Our Patch July 2015 - Page 6

Our Patch JULY 2015 WE CAN FILL THE SKIES WITH BUTTERFLIES AGAIN Attracting winged beauties to your garden is not hard, says garden design expert Hew Stevenson. It just takes a bit of thought L ondon’s butterfly population is in trouble. While the capital’s skies used to be full of butterflies, spotting them is more of an event these days, thanks to herbicides, pesticides, pollution and loss of habitat. But it’s not all bad news, because if you love the winged beauties, there are easy ways to encourage butterflies to visit your garden – no matter how big or small. Yes, butterflies are always after tasty nectar. And growing some of their flowering favourites – such as buddleia, lavender and oregano – in a welldesigned garden can attract up to 18 different species of butterfly with a bit of luck. Butterflies also like warmth. So choosing sunny, sheltered spots when planting nectar plants is key and I always recommend providing flowers throughout butterfly season. 6/7 Spring flowers are key for butterflies coming out of hibernation, while autumn flowers assist butterflies as they build up their reserves for winter. But it’s not just about pretty flowers. To get more butterflies, you need more caterpillars. And guess what hungry caterpillars love? No, not plums, lollipops and cake, as children’s author Eric Carle would have you believe, but… stinging nettles. Unfortunately, it seems everyone’s first reaction to stinging nettles is to rip them out! Resist the urge. Butterflies depend on nettles for the growth of their larvae. And you don’t need a sprawling great bed of nettles to satisfy them; even a small pot of nettles in a secluded corner of your garden is enough. The sight of the winged creatures will surely take the sting out of any pesky nettle patch. Hew Stevenson (left) is the founder of Hammersmith-based landscape design and construction firm Shoots & Leaves, winner of the silver medal at the 2012 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (pictured) for its butterfly house display. For more details, visit: www.shootsandleaves.co.uk