The Gardens, weeds & words podcast, Series 1 Episode 5

Gardening for wildlife

with Kate Bradbury

For episode 5 of the Gardens, weeds & words podcast, I’m joined by Kate Bradbury, author of Wildlfe Gardening and The Bumblebee Flies Anyway, to talk about the wildlife in our gardens, and our relationship to it. There’s the usual seasonal garden sountrack, a micro review of two more of my favourite gardening books, and some really bad piano playing. So, all in all, a fitting way to see out the year. I do hope you’ll join me.

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We’ve arrived at the mid-way point in winter, and once the Christmas festivities are behind us, many of us will be turning our attention in earnest upon how the garden will be in 2019 (in reality, most gardeners have been doing this since the growth rate slowed down in October). It’s an ideal opportunity to think about the wildlife in our gardens, and how we might garden more sympathetically for the needs of the creatures with which we share our space.

To discuss this with me I was delighted to have the company of Kate Bradbury, whose book The Bumblebee Flies Anyway was one of my reading highlights of the year. We talked about her early plant memories, what gardens are really for, and discussed considering the “wildlife value” of the plants we grow. Bumblebees, lawns, and the place of the environment within the economy all get a look in during a pretty wide-ranging conversation that ended up with us wondering if we had cause for hope, or for despair when thinking about our relationship with the wildlife around us. You’ll have to listen to find out what conclusion we came to.

There’s a micro review of two of the most immediately reached-for gardening books on my shelf, Christopher Lloyd’s The Well Tempered Garden and Dan Pearson’s Home Ground – very different voices, but equally inspiring – brought alive with readings from Richard Chivers of the critically acclaimed Sharpen Your Spades blog.

All rounded off with some terrible piano playing from yours truly – a perfectly apt way to round off the year for the Gardens, weeds & words podcast, which will be back early in the new year after a short break to bring you more garden inspired slow radio, and conversations with creative gardeners and plant-inspired makers.

I hope you enjoy this episode – please continue to share the podcast on social media, and if you’d really like to brighten my day, leave a review on iTunes or your podcast app of choice. Or drop me a note in the comments section below, having listened on the embedded player on this page.

Gardens, weeds and words podcast, S01E05 show notes

A blend of slow radio, gardening advice and conversation, and readings from the best garden and wildlife writing.

Garden soundtrack

Winter reading, micro reviews.

The Well-Tempered Garden, by Christopher Lloyd, paperback edition published 2014 by Weidenfeld and Nicolson

Home Ground, by Dan Pearson, published 2011 by Conran Octopus

Using #betwixtmas to plan the garden for the coming year – a chance to think about making provision for wildlife.

Interview with Kate Bradbury

08:42 Plant memories

11:16 What are gardens for?

16:05 The buddleia incident



22:21 Planning wildlife into built environments

24:15 The Bumblebee Flies Anyway – what's in a name?

26:09 Lawns, are they really so bad?

NHS Insect bites and stings advice

33:08 Placing an economic cost on "environment services"

34:06 What hope going forward?

Review of Kate’s latest book, The Bumblebee Flies Anyway: a year of gardening and (wild)life, on the Gardens, Weeds & Words blog, here:

Kate’s previous book, The Wildlife Gardener, available here:

Hydrangeas with better wildlife value

It’s true, the ubiquitous mophead Hydrangea macrophylla has a flower head packed with sterile florets, which offer no food for pollinating insects. But those with the flower structure known as “lacecap”, where small, tightly furled fertile florets are surrounded by a thing ring of their sterile counterparts, are much richer in nectar. These include varieties of paniculate hydrangea, such as Hydrangea paniculata ‘Vanille Fraise’ or ‘Limelight', the climbing hydrangea Hydrangea anomoloa subsp. petiolaris, and the impressive oakleaved hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia, with its wonderful autumn colouration. Varieties of Hydrangea arborescens, including the popular ‘Annabelle’, are also worth including in your pollinator-friendly plantings.

With thanks to Richard Chivers for providing his Welsh tones for the reading. You can find Richard’s acclaimed blog at, and the gent himself lurks on social media here: 

Twitter Instagram


That’s it for 2018! Thank you for all your support and lovely messages. Looking forward to bringing you more slow gardening radio and conversations with creatives and plant-inspired makers next year.


You can hear find the podcast trailer and the first four episodes here, either on iTunes or on Switcher.

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Hello! I’m Andrew, gardener, writer, photographer, and owner of a too-loud laugh, and I’m so pleased you’ve found your way to Gardens, weeds & words. You can read a more in-depth profile of me on the About page, or by clicking this image.