I suppose I’m betraying my age here but do you remember a golden curled and silvery voiced Dolly Parton singing this every week on her television show, as she appeared on a swing in a floaty gown that fluttered “like soft wings in flight”?
Who doesn’t love a butterfly? Not just, as Dolly sang, gentlewinged and satin things, but vital members of our fragile ecosystem increasingly in danger from over-use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, not just in farming, but in gardens too. Although bees are the best known pollinators, without whom we simply wouldn’t be able to grow fruits and vegetables to eat, butterflies also have a part to play in the pollination process and encouraging these beautiful creatures into your garden not only makes it a lovelier place but helps the world outside it as well. Even the names – Red Admiral, Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell are so pretty in themselves.
When designing planting plans for clients, I always check if they would like to encourage beneficial wildlife into their garden, in particular birds, bees and butterflies, and the answer is usually a resounding “yes, please!” So I make sure that the plants I select for them encourage these creatures as well as looking good and being easy to care for. In my own garden I notice they are particularly drawn to Erysimum ‘Bowles’ Mauve’, nepeta and lavender. Although these are mostly summer-flowering, including a variety of spring and autumn flowering plants helps provide for them right throughout the season, from when they first emerge, hungry, from hibernation. As I like to plant for year-round colour and interest, this is something I do when producing planting plans for clients’ gardens anyway.
Other things you can do to help are to avoid insecticides and pesticides, which kill not only the ‘pests’ that are bothering you, but also butterflies and all manner of other creatures that are vital to a healthy ecosystem – which of course is what a garden is, in miniature. If you grow fruit, leaving fallen pears, plums and apples on the ground in autumn will help some species, who can feed on the juices – a handy excuse to put off tidying up!
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