Planning a beautiful garden where wild things are; ASK THE EXPERT Your questions answered by Anna Williams, wildlife gardening project officer for North Wales Wildlife Gardening Partnership at the North Wales Wildlife Trust.
I am sure the droppings would be OK on the compost heap, normally you only put plant based material there but I guess you don''t have a huge amount of droppings.
QWhat''s an environmentally friendly way of getting rid of slugs? A There are numerous ways of stopping slugs getting at your plants including putting coffee granules, egg shells, sharp sand, slate chippings, crushed sea shells around your plants. To actually get rid of them you can always collect them at night and deposit them elsewhere (I have a woodland next door so I throw them in there - I'm sure they find their way back!) but not in your neighbour's garden!
Why not have a beer trap - there are worse ways to go! You can make a cheaper alternative and that is a Marmite trap. Just what a British slug might enjoy - beer and Marmite!
Q The leaves on my new Acer plant have gone brownish in places as if windburnt.
A Acers can be very delicate before they are established. It could be windburn as you suggest. Make sure you pamper it with water and mulch with a good compost. Be patient and hopefully it will recover in time. The plant could have been stressed sitting in the pot before you planted it so give it time.
QI appreciate a nice garden, but don''t know where to start. I want plants that don''t need much attention. What do you suggest? A An attractive garden usually has plants of different heights flowering at different times, so start by thinking of climbers. Have you got space to plant some honeysuckle or rambling roses, and a winter flowering jasmine on some walls or along a boundary fence? Improve your boundaries with a native hedge of hazel, holly, elder, hawthorn wild roses. Add some fruit trees for yourself and wildlife to enjoy; crab apples, wild plums or local apple varieties. Leave an area, maybe under the apple trees, to grow and become your meadow. Then onto borders - if you don''t want to spend time weeding, plant your nectar rich plants through a weed membrane which you cover with gravel (which butterflies like basking on) or wood chip.
All herbs are great for bees and butterflies, they look good and are useful too. Ask at your garden centre for hardy, perennial plants that are good for bees and they should be able to advise you. Look out for local plant swaps and ask friends for cuttings and plantlets - the cheapest way to start a garden. Look at www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk for more ideas on plant choice.
Q What are the best plants to attract wildlife to my garden - is this going to be expensive? A There are many plants that are good for attracting wildlife. Of course any native plants are good, such as clovers which you might find in your lawn if you are not too keen with the mowing! Very cheap start. Different plants attract different wildlife so I always suggest you have plants of different heights from trees to small rockery plants.
The plants can be good for two different reasons - to provide shelter, such as a climbing hydrangea, which I have some blackbirds nesting in at the moment - or to provide food in the form of nectar, pollen, seeds, berries and fruits.
Herbs are good for nectar including lavenders, primroses, aubretias, bluebells and lungworts are good for early flowers. Ice plant, Michaelmas daisies, honeysuckle, cranesbills are good later on. Wildlife gardening does not have to be expensive; you can start some plants from seed, go to local plant fairs or ask friends with gardens if they will share some.
Create your garden over some time so it does not become too expensive. You can always divide plants once they are established to create more. This is what all gardeners do and they beg from friends too! Look out for plant sales.
QI love roses, but when is the best time to prune them? Also what are the best perennials? A Shrub roses should be pruned in mid spring and climbing roses in the autumn. I love cranesbills or hardy geraniums as the slugs don''t eat them, they flower for along time and you can divide them easily to create more. I also like rosemary, lavenders and sage which as I mentioned before have good nectar and pollen. The daisy family includes a lot of good perennials. I also like sedums which are solid, sturdy perennials that add interest with the fleshy leaves and then attract plenty of bees and butterflies in the autumn.
Q Are there any flowering plants I can plant in my garden at this time of year? A Yes, lavenders, salvias, campanulas, astilbes, astrantias, aquilegias, foxgloves, anthemis (soon to flower), hardy geraniums to mention a few. This is a good time to plant as long as you mulch well and don''t forget to water over the summer until they are established.
QI live in a flat what plants would you recommend for inside and window boxes? AI would grow plants inside that I can use in cooking ie lettuces of the pick-and-come again variety, herbs such as dill, parsley, rocket, coriander, spring onions, chillies and also some tomatoes either in pots or hanging baskets.
QI''m thinking about putting a pond in my garden. What sort of plants do you suggest I plant around it? A Great idea to attract frogs, newts, toads and the beautiful damsel and dragon flies. I would plant some native sedges and rushes, some ferns, purple loosestrife, definitely marsh marigold and yellow flag iris. The most important bit about a pond is not to plant any aliens in it, only use native plants so no Canadian pond weed etc. You only end up with trouble later. See www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk for more plant lists.
QI love lavender (I grow them in pots) but every year one plant will die - what am I doing wrong? A Lavenders are susceptible to frost damage and more so when in pots then when planted in the ground. I suggest that you prune them at least once after flowering to create a smooth mound, but don''t cut into the woody growth.
Then keep them relatively dry in their pots over winter and move them away from frost pockets. Maybe they need repotting? If so, mix the compost with at least a third of gravel as they like good drainage and do not like being water logged.
I have lost random lavenders in a hedge before and cannot say why one plant dies when the others just around it survives - all about micro climate and health of the plant. I have found that different varieties are more or less prone to die over winter with the french lavenders being more likely to die.
Q How do you cure blackspot/green fly on roses? AI am not an expert on this and I have to put up with a few black spots on my own climbing roses. You do need to feed roses every year and mulch with well rotted manure or compost in the spring. As far as greenfly goes put up some bird feeders/bird table nearby and the visiting birds will eat some of your greenfly.
Alternatively make up an organic spray with washing up liquid diluted in water or make a rhubarb concoction by boiling rhubarb leaves and then diluting the liquid you get.
Pick up and destroy fallen leaves. When pruning, cut out any stems with blackspot on. In late-winter, spread a thick layer of mulch around the base of the affected plant to prevent rain splashing soil-borne spores on to new spring growth.
Grow rose varieties that are resistant to blackspot - these are suggested in the catalogues of specialist rose growers.
Q What plants should I have in my garden to attract butterflies? A Here are some plants that are good for butterflies: spring nectar: aubretia, alyssum, blackthorn, bluebell, bramble, clover, cuckoo flower, dandelion, field scabious, forget-me-not, hebe, honesty, ox-eye daisies, pansy, primrose, sweet rocket, violets, wallflowers.
For summer flowering plants good plants include asters, buddleias, candytuft, French marigold, heather, hemp agrimonia, ice plant, lavender, lobelia, marjoram, michaelmas daisies, mint, phlox, scabious, thyme, valerian red and white, verbena.
There are also plants for the butterflies' caterpillars that we can grow in our gardens and they include bird''s foot trefoil , common and sheep sorrel, cuckoo flower, garlic mustard, holly, ivy, honesty, hops, nasturtiums, native grasses, stinging nettles and thistles so the weeds are useful too!
Beauty and beasts: Main, hedgehog, insets from left: frog in garden pond; acer; bumblebee attracted to flowers; climbing hydrangea