Very occasionally - probably because my day job is being a journalist - I get sent new books to read in the hope I'll review them here. The latest of these is Bringing a Garden to Life by Jenny Steel. It's both the story of the creation of the garden at Lower Blakemere farm, home to the wildlife gardening company Wiggly Wigglers, and a guide to creating a haven for wildlife in your own garden.
It's a beautiful book, packed with images of the many and varied creatures and plants that thrive in the garden, but it's also packed full of information on how to make your own wildlife garden. There are chapters on making a pond, hedges and orchards, meadows, and vegetable gardens - I've only had a chance to read a couple so far, but I've already learned lots. There are also freestanding pages sprinkled throughout the book focusing on "feature creatures" and "focal plants", which look at everything from barn owls and great crested newts to lavender and dandelions.
Take the teasel plant for instance, included in the book as a "focal flower". I was bought some of these plants in the spring and I've been fascinated by the extra birds they have brought into the garden already. But I had no idea that I can expect goldfinches in the late summer, feeding on the seeds, or that the place where the leaves clasp the stalk was known as the Bath of Venus, and the water that collects in it was thought to cure eye infections and get rid of freckles.
My only quibble with the book - and it's a really small one - was that I found the typeface a bit irritating. I guess it's designed to chime with the "wiggliness" of the name of the firm, but I found it distracting from the photos and text.
But more than anything else, the book makes me want to visit Lower Blakemere farm and meet Wiggly WIgglers founder Heather Gorringe in person, and also to do everything I can to get some more wildlife into my own garden. Funnily enough, I was sitting in my garden last night when I saw a flash of blue dropping into the bird box on the wall. The box had sat idle since we moved in, but it seems at least one bird is finally becoming interested in it, perhaps as a roost rather than a nesting box at present. Perhaps it's the teasels ...