When we think of new toys in the garden they are invariably big and bouncy, built to keep the children amused and out from under foot, or something butch like the latest in cordless hedge trimmers or a big beefy shredder. My daughter and I are proud owners of two new toys, not very manly but very exciting things for both sexes and children of whatever age. I’m an avid watcher of garden birds and although I’m fine at identifying them by sight, more often than not I haven’t a clue telling them apart from their songs, that is until now. My new toy is a book with a big difference, the birds in the photographs sing at the press of a button and today I’ve recognised a grasshopper warbler and a blackcap, they must have been just feet from the back door and although I couldn’t see either of them they were definitely there making themselves known in song. My book helps me identify creatures I can’t see and my daughter’s toy does the same by opening a window onto a previously unknown garden, it’s a digital microscope, a birthday present from her brother and it reveals a whole new world invisible to the naked eye. Just a few drops of water show themselves to be alive with the tiniest of animals and plants in a range of shapes and colours. Dark spinning spheres rotating swiftly out of view, colourless wriggling worms, armour plated insects with fearsome jaws and the oddest of all, a bright blue chubby little creature fastidiously cleaning its short fat hairy legs – if anybody knows what this is I’d love to know! . I designed my garden to be beneficial to as much wildlife as possible and I know it’s successful from the number of insects, birds and amphibians making their homes in the habitats I’ve provided for them, but it’s only now that I’ve had a glimpse into its microscopic world that I’ve realised just how teeming with life it really is and how little I truly know the patch I thought I knew so well. Our gardens are as familiar to us as old friends but they have an unrivalled capacity to surprise and delight and there are always new discoveries to be made, what better new toys than those which help us to make them.