February...….what a shocker. I don't know about you but its been rain, rain, wind and more rain and storms.
So today I am choosing to ignore all of that and talk about our gardens - yours and mine.
And why the size of our plots doesn't really matter. As many of you will have heard before, size really doesn't matter, and it really is what you do with it....(Sorry... I grew up reading Viz...…..Finbarr anyone?).
The University of Bristol has just published a really interesting study (via the Journal of Applied Ecology and RHS). What did it say?
Simply - The size of your garden doesn't really matter to pollinators, its the range of plants you grow that matters.
The study looked at urban areas (big and small) and really looked at what our gardens produced for pollinators all across the year. To be exact, 472 surveys, across 59 gardens and 600 plant types. So what did they find?
- 60% of nectar sugar (what the pollinators feed on) is supplied by trees and shrubs and 33.5% by herbaceous perennials. Surprised - I was. Trees and shrubs have flowers over a large surface area. Result, excellent feeding in a small area.
- Lawns don't feed pollinators. Large gardens which tend to have large areas of grass, under performed in the study.
- From July to October, 80% of nectar sugar was produced by flowers with long corolla tubes - like fuchsias and salvias. Only pollinators with long tongues can feed on these -many are excluded and in what we still think of as a time of plenty, go hungry and have to forage wider.
So what does this mean to me and you? It means grow and much wider range of plants, that flower at different time of year. Look for flowers that have simple shapes and are accessible to everyone. Think of that daisy shape flower you drew at school and look for shapes like that, especially July inwards. Food all year round is the aim. Every window box or planters helps.
Plant more flowering shrubs and Plant more trees. Many trees. Have a look back at my blog of April 2021. There are trees for any shape and size garden. I have a very enlightened client who has a garden 7m x 5m. He also lives in Manchester City centre. In a few weeks when the build is finished, we are planting 7 new trees (and 100+ perennials and bulbs). He has a lovely peach and olive already and we are adding 5 super column fruit trees (plums, apples, pears) and well as 2 Cupressus totem conifers to complete the Mediterranean inspired (with a Manc twist) planting.
Here are my top favs that work for most pollinators. These will feed you friendly critters from April to Nov / Dec, and are arranged as the flower across the year - i.e. Prunus first, to Ivy last.
Row 1: Prunus Kanzan tree, Magnolia stellate, Allium Purple sensation
Row 2: Echinacea -this is Virgin, but any are fantastic. Echinops, Verbena bonariensis
Row 3: Helenium Moorheim Beauty, Sedum Matrona, Ivy . I love Ivy. The flowers ripen to shiny black balls that the birds - especially the Jays who visit me every March just for them
Oh, and get rid of you lawn.