Turn the clock back to 1950 and the English garden was a different place.
The atmosphere would have been alive with insects – an active, buzzy and hazy ecological environment full of tiny creatures.
With just 1% of bugs actually considered ‘pests’, it’s likely that just about this entire airborne community was made up of either benign or beneficial bugs, number of which have declined incredibly fast in the last forty or so years.
Rise of the pesticide
Sadly, the introduction of chemical spraying that took hold in the 1960s and beyond, means our gardens are no longer places of insect activity.
Worryingly, whereas the amount of pesticides used in farming has declined, it is widely reported that the variety and toxicity of chemicals has increased, threatening to do even more damage.
Gardeners that rely on beneficial bugs to maintain an ecological balance in their gardens are watching the depleting numbers with despair.
Where are the beneficial bugs we need to help keep the harmful insect varieties at bay?
Beneficial bug population
Now, it’s not our intention here at Thames Valley Landscapes to get too controversial, but when it comes to the natural balance of nature, we tend to get a little passionate.
We think we should be fighting to increase the numbers of beneficial bugs and insects in our gardens – as we think they are Mother Nature’s insecticide.
Tipping the balance in favour of some species of insects – like the lacewing or the parasitic wasp for instance – will help keep the numbers of invasive and destructive creatures down naturally.
This in turn will help create a positive and diverse ecosystem in our outside world.
We can pull together
But what can be done?
Well, we’ve unearthed some good news.
One study found that the total amount of domestic garden space in the UK covered an area that is a fifth of the size of Wales.
That means the UK population collectively owns garden space that equates to an area the size of the Norfolk Broads, and the Exmoor, Dartmoor and Lake District National Parks added together.
That’s a lot of ground to work with, that we have direct control over.
Imagine the impact we can have on the insect population if we all took measures to plant the kind of plants and flowers that beneficial bugs love?
With that in mind, here are some bright and breezy plant ideas that will not only add a splash of colour to your garden this year, but also help attract and nurture a broad diversity of garden friendly insects to your community:
If we all pulled together to cover an area a fifth the size of Wales with these beauties, we’ll have our gardens alive with activity again in no-time.
Let’s get planting!
- Lavender. Drought tolerant lavender will literally have bees buzzing with excitement around its cluster of soft purple flowers.
- The Toothpick Plant is a large white flowering plant with long, leafy green stems.
- Pot Marigold will add a splash of vibrant orange colour to your flower beds or can be grown in pots.
- Echinacea is a wonderful perennial flowering plant from the sunflower family and can provide plenty of ‘pink power’ – if that’s the shade you’re after.
- Easy to grow Cosmos is an annual flower with colourful daisy-like blooms that can light up any outdoor space.
- Dill is an annual herb and attracts lacewings. These are tiny but pretty beneficial flies that are happy to munch their way through copious amounts of insect eggs.
- If you have a damp area in your garden, then Meadowsweet offers us cream, sweet smelling flowers on tall stems.
- For delightful late summer/early autumn colour, choose Asters, which provide vibrant purple and reds with their star-shaped flowers.
- Give something back to the ladybirds in your life and plant Fennel. Liquorice flavoured and feathery, this herb is a larvae favourite, which then in turn get scoffed up by our beneficial red and black ‘beetle-y’ friends!
- Lastly Buddleia has earned it’s name “the butterfly bush” for good reason. This vigorous shrub is easy to grow in almost any situation and will bring a lovely informal feel to a wildlife garden. Its flowers come in a range of blue and purple hues and are a magnet for butterflies throughout the summer and into early autumn.
Any of these flowers will fall easily into an existing planting scheme. But if you’re considering a garden makeover this year, why not plan a wildlife section into your design? At Thames Valley Landscapes we help you landscape a garden from scratch, or design a new bug friendly planting scheme for existing beds and borders. Please feel free to call us on 01628 629720 for more information.