Planting For Wildlife
22nd Oct 2012
Honey Bee on Rudbeckia
Our wet weather this summer has meant that it’s been a really difficult year for our butterflies and bees. However, one of the flower borders just outside our Visitor Centre, has been planted with these species in mind. I was amazed and heartened to see the enormous numbers of butterflies, bees and hoverflies that these plants attracted in late September. If you would like to see these beautiful creatures create a similar spectacle in your garden the best species to plant are Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Buddleja, Verbena bonariensis and Lavender. These are all hardy, “easy to manage” plants that can be found in most garden centres. If you already have one or two Echinaceas or Rudbeckias in your garden then this is a perfect time of year to lift and divide them. This can be done any time from now until early spring, but avoid doing it in very cold or wet weather. Ease the plant out of the ground gently with a fork, trying to keep as much of the roots as possible in tact. Chop through the crown with a spade to make new plants and retain only the healthiest sections with lots of growth buds. Replant the divisions at the same depth as the original and water regularly until well established. If you’re a beginner this probably sounds more complicated than it actually is, but trust me, the amount of skill required is minimal. Muscle power is more important for this job and you will be rewarded with the fantastic sight of lots of grateful butterflies flitting around your garden next summer! You may well be thinking “OK, the butterflies are pretty but why should I be concerned about hoverflies and bees?” The short answer to that is hoverfly larvae feed on aphids, the mortal enemy of every gardener and our gardens would not exist without the pollinating power of the bees. In fact Einstein famously said “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would have only four years to live”! Now, that’s a pretty good reason to look after our bees!
P.S. You may be tempted to tidy up your beds and borders by cutting back the dead or faded flowers of your Echinaceas or Rudbeckias before the winter. But restrain yourself! The dried seed heads of these and many other perennials will provide a valuable food source for hungry birds in the winter.
Irene Mc Mahon
Peacock Butterfly on Echinacea
Red Admiral on Echinacea
Tortoiseshell Butterflies on Buddleja