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Wildlife-friendly plants

Nectar Bar

At Berryfields, we have made what we called the Nectar Bar alongside our big pond. Butterflies are among the more beautiful visitors we hope to attract, but all nectar-drinking creatures are welcome here.

Any garden created for wildlife must offer an environment where the local ecology can feel at home. It's likely to include some grasses (beyond a neatly mown lawn) to provide seeds and pollen. It should also include a selection of umbellifers, such as angelica, fennel, chervil or dill - all of which are rich in nectar, and are particularly attractive to hoverflies and lacewings whose larvae, in turn, eat aphids.

Stinging nettles are essential food for the caterpillars of butterflies such as red admirals, tortoiseshells and peacocks, and therefore a must for every garden.

Designing your wildlife garden

When planting a nectar border or any selection of flowers to attract insects, think first of what's best for them and second, of what you want to look at. The two are not remotely exclusive of one another, but there are a few basic principles to bear in mind.

For instance, single-flowered plants are a good choice, because the design of these blooms makes it easier for insects to reach the nectar and pollen. Many double flowers are inaccessible to insects, or have low amounts of nectar and pollen, sometimes even none at all.

Year-round nectar

Aster macrophyllus

Although many insects are inactive in winter, some will still seek nectar late into the autumn, or on a warm spring day. Having a selection of plants flowering throughout the year can help ensure there are always nectar sources available.

We planted the Nectar Bar in autumn, with flowers such as buddleias, asters and sedums, to attract insects later in the season.

The perfect lawn may please the gardener, but is a desert for insects. So in front of the Bar we laid a strip of wildlife turf, which is enriched with dozens of wildflowers and nine different types of grass. We'll grow it long, then cut it, as we do the wildflower meadow, just twice a year.

Behind the Bar, we planted a mixed hedge of native species, which, as well as producing nectar, will shelter the plants and insects and provide nesting cover for the birds.

Wildlife-friendly plants

We used the following selection of plants in the Berryfields's Nectar Bar:

Plantain, Plantago

Plantago (Plantain)

Buddleja davidii,'Black Knight' (Butterfly bush)

Digitalis grandiflora (Foxglove)

Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell)

Eupatorium purpureum (Joe-pye weed)

Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Wildlife-friendly plants
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kaycurtis 24/11/2011 at 15:27

I rate this highly as we need to look after our native creatures, so that we maintian a healthy balance, so we can grow and survive rather than importing every thing from abroad polluting the world with airmiles.

soniamclean 24/11/2011 at 15:27

I would love to grow insect friendly flowers around our pond but it is a very large clay bottomed pond (abt 100 sq mtrs) and the water seeps several metres into the lawn. I think the only thing I can grow would be bog plants and they would have to compete with the grass. Most of the pond is surrounded by rushes but there are several gaps - any ideas for suitable wild-life and insect friendly plants please.

Jarrah 24/11/2011 at 15:27

We have left some long grass and wildflowers in our garden and would like to do mow it twice a year as suggested in this article. But at what time of year should these mowings take place??

gabamandoc 24/11/2011 at 15:29

Feeding them is great and easy. But you have to stop poisoning them too. Go organic in your garden and remove all chemicals. At least we can make gardens a safe haven for our insects.

smallfry 24/11/2011 at 15:29

I love wildlife gardening, we have got a patch where my little sis plays that is wild :)

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