Gardening for wildlife

Gaethlich is also an enthusiastic gardener and is preparing to write a book on one of his main interests – providing habitats for wildlife, which he has been doing on the island of Syros as well as on his Athens balcony. «In Greece and in Southern Europe generally, there is an interest in gardening but people don’t think about encouraging wildlife. Most people like seeing birds or butterflies in the garden but don’t know how to encourage them,» he said. Nevertheless, people are becoming more aware of wildlife as they are beginning to go more frequently to their holiday houses in winter and so they see more animals that hide away in the busier summer months. Also, as food becomes scarcer, wild animals are coming closer to inhabited areas to forage – foxes have been seen in the outer suburbs for some time now and even in one part of the center. Wildlife is discouraged by the use of pesticides, so one should try to establish a natural balance in the garden ecosystem by controlling weeds. «It is a different approach. One shouldn’t look at nature and divide species into harmful and useful ones, but acknowledge the value of each as a distinct entity. The gardener is the manager of the garden and has to ensure that certain species are promoted,» he explained. Gaethlich says there are some basic guidelines one can use to attract fauna to gardens, based on their four basic needs – food, water, shelter and a place to breed, but not necessarily in that order. And insects lay eggs on different plants than the ones they feed on. Gaethlich encourages all sorts of bird and animal species by providing flowers that attract butterflies, such as Buddleia, (whose common name in English is actually butterfly bush, in Greek, kalokairini paschalia), Duranta (a long-flowering shrub), Vitex agnus-castus (chaste tree, ligaria), lantana, all Verbenacea, violets and stocks. There are some books on this subject but none specifically for the Mediterranean area, so when Gaethlich’s book is completed, it will be a welcome addition to Mediterranean gardeners’ bookshelves. Martin Gaethlich will be speaking in detail on gardening for wildlife this evening at the Mediterranean Garden Society headquarters outside Paeania at 8 p.m. Space is limited so call ahead for details at tel 210.664.3089.