Creating a wildlife-friendly, biodiverse garden from scratch takes time but, as it establishes, an expanding insect population and some secret shelters will emerge to attract birds, frogs and hedgehogs. Getting the soil in good shape is key to let your plantings flourish.

Every good gardener needs a compost bin. It is the garden’s greatest asset, its richest source of biodiversity, containing billions of organisms, from the microscopic to worms and the many other tiny creatures we see. They transform garden and raw kitchen waste into fine compost that enriches and enlivens the garden soil, so making it the perfect base for growing plants.

Plants in a small garden must pack a punch so it’s worth taking time to choose suitable ones. Native Scottish or European species are better than more generalist exotic ones. Although pollinators, like bees, don’t care where flowers come from, so long as they’re single-flowered and not doubles, many other creatures prefer or need local plants.

I’m always thrilled at this time of year to see a spectacular fungus, Tongues of Fire, which needs my common juniper, Juniperus commnunis, as a host. So, whenever possible, go for native plants like Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia, or Rosa spinosissima, Burnet Rose, rather than exotics.

Where you live also matters. If you live by the coast, Armeria maritima might work well. A woody area could include Geranium sylvaticum, Digitalis purpurea, or Viola riviniana. A grassy sloped garden could include Campanula rotundifolia, Scottish bluebell or Harebell. And Dianthus deltoides, Maiden Pink, could be an answer for stony ground.

This is also a good time of year to see what generally does well locally. Look at what other gardeners nearby are growing and visit any imaginatively designed nearby parks that avoid boringly formulaic bedding plants. While out on a walk, keep an eye out for any attractive wild flowers.

Smaller privately-owned garden centres may have some suitable plants and several Scottish nurseries supply them at the right sowing or planting time. Nurseries include: Perthshire Wildlife, Wildflowers Scotland, Aberfeldy, and Poyntzfield Herb Nursery on the Black Isle.

Plant of the week

Iris ‘Jane Phillips’ is a tall bearded iris with beautiful, scented, flax-blue flowers. Each stem grows to 1.2 m and produces several flowers that open successionally, though each does not last for long.

I find bearded irises grow well near the front of a sunny border where their rhizomes are in the sun; they rot easily if shaded and damp. Planting later flowering species, like asters, behind the the irises draws my gaze past the leaves once the glory of the flowers is over.

Clumps need to be divided every three or four years to keep them vigorous.

Subscribe to The Herald and don't miss a single word from your favourite writers by clicking here