- Losing bees and other pollinators would be disastrous
- Plants like lavender and sage are particularly attractive to insects
- If your garden is exposed, consider planting for shelter
The insect world is in trouble. Numbers are falling in more than 60 per cent of invertebrate species, and many are facing extinction.
You might be glad to see the back of wasps or mosquitoes. But losing bees and other pollinators would be disastrous.
Without them, many food crops would fail. And 80 per cent of our wildflower species would disappear, too. And, with so many invertebrates gone, most other wildlife would vanish.
Pretty perfect: Nectar rich blooms such as this dog rose are irresistible to bees
We gardeners can help to put that right. It doesn’t take much effort and most plots are already havens for insects.
Pollinator-friendly gardens are diverse and look lovely all year. And a habitat that’s welcoming to bees, butterflies and birds will be pleasant for you, too.
If you garden at all, you’re already helping to slow pollinator decline. But if you think your garden could work harder, now is a good time to take action. Most of this year’s growing season is still to come and a big push now will bear excellent results.
GIVE THEM SHELTER
If walls or fences are bare, furnish them with flowering climbers such as honeysuckles or rambling roses
Pollinators need flower-rich foraging grounds. They also prefer pleasant, sheltered places which catch the sun.
So, if your garden is exposed, consider planting for shelter. If walls or fences are bare, furnish them with flowering climbers such as jasmine, honeysuckles or rambling roses. They will help to reduce wind damage as well as providing flowers.
You can plant containerised specimens at any time of year. Water them regularly until safely established.
By all means continue to grow your favourites, but step up numbers of pollen and nectar rich species. These will include single-flowered varieties rather than fancy doubles. Many will be fragrant and the best will flower for lengthy periods. Those are desirable qualities anyway, with or without the bees.
Extending the floral season will improve your garden as well as feed insects. And, if you include plants with berries, they’ll feed birds as well as nectar or pollen hungry insects.
I’ve developed a meadow over the past 12 years. Flowers abound from February to October. Four butterfly species breed in the tiny area and the diversity of insects must be seen to be believed.
It’s easy to maintain, with a first and only big cut and rake off in late September. Two more trims before Christmas shorten the grass further and the job’s done. I spend hours in summer, gazing at the wealth of life there. Besides wildflowers, thousands of glorious garden plants are good for pollinators.
The deadnettle family is especially attractive to insects, and includes lavender and sage
The deadnettle family is especially attractive to insects, and includes lavender, sage, Stachys, Phlomis, rosemary and basil.
The daisy family is, too, particularly in late summer when rudbeckias, zinnias, perennial asters and dahlias are at their best.
Tall purple Verbena bonariensis self-seeds freely and is irresistible to butterflies. And on Buddleja davidii they’ll sip themselves into a torpor.
Choose ‘Buzz’ varieties for patio pots. Early flowers are crucial, too. Bumblebees wake from hibernation early – sometimes in February – so hellebores, mahonias and aconites can help here.
For spring, make sure you have cowslips, wallflowers, honesty and cuckoo flower – Cardamine pratensis.
If you need more guidance, go to Buglife (buglife.org.uk). The RHS (rhs.org.uk) also has lots of information, including a list of Award of Garden Merit (AGM) plants for pollinators. That might make a good starting point.