The Wild Garden

wild book

Treat to find this classic in a charity shop. What a bonus to find it was a signed copy! Great resource for unearthing weed-related nuggets.

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pollinating and predatory lacewings

According to Cottage Garden Perennials, cow parsley is a favourite for lacewings.


Lacewings also love yarrow, angelica, dill, coriander, fennel, wild carrot as well as sunflower, cosmos and tansy … and their larvae feast upon aphids!

So not only are the lacewings important as pollinators, they are also beneficial predators.


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Hoverflies, like lacewings, are savage consumers of aphids so are of unquestionable benefit to any kitchen gardener, regardless of the size of the site!

Provide a landing site for hoverflies with pussy willow, marigold and salad burnet. Like lacewings, they also love the apiaceae family, which includes wild carrot, yarrow and queen anne’s lace.

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Bats eat hundreds of insects in the night and so if your garden is an insect haven, it might well start becoming an attractive bat hang-out too! To further entice this intriguing night dwelling creature, there are several additional things you could do.

Firstly, build a pond. Bats love the insects that are found skittering on a pond surface.

Secondly, make a bat box or, even better, leave old or dying trees since they may have a perfectly sized nesting cavity.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, plant more wild flowers, especially those pale flowered types that release evening scents since these attract the kind of insects bats savour. 

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Moths have a similar palate to their two-winged butterfly friends but her are some moth friendly flowers to also bear in mind. Night flying moths particularly drawn to pale flowered plants and those releasing an evening scent, like honeysuckle, clematis and jasmine.

Day flying moths




White campion

Night flying moths




Tobacco plant


Foraging plants for caterpillars

Nettles are especially favoured by comma, painted lady, peacock, red admiral, small tortoiseshell.

Wood violets good sites for dark green fritillary,high brown, pearl-bordered fritillary, queen of Spain fritillary, silver washed fritillary, small pearl-bordered fritillary.

Native grasses for marbled white,meadow brown,  skipper, small heath.

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Butterflies can be fluttering about as early as February and as late as November so it is important to plant up some early spring flowers to give them a bit of a spring boost of nectar. You can also build up an in-house menagerie of butterflies by planting ivies and other evergreens, where they like to hibernate. Sheds and garage nooks can also be popular bolt holes.

In the spring, butterflies will lay their eggs and several species particularly favour nettles as nesting abodes so it is wise and wily to leave some patches of nettles in your site and to cut them back in the autumn to encourage new spring growth.One of the earliest emergents is the primrose yellow Brimstone butterfly. To attract this beauty, plant buckthorn, which the early riser likes to lay eggs upon.

In the autumn, butterflies love fallen fruits so if you have any fruit trees don’t worry too much about clearing all of the windfall.

Many butterfly friendly plants are wild flowers so it could be a good idea to plant up wild flower patches amongst your site. It is worth taking note that butterflies aren’t especially fond of the wind so try to build up nectar and pollen rich sources in sheltered spots. In the summer, it can also be helpful to provide a saucer of water for the thirsty flutterers.

Butterfly friendly nectar sources …





Pussy willow



Lemon balm










Michaelmas daisy




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Pollinator Friendly Gardening: the essentials

All seasons

Try to build up a garden that offers pollen and nectar to hungry foragers throughout the growing year.  Honey bees are inactive at temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius whilst other bees are found foraging in very early spring. Holly, ivy and nettles for example are particularly beneficial as late winter and early spring flowering crops. A wild area of wood lilies, snowdrops, bluebells and snowdrops can also be easy to establish and gratefully received by early spring bees, as well as looking pretty. For spring, you could try to get an early start for your kitchen garden, as well as providing early feed for pollinators, by growing a number of annuals under glass in late autumn.

All tongues

Select plants with flowers that can offer nectar and pollen to a range of foragers and tongues. Bumble bees for example have a very long tongue and have a preference for flowers with trumpets like foxgloves. Hummingbird hawkmoths also have a long probosces and honeysuckle seems to measure up to their long-tongued dining habits. Honey bees and many solitary bees have shorter tongues and tend to favour more accessible flowers like daisies.

It is also perhaps worth ruminating over what plants you and your fellow two-legged companions find particularly tasty as there may be some synchronicity. The flowers of many fruits and vegetables are attractive to foraging insects as well as humans. This includes brassicas, carrots, asparagus, marrows, courgettes, squash, pumpkins, beans, onions, leeks and chives as well as any fruiting plants. As well as vegetables, we can also learn from our pollinating friends. The flowers of borage, nasturtium, marigold, mallow, violet and viola are tasty additions to any dish. And nutritious too.

All things

Avoid using insecticides, herbicides and pesticides which can be harmful to foragers, the wider garden ecosystem and beyond.

Plants that are considered ‘weeds’ can be amongst bees favourite grub – including dandelion, blackberry and nettles.

If you want to build up a pollinating rich environment it is also beneficial to select plants that attract pest predators such as ladybirds, centipedes, millipedes, lacewings and hoverflies as well as toads, frogs, newts and lizards.

Wild things

Try to avoid double flower heads and F1 hybrid plants since they offer very little nectar or pollen. It is also wise to select enduring plants, whether perennial or self-seeding, both as a time and money saver for you as a gardener and for the ecosystem of the garden.

Most perennials are hardy once their roots are established and provide a constant supply of pollen and nectar year in, year out. Classics include borage, catmint, clematis, chives, daisies, geraminum, heather, hollyhock, honeysuckle, lavender, mallow, marjoram, mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, veronica and ivy.

Self-seeding stars include radish, rocket, purple sprouting broccoli, red mustard, garlic mustard and parsnips.

The blossom of fruit trees, shrubs and bushes are also adored by a range of pollinators so plant apples and pears for flowers as well as fruits! Other recommended blossoming fruits include almond, apricot, peach, hazel, mulberry, quince, medlar and cherry. Hawthorn and blackthorn also provide great foraging matter and offer good coverage for the garden edges.

The essentials seem to simmer down to notions of perpetuity, diversity and compassion!

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Brassicaceae also known as cruciferae are more commonly known as mustards, rockets, cabbage. The name crucieferae derives from the four petals of the rocket flower.

They include brassica oleracea (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.), brassica rapa (turnip, Chinese cabbage, etc.), brassica rapus (rapeseed, etc.), raphanus sativus (common radish), armoracia rusticana (horseradish) as well as a host of less common species.

Honey bees and solitary bees pollinate most brassicaceae. Tasty to folk, as any gardener is aware, they are also popular with many insects (including some pesky pests).  However, if you allow some of the plants to go to flower and self-seed, they are also popular with butterflies.

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Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace, also known as Cow parsley, is a member of the umbelliferae or carrot family. It grows along verges whether hedgerows, riversides or pathways and flowers in the months of April to June. It is a particularly vigorous member of the carrot family and flowers earlier than many of its siblings. It grows to around one foot and has delicate stems and more flowers per head than for example Hemlock or Fool’s Parsley, which are best avoided since toxic to humans. Queen Anne’s Lace is edible however, if foraged with care and certainty, and can be used as chervil is, in cooking and as a salad crop. The seeds are also tasty.

The etymology of Queen Anne’s Lace name derives from its lacey appearance and most notably the small dark dot at the centre of the foamy flower head, thought to represent the blood droplet where Queen Anne pricked herself with a needle when the queen was making lace. The dark droplet also attracts pollinating insects, fooling them in to thinking they are landing on to a particularly tasty flower head! It is particularly popular for a number of bees, butterflies (notably the Swallowtail) and hummingbird moths.

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Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard , also known as ‘Jack-by-the-hedge’, is often found along hedgerows and verges. It grows prolifically in damp soil but isn’t invasive as it has a tap root.

As a biennial, member of the brassicaceae family, it flowers in the months of april to june and can be left to self-seed for an enduring presence in any forest garden verge.

The leaves and flowers provide fodder for a great variety of insects including moths. Its also rather tasty for humans too.

Garlic mustard is a surprising salad crop. I remember the first time I tried it, I was shocked by its potent garlicky flavour. The leaves can be particularly potent on their own so it works well tossed in with other salad leaves to make an interesting mix.

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