I have a small garden in Wimbledon and would like to make it a more suitable habitat for local wildlife, but I don't know what sort of wildlife I should be looking to encourage?
I there a one-size fits all solution to developing more friendly habitats in our gardens, or should different areas of the country be working to encourage particular types of plants and animals to make a new home in their backyards?
its really encouraging you think like this, if everyone in UK with garden (even window boxes) plated some native species then the insect, other invertebrate and vertebrate species would expand the size and distribution of their populations, and the UK could be wilder and prettier at the same time. having said that, a garden is a garden and don't feel obligated to plant only native species, because some colorful non-natives also attract and feed animal species - Buddleia is a good example as it will support butterflies and moths. Non-natives to beware of are those with color but no smell and those which don't produce much nectar or produce it too deeply for native insects to drink fully. And if you want to grow some herbs or a few veggies thats also fine, but be prepared to put up with nibbled leaves and sometimes nibbled edible bits!!
after all that the following site has a post code listing of wildflowers from your arae which can be a good starting point - but the "garden worthy" (GW) label excludes some less attractive (to us) species but which will perform excellent functions in your burgeoning ecosystem!
then where to buy these plants (its not legal to just collect seed from the wild without appropriate permission) try this web site:
but many garden centres now also sell some wildflower seeds, so shop around. but try to buy seeds which are as close to Wimbledon in provenance as possible, although thats not always taht easy!!
So happy sowing, use the winter to plan your garden, and also remember once there, annuals will self sow, just let them do their thing, and don't "tidy" the garden too much - autumn leaves have nutrients for next years plant crops, so let them lie where they fall!! And while you will get results in year 1, it will take about 4 - 5 years before you suddenly realise you are seeing more insects (especially butterflies, moths, hover flies and bees) than before, and your bird tally is increasing. Good luck - and - make sure your neighbours understand and also take part if you can convince them!
I try to encourage wildlife into my garden and have found this gardening for wildlife blog by the RSPB a big help.
Hope this helps