Gardening for Wildlife

As our innovative Bee Project has developed since its inception five years ago, we have begun to think about a wider role for the society in promoting sustainable approaches to gardening, in particular, encouraging bio-diversity in the way we garden today. 

Because industrial methods of agriculture have been widely adopted across the UK, it is a startling fact that urban gardens often contain a greater diversity of wildlife that the countryside! We are very fortunate, here in the Wye Valley, to live in a largely un-industrialised and bio-diverse environment. 

However, there is no room for complacency and we can make a real contribution to providing habitats for wildlife in the way we manage our gardens. Be inspired by our In My Garden page!

Find out more at these useful and informative sites:

Native or non-native? Latest findings from RHS four year study

Ecologist, Ken Thompson, in his talk to us in September 2013 (based on his widely respected popular science book 'No Nettle Required') explained the contribution that gardeners can make to bio-diversity and how they don't need to let nettles and other wild plants take over in order to do so! Read a summary of his talk here

Now, new research from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), with support from the Wildlife Gardening Forum, has confirmed that pollinators in the UK do not always prefer native plants in gardens. The findings suggest that gardeners wishing to encourage and support pollinators should plant a mix of flowers from a wide range of geographical regions. While there should be an emphasis on plants native to the UK and the northern hemisphere, as more pollinators from a range of pollinator groups visited these plants, plants from the southern hemisphere such as Lobelia tupa and Verbena bonariensis can play an important role. By tending to flower later than native and northern-hemisphere species, southern-hemisphere plants provide much-needed nectar and pollen long after other plants have gone to seed.

RHS scientists found that regardless of the origin of the plant (native or non-native), the more flowering plants a garden can offer throughout the year, the greater number of bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects that will visit.

As more traditional habitats have been reduced, the role of gardens as havens for pollinators and other wildlife is growing in importance. These findings will help gardeners to confidently pack their borders, windowboxes and allotments with flowers without getting hung up on the idea that they are somehow doing the ‘wrong thing’ if the plants are not all UK natives.

Read more:

An article by Rosi Rollings in April's BBKA News, updating a research project begun two years ago, found:
  • Our initial finding still holds true that there is considerable variation in the number of bees attracted to different plants, even when you start with a list of recommended 'bee-friendly' ones.
  • Healthy plants with more flowers attract more bees than an unhappy version of the same plant. The old gardeners' adage of 'right plant for the right place' is important not only for a healthy garden but also for the direct impact on the pollinators each plant may support. The sedum [Sedum spectabile] was very happy and had a good year!
  • Native plants continue to appear equally attractive to bees as non-native plants but their main flowering season is more contained to May-August.
Full details of the research are at

Decline in key UK species could be a ‘threat to human wellbeing’

Summarised report from the Guardian, December 2015

A decline in wildlife is threatening core ecosystem functions that are vital for human wellbeing, researchers behind an unprecedented investigation into the UK’s biodiversity have warned. Climate change and habitat loss are leading to a reduction in biodiversity, with species that act as pollinators and natural pest controls most at risk, the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, shows. Hedgehogs, hoverflies, moths and birds are among the groups in most serious decline, with individual species under particular threat including the common red ant, red-shanked carder bee and the common banded hoverfly.

The findings are based on what is believed to be the biggest analysis of British wildlife ever conducted, with researchers from Reading University and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology looking at records covering 4,424 species, collected between 1970 and 2009. Although some native species are increasing, along with some new species introduced to the UK, they do not come close to offsetting the losses caused by the drop in wildlife performing the functions of pollination and pest control. 

Dr Tom Oliver, an ecologist at Reading University who led the study, warned that further declines in biodiversity driven by intensive farming and urbanisation could lead to “potentially catastrophic and irreversible impacts on human wellbeing”. Paul Wilkinson of the Wildlife Trust, which helped to compile the State of Nature report, said: “This latest shocking barometer of the state of our natural environment highlights the urgent need to halt the loss of our precious wild heritage for its own sake, but also for our future prosperity and survival.

The researchers believe the new study to be the most comprehensive of its kind in the world, made possible by data collected over 40 years by thousands of trained volunteers.

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