Posts Tagged ‘pollinators’

Growing Wildflowers for Bees and Butterflies

April 15th, 2019 | News | 2 Comments

Growing Wildflowers for Bees and Butterflies

Spring has sprung and already we’re seeing many more butterflies and bees than were about even last week. They’re wonderful insects, especially loved by us gardeners for the incredible work they do pollinating our crops. So let’s show them some love – by growing more wildflowers! Read on or watch the video for how to do it.

The Power of Flowers

Flowers attract all kinds of beneficial insects – not just bees and butterflies, but also predatory insects such as hoverflies and ladybugs. Together they help to boost harvests and keep common pests like aphids under control.

Flowers that are rich in nectar and pollen offer the most food for these insects. Wildflowers are best because they usually have simple, single flowers that are easier for flying insects to access. And it figures that native bugs will be more familiar with native wildflowers.Researching which wildflowers will thrive in your garden

Consider Climate and Soil

Your local climate and soil will determine what you can grow. Some wildflowers, for example yarrow, knapweed and ox-eye daisy cope very well with sandy, free-draining soils that are prone to drought. Others like primrose, cowslip and buttercup are better suited to heavy clay soils.

Take time to research which wildflowers are native to your region then check their suitability to the conditions found in your garden because you want your flowers to thrive.

Year-Round Flowers

Plan to have flowers throughout the year if you want beneficial insects to set up a permanent home in your garden. Shrubs such as witch hazel and sweet box flower from late winter, and let’s not forget the plethora of bulbs – snowdrops and crocuses, followed by daffodils, fritillaries and tulips. Native bulbs will naturally spread over time to become a permanent and very welcome feature of your garden.

At the other end, examples of late season flowers include sedums, ivy and colchicum (also known as autumn crocus).

Our Garden Planner includes a helpful selection of flowers, including several wildflowers, that are perfect for growing within a fruit and vegetable garden. Click the ‘i’ Information button next to the plant in the selection bar for details of their cultivation and suitability as companion plants to popular crops. Drop them into your plan, and see how easy it is to incorporate flowers among your edible plants.

Alternatively, select one or more vegetables in your plan and click the heart-shaped Companion Planting button to see plants that are beneficial to grow together.

Include Self-Seeders

Many wildflowers are self-seeders, meaning they naturally drop seeds that germinate and grow on with little or no intervention from you. This is a major advantage to growing wildflowers – often you only need to plant once for a lifetime of blooms.Many wildflowers, like calendula, are self-seeders which grow on with little intervention Once you become familiar with their seedlings you’ll find them easy to spot while removing unwanted plants takes very little effort. Many self-seeders, such as Mexican fleabane, will happily establish in cracks within paving or walls.

Popular self-seeders include calendula, borage, teasel and poppies, as well as a number of biennials or short-lived perennials like hollyhock and foxglove.

To introduce self-seeders in the first place, simply scatter seeds onto prepared ground then rake in. If you want to grow them among your vegetables, sow them in rows between crops or to the side of the plot as a ‘pollinator strip’. Alternatively, start seedlings off in pots then transplant them to where they are needed.

Create a Flower Meadow

Wildflower meadows are both beautiful and a feast for visiting bees and butterflies. By simply leaving an area of lawn alone through spring and summer – uncut, unfed and unwatered – you’ll be able to see if any wildflowers are already there. Then once you have seen what’s there you can easily supplement the display by planting plugs or bulbs of other wildflowers.

Another option is to sow a wildflower mix onto empty ground. Cornfield mixes are excellent for this purpose, providing a riot of color with an accompanying throng of insects mere months after sowing. Rake dug over, weed-free soil to a fine tilth then broadcast the seeds evenly over the surface. Rake again so the seeds are in contact with the soil then pat the surface down with the back of the rake. If it’s dry, water the sown area to speed germination along. The seedlings should appear within a couple of weeks.

You can mark out areas of wildflower meadow on your garden plan by selecting the meadow texture to fill in the desired shapes.

Wildflowers are great for bees and butterflies, and to be honest they’re pretty good for the soul too! If you have a favourite wildflower for attracting these beneficial bugs, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Helping helpful insects

November 16th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

BlueTit-©-Francis-C.-Franklin--CC-BY-SA-3

We’ve heard so many of reports recently about the decline in insect populations, both pollinators and other insects, that many gardeners are wondering how they can help. Recent news of the decline in bird populations and the populations of other vertebrates is also rather chilling.

Insects are not only vital pollinators for our crops and for wild fruits and for seed-set in wild and garden flowers, but they also provide – not to put too fine a point on it – themselves as food for birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and even other insects. A brood of ten blue tit chicks can get through one thousand caterpillars – per day! [At first, I didn’t believe that either but the British Trust for Ornithology confirms the figure]

But blue tits are also very efficient predators of aphids, and I’ve watched them dealing with infestations on roses and lupins very efficiently, carrying beakfuls off to their chicks.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we plant roses so that blue tits and other birds can feed on their aphids! But the help of gardeners can be crucial in two ways: firstly, by attracting wildlife of all kinds to our gardens through providing food and nest sites, and secondly by planting varieties that insects appreciate. Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at different ways to help insects and other wildlife.

Of course, protecting natural habitats is crucial and one way of helping with that is to buy friends and relatives memberships of conservation organisations such as local wildlife trusts as Christmas gifts – and to join up yourself.

So that’s a start: your local wildlife trust. And next time I’ll be thinking about insect friendly flowers.

RSPB and Mr Fothergill’s link up to Give Nature a Home

September 4th, 2014 | News, The flower garden | 0 Comments

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has joined forces with Mr Fothergill’s to offer its own retail range of seeds for the 2014-15 season to boost the charity’s ‘Give Nature a Home‘ campaign, which is inspiring families to create wildlife-friendly areas in their gardens.

RSPB Give Nature a HomeThe RSPB, the country’s largest nature conservation charity, is inspiring everyone to give nature a home, and has launched a television advertising campaign to make a greater number aware of the extent of its important work and emphasising this message.  The charity’s Geoff Brown said, “We regard our link to Mr Fothergill’s as an exciting opportunity to work with a company which shares the RSPB’s values and to raise awareness of our mission to help and protect endangered wildlife.”

Attractively presented on a dedicated, free-standing display, it presents 16 single varieties, three Four-in-One collection packs and three Shaker Boxes of wildflower mixes.

Each packet or box carries a silhouette icon to show whether the contents attract birds, pollinating insects, butterflies or a combination of the three, all of which the RSPB now seeks to protect.  The charity receives a royalty from Mr Fothergill’s for every pack sold to help its work with British wildlife.

The RSPB seed range is widely available from retail stockists of Mr Fothergill’s throughout the UK.  If you are interested in stocking the RSPB range in your garden centre or retail outlet, then get in touch with us to discuss.