Gardens often seem dead at this time of year, but they are full of over-wintering creatures that are ready to bring them to life in spring.

This month we share tips for sheltering garden wildlife during the winter.

Top tips for sheltering wildlife in winter

There are many favourite places that you can avoid disturbing. They include:

  • piles of leaf litter which shelter mini-beasts, queen bumblebees, amphibians, hedgehogs, woolly bear caterpillars of the garden tiger moth and the pupae of elephant hawk moths
  • undisturbed ground for mini-beasts, queen bumblebees, pupae of cinnabar and elephant hawk moths
  • log piles for mini-beasts, queen bumblebees and amphibians, such as toads
  • rockeries, stone walls and piles of rocks, which can shelter mini-beasts, amphibians and lizards
  • compost heaps for mini-beasts, queen bumblebees and reptiles, such as slow worms
  • dense vegetation for over-wintering adult butterflies, such as brimstone and small tortoiseshell, and for butterfly pupae, including the holly blue 
  • plant stems for mini-beasts and pupae, including the pupae of the orange tip butterfly
  • long grass for mini-beasts, queen bumblebees and the larvae of the meadow brown butterfly, which keep slowly eating through the winter
  • tree roots for amphibians and adult butterflies, such as the comma and peacock. Bats may also find shelter in their bark and hollow parts
  • bee homes for the larvae and pupae of solitary bees. If you have not already done so, shelter them from damp, for example, in a cool outhouse. Remember to make sure the adults can find their way outside when they emerge next year. Bee homes are great Christmas presents.

December plants

  • Holly for beautiful berries and shelter for many creatures, including birds
  • Sweet box (sarcococca confusa) for scented winter flowers
  • Winter jasmine.

Take care of the small creatures in winter and you can look forward to bees, butterflies and birds in your garden next year. 

Sources: Gardening for a Wilder Kent / Kent Wildlife Trust: How to make a bee hotel / Bumblebee Conservation Trust: How to help hibernating bumblebees / Butterfly Conservation: Where do butterflies and moths go in winter? / British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

A bee flies towards a sunflower.