By Michael Doran
Gardens and insects need each other to thrive and yet their coexistence is often threatened in the pursuit of gardening perfection.
Passionate gardener and author, AB Bishop, believes strongly in the need to create gardens that welcome all the native fauna in.
Ms Bishop, who works part-time at Kuranga Native Nursery in Mount Evelyn, has written a book, ‘Habitat’, on how to create the perfect environment where flora and fauna can live in a balanced and mutually healthful environment.
“A lot of gardeners have the same thoughts of living in balance with the fauna all around us,” she said. “Unfortunately knowing about this approach is not second nature to most gardeners, yet it is integral to the garden’s health.
“I have always had an empathy with the natural world combined with a strong desire to make a contribution to the planet. I am not a scientist and I can’t cure cancer but, with the skills I have got, I thought this is something I can do.
“I have a strong emphasis on having native fauna in our gardens for both the enjoyment they bring and also for the health benefits to the garden.
“That’s how I garden, I love to see different birds and insects suddenly arrive in my garden and watch all of the ways in which the flora and fauna can connect.”
In her own garden she has banished all pesticides, a step she took after watching a caterpillar set up home on her native finger lime. “It freaked me out to see it there and the usual conditioning was to use a product to get rid of it,” she said.
“But I decided to look at it with new eyes, so I just watched as it got bigger and was there when the butterfly started to emerge – I sat watching for more than an hour as it came out, wiggled its wings, dried them out and flew off.
“And what struck me was this was a connection that came about because I sat back and let it happen. I didn’t interfere by using a chemical yet both the finger lime and the butterfly thrived.
“It really challenged the way I look at the garden – there may be so-called safe herbicides and pesticides but they are all there to kill something.
“It’s not just birds or bees, it’s the native insects who will go anywhere and there is a whole other world of critters we can attract into our gardens if we make it a nice healthy place to be.”
In the seven months it took to put the book together Ms Bishop travelled around the country researching gardens in all sorts of climates.
“Learning more about Australia’s amazing wildlife and how we can do things to encourage them into our gardens, rather than look for ways to keep them out has been a real revelation,” she said.
Her message is aimed at the everyday gardener and the book is a step-by-step guide in how to create a balanced habitat using fauna-friendly landscapes.