Your garden can help enhance our biodiversity.
Attracting native wildlife into your garden
Most of the land across Dunedin is privately owned. Our gardens, bush remnants and windbreaks provide essential corridors for the large scale movement of fauna, but they can also provide more permanent homes, maintaining and enhancing our biodiversity in a mosaic right across Dunedin.
Animals are essential to our biodiversity. They help in the transport of seed, contribute to the pollination of many plant species and are involved in complex foodwebs, some both eating and being eaten. Invertebrates, like reptiles, can be found from the soil and leaf litter right up to the canopy. Birds like to shelter in tree canopies and feed on the invertebrates, reptiles and food plants in your garden.
How can you help?
Your garden, no matter how large or small, formal or informal, can help make up this mosaic. You can produce suitable habitat both high and low in your garden if you are careful when deciding on the types of plants to put into your garden and your garden design.
Invertebrates and reptiles require moist soil, patches of sun and shade, rocks, logs and leaf litter. Appropriate shelter and food plants are also essential. Birds also require suitable food and shelter plants but prefer that these be available at higher levels as they are wary about feeding lower to the ground. Birds also benefit from the presence of invertebrates and reptiles as many bird species are carnivorous.
At ground level, layers of thick mulch and some groups of decent sized stones and/or logs scattered throughout the garden all help. If you had spare space on a fence you can find great tutorials on the internet about how to create insect homes which can easily hang against your fence (www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/projects/insects-bug-box).
Low scrambling plants, especially those with flowers and fruit provide excellent shelter and food for invertebrates and insects. Coprosma acerosa, or the Sand Coprosma, provides a great example of this type of habit and is a Dunedin native plant that you may also see on our sand dunes. Grasses, succulents and scrambling herbs also provide great shelter and all of these plants can easily be placed into pots or hanging baskets to provide high shelter, especially when space is lacking.
Climbers are brilliant additions to your garden covering unsightly walls or general cover over garden installations such as pergolas. They are especially fantastic in small gardens to create high shelter and food, many producing flowers providing nectar to bugs and birds.
Many small shrubs provide fantastic shelter and food and are great garden plants that can be easily managed, even in a tiny garden. Meuhlenbeckia & Coprosma sps are a fantastic example of a fruiting small shrub as are Korokio's. Kowhai variant, Dragon's Gold is a great small shrub that produces many flowers and can easily be managed, even hedged.
Medium shrubs/herbs, especially varieties of Flax and Hebe's as well as Manuka provide great shelter and food for all animals and are easily maintained in a formal garden setting. With cleaning of dead leaves flax can be easily maintained in a small garden and are especially favoured by Tui's.
Larger trees such as Cabbage Trees, Kowhai, Pittosporum sp's, Ngaio, Broadleaf, Totara and Wineberry all provide the essential higher canopy roosting shelter for birds as well as providing nectar and/or fruit.
All of these plants can be grown in pots. Pittosporums and Broadleaf especially are fast growing and able to be easily hedged and are often used in fencing/hedge type situations. Perhaps next time you need to renew your fence you could consider planting a hedge instead? Many people are concerned about planting these trees in their gardens because of shading issues but with a bit of careful pruning these plants can easily be made into beautiful high canopy trees providing shelter to birds but also continuing to allow light into your garden.
You will also find here a basic list of endemic Dunedin plant species that you can plant to attract wildlife into your garden. Your local nursery will be able to provide you with further advice and advice specific to your homes location. If you have a great garden design please don't forget to enter our Lets Grown Native gardening competition and show off the great work you have done/propose to do in your garden to increase biodiversity.
Some non-native species of plant are also very good at attracting wildlife into your garden but be careful to enquire about the species before planting to ensure that you plant is not going to become a weed outside your garden. Remember, wildlife can transport seed far and wide.