What To Do In Your Wild Space This Winter

Sophie Hall

There are lots of ways to continue to look after your Wild Space during the winter months. Here are a few of the things you can do.

Rest your trimmers

With the arrival of winter, many keen gardeners pull out their trimmers to cut back their hedges. Whilst this is a better time of year to trim to avoid disturbing birds who might be nesting, cutting back your hedge now can wipe out whole generations of insects, including butterflies and moths that are in their egg, caterpillar, or chrysalis stage. This winter, try leaving sections of your hedge uncut. Cutting back sections every few years on a rotational basis will help you maintain your hedge whilst helping to protect some of the eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises that might be hidden amongst it.

Who might you spot in your hedge? Look out for an Orange-tip chrysalis disguised as a plant thorn, Vapourer moth egg batches on bark, or Angle Shades moth caterpillars – these chunky, bright green critters will feed on a great variety of plants with leaves through the winter.

Host a berry buffet

Ivy and Holly produce berries through the autumn and winter which are a feast for all kinds of wildlife during the colder months when other sources of food are scarce. Allow your berries to flourish this December and save your pruning until late winter or early spring. Like your hedge, it’s better to cut back Holly and Ivy less frequently and rotate which sections you cut. Regular pruning or trimming can result in fewer berries.

Who might you see at your berry buffet? Red Admirals fly late into the season and some overwintering butterflies who become active on warmer days may make use of your flowering Ivy and berries for food.

Leave the leaves

Leaf litter is a vital habitat for moth and butterfly caterpillars and pupae who use piles of dead leaves for shelter during the winter. If you can, leave your leaves where they fall, or sweep them into piles around your garden where they can sit for the winter. Look out in your leaf litter for the cocoon of the Elephant Hawk-moth. Once pupated, this large and striking pink and olive-green moth will emerge the following year from May onwards.

Create a plant stem patch

With your flowers finished for the year, you might be tempted to cut the old stems down. However, some species of moth and other insects use the inside of the stems to hibernate in. To help some of these stowaways make it through to next spring, try leaving a patch of uncut plant stems.
Wondering who might be hiding in your new patch? The fully fed caterpillar of the delicate Hemp-agrimony Plume moth might be tucked away inside a stem, or there could be a Mint Moth cocoon on the old flowerheads of various mint species.