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GCSE design project research.


        I am a year 11 design student currently doing my design coursework. I am in the process of designing a garden planter with an incorporated animal hide with the aim of encouraging wildlife (mainly small rodents, hedgehogs etc) into the garden. Seeing as i am not overly knowledgeable on the topic of garden furniture manufacture and design, I have come to this forum in hope of receiving some advice on my project. Any information on the following (but not limited to) would be greatly appreciated:
  • Materials you think would be suitable to use (for aesthetic value or durability).
  • Overall aesthetic appeal - what you think would look best e.g woods, metal etc.
  • What sorts of plants you would wish to plant in a similar product.
  • Any opinions on size, shape etc.
  • Any other relevant information related to garden wildlife and the design of a planter. 
Any replies would be extremely useful and greatly appreciated. Information could not just be limited to the set bullet points but it'd be useful if you could keep it along similar lines.  Thank you for reading! 


  • B3B3 Posts: 27,011
    For a minute, I thought you wanted to make it out of animal hide😕I
    What about a bee hotel around the outside?
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 22,728
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 22,728
    edited October 2019
    Erm, I can’t see a link between a hide and encouraging rodents and hedgehogs.

    If they think they’re being watched, I should imagine they’d be more likely to stay away....

    Well, I would anyway. 😕

    Plus, how big a planter would you need for it to incorporate a hide? At my age I’d need at least enough height to allow me to stand up and have a stretch every now and then. A seat for my creaking knees, too. I’m not able to lurk for long on all fours.
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • sorry i seem to have explained this in a bad way. The planter would have a small hollow area for animals to use/ nest in. I know this isn't realistic however if you could give information on the preferred looks of the planter and its features that'd be much appreciated. thanks.
  • wild edgeswild edges Posts: 10,177
    If it was me I'd pick an animal and work outwards from there. This website sells the animal boxes that professionals generally use and will give you a good idea of appropriate sizes and shapes to start with.

    Woodcrete is a great material for animal boxes but for a planter you might want to look more at frost-proof concrete. I see some things like bird nest boxes with succulents planted on them but as a general rule succulents like full sun and bird boxes like shade so bear things like that in mind too. Bat boxes and bee hotels like full sun though so they might be a good area to explore.

    Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 12,165
    edited October 2019
    I found this rather swanky one online, admittedly for insects as opposed to mammals,  but it may give you some idea.
    I would personally go for more natural materials such as wood. Metal can heat up and be unsuitable for wildlife. It's difficult to place planters where wildlife would use it and humans could see it, as has been said above, also the aesthetics of it are more for our purposes.  Hedgehogs etc. couldn't care less what it looks like.  :)
    As regards planting, if you also want that to attract insects etc. then you will get plenty of advice! 
  • BenCottoBenCotto Posts: 4,580
    I too was a little baffled by animal hide but, of the three possibilities (animal skin, human hidey hole, animal hidey hole), I inferred it had to be the last. One other thing I would add is how nice it is to see something written in such elegant prose. You write so well.

    As to your question, I think it will be difficult to design something that is good for a range of creatures. I think it better to choose one subset and focus on that. I would avoid trying to design something for small rodents; it’ll just be too attractive for the neighbourhood cats. That leaves you with providing a habitat for larger creatures such as hedgehogs, those that fly - the birds and the bats, and insects, usually referred to as a bug hotel.

    For each of these the respective wildlife charities and conservation groups will have advice on providing habitat spaces. The quandary you face is whether to provide something that most suitable for the creature and that is likely to be something that replicates nature, is unostentatious, and discreetly positioned, or something targeted at the casual purchaser with no great wildlife interest but wants to set an example to the children perhaps, or have something whimsically decorative in the garden.

    The habitat and planter combined idea will be difficult to achieve. Planters will need tending and the human interference will be anathema to most living things. Insects, though, are probably more insouciant so if you really want to pursue the idea of combining the two functions I would focus on that. 

    Personally, I would go for a birdhouse designed to precise specifications as would be provided by the RSPB but then use my (by which I mean your!) design talents to give it a humorous edge. A row of nesting places got up to look like beach huts and painted in contrasting pastel colours would amuse me but do birds take to high density living? That would need researching. As for planting to go with it, maybe some small sedums would work and there are experts on sedums on this forum who might advise. Certainly they are plants which have minimal maintenance demands. 

    As for materials, avoid plastic. It is becoming anathema now to some. Metal would need careful siting because, in the sun, it could become an oven so that suggests timber as the best alternative. There are treated timbers like Accoya with a very long life expectancy and researching them could add innovation to your project.

    Good luck. I hope you do well.

    Rutland, England
  • wild edgeswild edges Posts: 10,177
    BenCotto said:
    As for materials, avoid plastic. It is becoming anathema now to some.

    You're forgetting how much of modern design stuff is 3D printed though. Imagine being able to print your own planted animal house using recycled plastic. No shipping costs or retail mark ups, no packaging, no need to have it made in China and then shipped halfway across the world to make it cheap enough to be profitable. If it was UV stable and end life recycleable I could be persuaded.
    Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people
  • BenCottoBenCotto Posts: 4,580
    Not forgetting, wild edges, just lack of knowledge to begin with!
    Rutland, England
  • CeresCeres Posts: 2,577
    Sometimes during the summer I find frogs hiding in amongst the planters where it is cooler and damp. I am sure amphibians would use a refuge that incorporated a boggy or mini pond area amongst the potted plants. Terracotta would be the best material to use but I realise that would be difficult on a GCSE project although you could construct a planter from wood and incorporate a terracotta frog pond within it.
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