘We decided to move not too far from what the capital has to offer and at same time find a place to relax and rewind,’ Joanna says. ‘I had given up my job and found myself totally obsessed with bees, plants and wellbeing, and last year I started my company Green Bees Honey selling 14 different types of honeys all coming from one amazing beekeeper.’

‘It is my inspiration now to get good quality honey from my back garden – without exploiting bees and with a pleasant garden to relax in and have fresh, healthy plants to use for cooking.’

With this in mind she started that, using a garden designer originally to lay the foundations for the layout, which gave her room to explore and expand. ‘From there the fun started – putting beehives in, buying plants which we liked or wanted to be. Then came the realisation that plants have their own mind and not necessarily will grow where you want them to,’ she tells us. ‘The aim was to be kind to plants, soil and all the creatures which visit or live in the garden. For me the garden is about the pleasure of observing.’

Wildlife garden Surrey

Letting plants thrive and grow naturally helps attract wildlife such as bees and butterflies - Credit: Joanna Nixon

While she originally started her favourite plants to grow were exotic plants, she now likes native plants that are good for pollinators, and as a bonus are much easier to grow. ‘I like so called weeds such as borage, dandelions, daisies and clover – I like the surprise of going to the garden and seeing something to appear,’ she says. ‘With part of the garden not touched for hundreds of years it is great to see primulas and bluebells appearing year on year, and I like to think than in 100 years' time they will still be there.’

READ MORE: How to encourage wildlife into your garden

One key part of Joanna’s gardening is keeping everything as natural as possible, which includes not using pesticides. She explains, ‘With modern pesticides it’s possible to achieve pristine landscaping and a gorgeous green lawn, but at what cost? Many pesticides are non-specific – meaning they work on the bugs you want to kill and the bugs you do not want to kill.’ She continues, ‘For example if you have a problem with aphids, a non-specific pesticide won’t just kill the aphids; it will kill everything that comes into contact with the pesticide-treated plant, which includes those all important pollinators like bees and butterflies are at risk as well.’ Pollinators aren’t harmful to plants - on the contrary they help plants bloom and fruit.

SUBSCRIBE: To Surrey Life for the best of the county, from food and drink to travel and lifestyle

If you’re intrigued by the thoughtful techniques Joanna uses, you can visit her garden in Leatherhead on June 5th as part of the National Garden Scheme. But what should you look out for if you head down? ‘I have applied to be in the National Garden Scheme to encourage others to look after nature and enjoy and benefit from it,’ she says. ‘My garden is all about being easy with gardening and after planting, leaving it to nature. There are various parts of the garden from a beehive in the middle of the slope with untouched wilderness to succulent corner.’

National Gardens Scheme

Visit gardens like Joanna Nixon's to get inspiration for your own - Credit: Joanna Nixon

For those looking to start their wildlife garden keeping free of pesticides, Joanna has some advice. ‘Not all plants you are going to plant are going to do well but at the same time you are going to have a lot of exciting surprises with bees and bugs visiting your plants,’ she says. ‘Just do it – you will learn a lot in the process.’

And what better place than the county of Surrey to provide an abundance of creativity and help? ‘It is perfect for gardening with plenty of great garden centres, nurseries, Wisley and Painshill at the doorstep, as well as a great gardeners community. Plus with beautiful gardens open with National Garden Scheme and give inspiration, there is incredible variety of types of gardens around.’

Book at ngs.org.uk to visit Joanna Nixon’s Leatherhead garden on June 5, and visit the site to see more gardens open for viewing