Gardening - Jo Whiley By Hannah Stephenson, P A

When BBC presenter Jo Whiley switches off from her busy broadcasting career, she’s frequently found tuning in to music of a different kind. “Music and gardening are my two big passions,” she explains. “When I’m gardening, I consciously switch off the radio and completely immerse myself in the sounds of the garden.

“Sound can have such a huge effect on people’s emotions. In the same way that someone may blast out a feel-good tune to lift their mood, the tranquil sounds of a garden can make you completely relaxed. Sound plays a big part of my life and my garden can provide a completely different musical backdrop compared to the studio.”

Whiley, 52, who lives in an 18th century barn conversion in a village in Northamptonshire with her music executive husband, Steve Morton, and four children, has transformed her garden into a musical paradise, featuring insect-friendly planting, wind chimes and water features.

“My garden sings with the sound of nature throughout the year. There are musical elements all around, from the bamboo wind chime to the trickling of the stream at the bottom of the main lawn.”

The garden is sectioned off into different areas and features a rose garden, a veg patch, a main lawn with bordering flower beds, a rockery and a stream flowing underneath a bridge before you reach the open fields at her back gate.

“Across from the stream is a willow tree - my daughter calls it ‘Wishing Tree Island’ - and it’s magical. There’s something about the rustling of the leaves and the swooshing sound of the branches blowing in the wind.

“I have a bird table which sits on the patio and this is where we enjoy all sorts of birds chirping throughout the day. We have resident robins, thrushes, herons, woodpeckers and even kites.” She has also gone for planting that encourages beneficial insects, and has planted insect hotels and bee houses around the garden.


“The scabiosa and aquilegia attract a lot of bees and my borders hum with the sound of them.

“We live in a barn conversion and are very aware that we are the temporary occupants and it’s the wildlife who really own the place. I hope our garden brings them as much happiness as it does me.”

Whiley has now teamed up with experts from Wyevale Garden Centres (www., offering tips to help gardeners recreate their own seasonal sounds:

Create a buzz - To attract bees and other pollinating insects, mix up herbaceous perennials, annuals and biennials which flower at different times. Lavender, wild geranium and salvia, hollyhocks, foxgloves, daisy-like flowers including asters and heleniums will all be a magnet for bees. Choose single-flowered varieties of plants like nasturtiums. Bees and butterflies can’t access double flowers, which have layered petals or flowers within flowers (like some varieties of roses) for pollen and nectar.

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