How to guide: creating the sounds of summer

With British summertime in full swing and the hibernation period nothing but a distant memory for many animals, now is the time to take to your garden and listen to the sounds of summer.

From birdsong and buzzing bees to the rustling of tall grasses, if you close your eyes, there’s plenty to hear in the garden and with a bit of clever planting you can create your very own percussion section.

Wyevale Garden Centres and Radio and TV presenter, Jo Whiley, have put together some quick tips which will turn an ordinary garden into a welcoming habitat for the wonders of nature and the sounds they bring with them.

Radio and TV broadcaster and avid gardener, Jo Whiley says:

“Music and gardening are my two big passions. In the evenings I’m on air between 8 and 10 playing music to the nation as it winds down at the end of the day but during the afternoons, at home, I’m straight out into my garden to enjoy it’s many delights and get on with the various jobs there are always to do. When I’m gardening, I consciously switch off the radio and completely immerse myself in the sounds of the garden. Sound can have such a huge effect on people’s emotions. In the same way that someone may blast out a feel good tune to lift their mood, the tranquil sounds of a garden can make you completely relaxed. Sound plays a big part of my life and my garden can provide a completely different musical backdrop compared to the studio.”

  1. Creating a buzz – bees and butterflies

If you want to create a buzz with bug life, think all things bright and beautiful. When choosing flowers, mix up herbaceous perennials, annuals and biennials. They all flower at different times – herbaceous perennials such as lavender, geranium and salvia come back year after year; annuals like daisies and begonias flower once a year, usually in spring and summer; and biennials like hollyhocks and foxgloves, every two years. Planting these will create a constant source of nectar for bees, butterflies and other insects all year round.

If you have the extra space, then a herb patch is always a great addition. Bumble bees and solitary bees are attracted to rosemary in particular, whilst other herb garden favourites like lavender, sage, oregano and thyme all attract bees, butterflies and a host of other insects. If you leave some of your herbs to flower you’ll also be providing a rich food source for these little critters, leaving your garden buzzing with life and the hum of activity on warm days.

If you’ve got room for trellis, try some trailing plants like clematis or sweet peas. Hanging baskets are another great choice – the african daisy, fuschsia or busy lizzie are great for this and bees love them. Vegetables grow well in window boxes and, if you want to see a cabbage butterfly up close, go for broccoli, cabbage or flowering kale.

Top tip: Choose single-flowered varieties of plants like nasturtiums. Bees and butterflies can’t access double flowers, which have layered petals or flowers within flowers (like some varieties of roses) for pollen and nectar.

  1. Tune into the birdsong

Any avid gardener will understand the beauty of birdsong. The important thing to bear in mind is that birds need four things – something to eat/drink, somewhere to shelter, somewhere to wash and somewhere to breed. So grass, trees, shrubs and water are essential.

Hedges, bushes and shrubs are perfect hiding and perching places for birds and provide food like berries, fruit and insects for them to eat. Thoughtfully placed bird boxes make crucial spots for nesting. Birds of all kinds are reliant on trees for food and shelter, and hanging a few bird feeders from the more sturdy branches creates additional resting places. Additionally, bird baths provide a watering hole and bathing point for smaller birds. Your lawn also has lots of different seeds that birds like, such as meadow grass, buttercup and dandelion.

  1. Having a splash

Garden ponds create ideal breeding conditions for frogs, newts, and toads; and they attract all sorts of fascinating insects like the skater, water boatman and dragonflies. Whilst you can enjoy the gentle croak of the amphibians, you can also listen to birds, insects and other animals, like headgehogs, having a splash as they flock to it for a drink, a feast or to freshen up.

  1. The morning hush

Whether you’re an early riser or want to create a peaceful haven to relax in after a busy day, the rustling of leaves can send you into complete tranquillity. Swish, tall grasses like miscanthus and greater quaking grass make a lovely rustling sound, even in gentle breezes; as do fine-leaved trees like birch and robinia, although these trees must be watered everyday if planted during the summer season. clunk-bamboo makes a lovely hollow knocking sound when it bumps together and bigger canes can be turned into wind chimes.

  1. All creatures great and small

If you’re starting from scratch, beds and borders with wavy edges can look much more attractive and informal. Plant your larger shrubs and fruit trees towards the back of borders and then lower-growing shrubs such as lavender at the front. Use the spaces in between for different types of flowers. This will create a varied habitat, full of light, shade and hiding places for birds and smaller mammals like mice and voles. You could also add in an insect hotel or butterfly feeder; nestle these in amongst the foliage to supply shelter and food for the smaller insects.

Planting climbers against fences, on a trellis or against the side of a shed, will create a tangle of branches – great for insects and secretive birds like the wren. honeysuckle or ivy trailing over a fence also acts as a ‘ladder’ that lets small mammals and insects travel between one garden and another.