Why are wildflowers important?

WHY ARE WILDFLOWERS IMPORTANT?

Thyme Why are wildflowers important?

We find it relatively easy to feel passionate about some of the miserable experiences and conditions that humankind suffers all over the world. We get upset about many injustices and tragedies. In addition, we can feel distressed about the suffering or the threats to the survival of animals in the world.

But we can quite understandably overlook the predicament of wildflowers – This is easy to do, particularly because not many people even realise why they are important. But this may mean we are sleepwalking into a disaster for the world.

All plants play a vital role on our planet: – here are some of the many reasons why.

 

red planet Why are wildflowers important?

Beautiful landscapes and human wellbeing are closely linked.

Can you imagine how the earth may look if there were no plants?  Currently, forests, meadows, highlands, and lowlands are filled with diverse vegetation which beautifies those landscapes.

tree Why are wildflowers important?

Improving Air Quality.

Wildflowers help the air quality of our planet.  Plants take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen by a process called photosynthesis.  Having plenty of vegetation around ensures we have enough clean air to breathe as it goes through this filtering process.

Waterscape Why are wildflowers important?

Improving Water Quality.

Plants play an important role in the quality of our water.  When water passes through plants and vegetation it is filtered by them. This removes many pollutants. Plants also increase water clarity as they reducing soil erosion. Plant roots can help to hold the soil, sand, and gravel beneath them in their place.

Improving the Weather.

Plants also influence our weather.  Having plenty of trees and plants including wildflowers can moderate climates.  Many droughts happen in places that are devoid of vegetation. Areas without forests record more droughts than elsewhere.

Weather Why are wildflowers important?

Conclusions.

In our town and cities, we may find wildflowers, deliberately planted along the roadsides and verges.  By understanding the reasons why this is a good idea, we can encourage and support to ensure this practice continues and develops more widely.

We can all do our bit to help further as by planting wildflowers in your own garden or windowbox as in this way both plant and animal diversity is increased. Wildflowers also help wildlife, giving them a place to hide and stay. They are a good, natural food source for many insects, birds, and animals.  In turn, these creatures will pollinate the plants and eat them. Helping to spread seeds by dispersing them naturally.

Happy Wildflower Gardening!

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Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

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Organic gardening

Organic gardening is easier than you might think. You can have an attractive and productive garden without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

compost
Compost

Make your own compost.

Natural fertilizer can be made from garden waste and scraps from the kitchen. It is good to include vegetable peelings, fruit waste, tea bags, plant prunings and grass cuttings. Cardboard egg boxes scrunched up paper and fallen leaves can also be included although these break down more slowly but will help the mixture. Crushed eggshells can add useful minerals to the mix. Don’t include any perennial weeds such as dandelions and thistles or weeds with seed heads.

Air can also be added by mixing the contents. Turning your compost helps to aerate and mix up the waste and cuttings, which leads to faster composting.

Either build a compost heap or try a compost bin. These are particularly useful for smaller gardens. Add some worms as they will digest the waste material and convert it into liquid compost.

When your compost is ready it will be a dark brown soil-like layer at the bottom of your bin. It should have a spongy texture. Spreading this into your flowerbeds improves the soil quality, helps it retain moisture and suppresses weeds. It also reduces the need to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Find out more about organic composting from the Eden Project.

Encourage insect and slug eating creatures.

hedgehog
Hedgehog

Wildlife gardeners friends are frogs and toads, bird, bats and hedgehogs because they eat insects and slugs. Ladybirds, lacewings, and hoverflies feed on aphids. Encourage the right sort of wildlife by providing wildlife shelters such as rotting logs in a corner to make a home for hedgehogs and insects.  Leaving overgrown areas to provide places for animals, to rest or hibernate. Putting up bird and bat boxes will also help. Find out more from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Adapt natural processes to enrich your soil.

Work in 4 inches of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost and add at least another 2 inches per year. Mulch around your plants with leaves, wood chips, bark, hay or straw. this helps the soil to retain moisture. Find out more about this at Gardeners.com

Finally, only use pesticides as a last resort.

Pesticides can kill the wildlife you want to attract to your garden, including the predators that eat pests. If you really feel the need to use them, always follow the instructions on the label and dispose of waste products carefully. Don’t pour them down the drain or put them in your household waste bin. Be especially careful to make sure pesticides or other hazardous chemicals don’t get into ponds, as they can poison water life.

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Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

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Encourage Wild Bees

WILD BEES such as bumblebees and solitary bees are facing rapid decline.  Although it’s good to know that a few simple steps (see below*) that could encourage wild bees to thrive in your garden.

macro of bee and pollen

We are increasingly aware of the reduction in our wild bee population and realising the impact of this on many important food crops like apples, potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, and green beans. About 84% of all our crop and 80% of wildflowers depend upon insect pollination.

Bee on potato blossoms

Some of the reasons for the reduction in our wild bees include the loss of so many plant species. This is partially linked to the use of herbicides and insecticides.  Also, bees need a wide range of landscapes to find their food and shelter. Landscape diversity has been depleted and bees have suffered particularly due to the loss of wildflower meadows, we have lost the vast majority of our ancient wildflower meadows between the years of 1930 1980, and their abundance of nectar-rich flowers.

*There is still a huge amount that gardeners can do to help counteract this loss and these measures will help to increase our population of wild bees.

Bee and ivy flowers.

  • Include nectar and pollen-rich flowers for every season. Some easy perennials include Lungwort and Geranium in Spring-time. Foxgloves and Ice- plants offer nectar in the Summer months. Whilst Fuchsia and Common Ivy are useful in the Autumn and Shrubby Honeysuckle is a good choice for Winter.

 

Bees nest to encourage wild bees

 

  • Create simple nesting sites using bricks, bamboo canes, or by drilling holes in wooden blocks.

 

 

  • Leave some grass uncut when you mow the lawn. Both long and short grass provide good nesting sites and will encourage different wild bees.

Dew on grass

Bees drinking from bird bath

  • Provide a water source. If not a pond, a birdbath or even a pot sunken into the ground offers a welcome drink for wild bees.

 

SUMMARY:-

Just a few simple steps can make a difference to the bee population, providing a fantastic habitat for a wide range of species throughout the year.

For more ideas about nectar and pollen-rich flowers for your garden, take a look at rhs.org.uk/perfectforpollinators

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Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

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The small garden and wildlife.

The small garden and wildlife.

If you like the idea of a wildlife garden, but only have a tiny space, here are a few ideas to help:-

The small garden and wildlife

  • Consider walls where you can incorporate planting. There are many wildflowers that enjoy growing in cracks and crevices.  These include Ivy-leaved Toad-flax and Red Valerian.

Red Valerian, in particular, grows easily from walls and has tall stems. It’s a good source of nectar for bees, butterflies, and moths.

The Hummingbird Hawkmoth enjoys the nectar of Red Valerian.
The Hummingbird Hawkmoth enjoys the nectar of Red Valerian.

Violets grow easily between cracks in paving. Thyme will also happily grow through the cracks on a path. It has attractive leaves and produces pale mauve flowers that attract bees.

  • Plant a small gravel area with nectar providing plant like Scabious.  Many flowers considered suitable for rock gardens will grow well but not all offer much pollen or nectar to hungry insects and be aware that flowers with tunnel-like petals can be too long or narrow for bees to feed from.
  • Use a window box on your house or shed for flowers such as Lavender or Marjoram as these will feed butterflies. Try Night-scented Stocks and Tobacco plants to attract moths.

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Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

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Attract butterflies to your garden.

Wildlife gardeners love to attract butterflies to their gardens. This is is not difficult if you plant nectar-rich flowers.  For best results, leave some weeds growing in the garden in order to provide food plants for caterpillars.

I always allow a large patch of garlic mustard grow by the hedge because I know it is a good plant for the orange tip butterflies that frequent in my garden in the month of May.

Garlic mustard
Garlic mustard

Nectar-rich plants.

Many cottage garden plants are nectar-rich and suitable as they have simple flowers making it easy for butterflies to reach the nectar.  Ice-plants, verbena, and scabious are all good choices.  I enjoy seeing the large white butterflies drinking the nectar from bluebells in my garden.

Attract butterflies to your garden
Bluebells in my garden.

 

Butterfly Plants for All Seasons

Suitable Spring flowers include:- sweet rocket, aubretia, and primroses.

Whilst in Summer there are many more flowers to choose from such a lavender, buddleia, red valerian, knapweed, hebe, catmint, thyme, and heliotrope.

In the Autumn months, ice-plants, scabious and michaelmas daisies will do well and are loved by butterflies.

Caterpillar Food Plants

It is important to remember to leave some weeds as food plants for caterpillars. These include:- different types of grasses such as false brome, cocksfoot, and Yorkshire fog – enjoyed by meadow brown, hedge brown, marbled white and large skipper caterpillars.

Caterpillar

Large and small white butterfly caterpillars feed on wild and cultivated cabbages.

 

Green-veined whites and orange tips caterpillars will consume ladys’ smock and garlic mustard.  Brimstone caterpillars feed on both alder and purging buckthorn.  Birdsfoot trefoil is the favourite of the common blue caterpillar and the painted lady caterpillar feed on different types of thistle.

Attract butterflies to your garden

Whichever weeds are growing naturally in your garden- consider leaving patches growing deliberately between your chosen flowering plants.  A weed is only such called if it is unwanted. But if managed and not allowed to overtake the other plants then it should be fine. Many so-called weeds can be very attractive plants and are certainly attractive to butterflies.

I have left the nettles at the bottom of my garden but mown path between them because many butterflies lay their eggs here.

Attract butterflies to your garden
A path through the nettles in my garden.

Moths

Don’t forget the moths!

These are evening creatures and will be attracted by night scented stocks, evening primrose, tobacco plants and honeysuckle.

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Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

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Wildlife Gardening- first things first.

 

Begin by considering the structural components of your garden. The trees and hedges should be native if possible- although other species can be good for wildlife.

Wildlife Gardening- first things first.

Native trees in the U.K. include:- Alder, Ash, Aspen, Birch, Bird cherry & Wild cherry, Crab-apple, Field maple, Hazel, Holly, Juniper, Oak, Scot’s pine, Rowan, Yew, Whitebeam, Willow and Wych Elm.

In my garden, I am fortunate to have an established Field Maple

and a miniature Crab-apple trees.Wildlife Gardening- first things first.

Wildlife Gardening- first things first.

Native hedges to choose from include:- Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Wild rose, Holly, Hazel and Elder.  Also, some native shrubs to consider:- Alder buckthorn, Blackthorn, Broom, Buckthorn, Dog-rose, Dogwood, Elder, Guelder-rose, Hawthorn and Spindle.

Then consider the situation of a log pile, in the shade, if at all possible. These will feed beetles and provide shelter for many other animals including frogs and toads. Hedgehogs also use log piles for hibernation.

I have used fallen logs as retaining walls for flowerbeds.Wildlife Gardening- first things first.

And logs cut to size make great wooden stools and tables.Wildlife Gardening- first things first.

 

Think about the direction of the sun in your garden throughout the summer and winter to make the best use of sunny and shady areas. If your garden is small this is not a barrier to wildlife gardening, make use of walls, roofs, and other structures to add to your space.

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Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

 *PARENTS*    – Get your FREE play with nature activity ideas here.