With the increasing spread of urbanisation bringing about a reduction in the amount of natural meadow land spaces this has played a part in reducing the amount of natural habitat for butterflies. However, the good news is that you don’t have to put in a great deal of effort to entice these wonderful creatures into your garden. Butterflies are so synonymous with glorious British weather and can help make an already beautiful garden into a magical summer paradise and butterfly garden. The Importance of Nectar To Butterflies Even if you’re garden is tiny, butterflies will still be attracted to it as long as you have planted suitable nectar plants as it’s the nectar from the flowers that supplies the adult butterfly with food. To increase the proliferation of butterflies in your garden, you should plant suitable flowers such as bluebells, dandelions, pansies, primroses, sweet William and wallflowers for spring and if you want to encourage butterflies to stay right through from spring to autumn, in the late summer you should have chrysanthemum, French marigold, forget-me-nots, lavender, mint or honeysuckle etc. In fact, your garden centre will be able to give you plenty of advice of nectar bearing plants of both spring and summer varieties to create a suitable butterfly garden. You should also plant the flowers in sunny but sheltered spots as butterflies enjoy the warmth and the more different species of plants you have in your butterfly garden, the greater the variety of species of butterflies you’re likely to attract. Keep them well-watered too as this helps them produce far more nectar. Don’t Forget The Caterpillars In Your Butterfly Garden You can also boost the population of butterflies in your wildlife garden by providing a good food source for caterpillars. Nettles, Sweet Rocket and Garlic Mustard are all ideal and most common species of butterfly will be happy to lay their eggs on these plants. Most caterpillars will not cause noticeable damage but if you have problems with caterpillars eating the likes of your cabbage leaves in your garden, take time to pick them off as opposed to spraying with pesticides. Alternatively, some gardeners prefer to cover their cabbages with fleece during spring time to stop butterflies from laying their eggs there. For those who are not that keen on having nettles growing amidst other garden plants, you might prefer to plant some nettles in pots instead and bury the pots in the ground in a sunny area where they will do the same job but not get out of control. If you grow herbs, plant enough in the garden for both yourself and the caterpillars as they enjoy eating things like fennel, parsley and dill too and this will help to keep them away from other flowers in your garden. A Butterfly Garden During The Winter Months The less you tidy up your garden over the winter, the better it will be for the following year’s butterfly population so that caterpillars or pupae of butterflies lay undisturbed. And, although the average life span of a butterfly in its adult form is around 4 weeks, a few species, such as tortoiseshells, can actually live through the winter months and do so by tucking themselves away in deep vegetation or ivy and can even take up residency and hibernate in sheds. By offering the right environment for both butterflies and caterpillars to flourish, you’ll be rewarded with a marvellous butterfly garden spectacle during the summer and you’ll have played your part in maintaining a wildlife garden tradition that has always seemed uniquely and quintessentially British. Here in Tilford Cottage Garden we encourage butterflies in any way we can. We counted 15 species of butterfly this season: Brimstone, Orange Tip, Small Tortoise shell, Small copper, Small blue, Small Skipper, Meadow brown, Small and Large white, Red admiral, Painted lady, Comma, Silver washed fritillary, Speckled wood, Wall. These are a few plants that will readily attract butterflies to your garden Aubretia, Aubrieta ‘Doctor Mules'; a carpet-forming plant that produces rich violet or blue flowers in May and June. Sweet rocket, Hesperis matronalis; deliciously scented plant that produces white, violet or purple flowers from May to August. Red valerian, Centranthus ruber; a cottage garden plant that produces clusters of red flowers from mid-summer through to autumn. Great for dry soil. Lavender, Lavandula; a familiar garden favourite, producing white, pink, blue or purple aromatic flowers during the summer months. Flowers and foliage are used for making pot-pourri. Honesty, Lunaria annua; a tall plant with heart-shaped leaves and sweet-smelling pink or violet-purple flowers from April to June. Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum; a plant that produces spiny flower-heads of pinkish purple from mid- to late summer. Small scabious, Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue'; a long-flowering plant that produces lavender-blue flowers from late spring well into autumn. Butterfly bush, Buddleja davidii; this plant produces cone-shaped clusters of tiny flowers in either purple, white, pink, or red. Irresistible to butterflies! Golden rod, Solidago ‘Goldenmosa'; a clump-forming border plant that produces feathery, golden flower-heads in late summer and early autumn. Ivy, Hedera helix; an evergreen climbing vine that will provide winter nectar for the few remaining butterflies in your garden.
Prevention is better than cure and in the case of roses this is most definitely the case. The prevention programme starts in the autumn by clearing up all the fallen rose leaves and prunings, then burning them as they carry the spores for next years infection. After pruning the plants should be sprayed with ‘Jeyes Fluid’ giving each plant a good soaking together with the soil around the base. Mulching should to carried out around the plant before the new leaves appear, this stops the black spot spores in the soil being splashed back onto the new spring growth by rain drops. Add magnesium in the spring to strengthen the growth.
Alternatives to Sugar Water for Feeding Bees Honey bees’ natural food sources are pollen and nectar. While bees naturally feed on pollen and nectar, beekeepers often provide supplemental feeding to their beehives during the winter and early spring when pollen and nectar are not available naturally, as well as during droughts and other times when natural food is in short supply. Because sugar water may incite wild bees and other insects to rob the hives, alternatives to sugar water are appealing to many beekeepers. Wheat, Soy and Yeast Wheat and yeast products can be used to feed bees an adequate protein source. Yeast and soybean products can be fed to the bees dry and unprocessed in the hive or feeders, but since bees cannot process wheat on their own, wheat must be fed to bees in a moist cake form. Pollen can be added to wheat, yeast or soy cakes to make the food more nutritious and appealing to the bees. Sugar Syrup Isomerized corn syrup or type-50 sugar syrup are two accepted honey substitutes for honey bees and can be fed to bees in liquid form through a bag or board feeder in the hive, or by pouring the syrup directly into the cells in the brood chamber of the hive. Leftover syrups from candy and soda pop production can also be used to feed bees and are often an economical choice when purchased in bulk, but bee keepers should be wary of broken bags that can contain contaminants and insecticides, as well as out-of-date products that my be fermenting and contain toxic bacteria. Hard Candy Beekeepers can make their own hard candy to feed bees as an alternative to liquid sugar syrup. Hard candy can be made by warming light corn syrup and granulated sugar on the stove or in the microwave and pouring into a mold to cool until brittle. Any hard candy recipe containing corn syrup or honey can be adapted to use with bees. Granulated Sugar Another option for feeding bees is to use raw, granulated sugar rather than syrup. Simply pour some sugar crystals onto the inner cover of the hive for the bees to eat when they need additional food. Honey Conservation Leaving enough honey in the hives to feed the bees is another way to avoid needing to feed bees through artificial means. Frames of honey can be transferred from hive to hive to balance out the honey supply for hives that are running low on food.