Planting for pollinators isn’t just about meadows!
Garden designer Alice Willitts grew the vibrant flowers in her family garden from seed to provide rich, food habitats for pollinating insects. This film shows the ‘bare earth to bountiful garden’ story with images taken over the course of her first year of making a garden from seed. The results are gorgeous to look at and buzzing with insect and bird life. We hope you’ll be inspired to grow from seed and see that it’s not only wildflowers that are good for pollinators! Ornamental flowers often have longer flowering seasons, flower earlier or later in the year than wild flowers and are vital sources of nectar for insects in our city gardens. Within a season, you can grow enough plants from seed to make your garden welcoming to pollinating insects and other invertebrates. You can replace monoculture lawns with a riot of flowers rich in biodiversity. Flowerbeds like these provide protected places for insects to complete their lifecycles which is vital in supporting insect populations.
Growing from seed is good for your pocket and for the environment. Seeds are much cheaper than nursery-bred plants. They involve no packaging and energy waste unlike the production and shipping of live plants. The horticultural industry is sadly responsible for an eye-watering amount of waste – plastics, pellets, pallets, transportation and water usage. Not to mention the quantities of pesticides and herbicides used to keep pests and plant diseases at bay. Seeds are simple, generous and a pleasure to grow. You can pass handfuls on to your friends and neighbours when your plants set seed. Birds will feast in your garden if you leave the seed heads on the plants for winter. Ants and beetles and mice will thrive. And next year, your garden will grow again all by itself, as the seeds dropped last year burst into life.
We’d like to encourage you to do all the simple things to help insects thrive and neglecting your garden a bit more is another easy win. The Greatly Neglected Garden is a wildly enriching way to create happy habitats for insects and humans. Ben Greig talks to Jo Scrivens about the pollinator-friendly choices he’s making in his city garden. He’s been leaving grass unmown and introduced a wormery which is now home to his new favourite bug, the rat-tailed maggot. This strange creature happens to be the larvae of one of the UK’s larger hoverflies called the Drone fly. Ben started neglecting his garden as a way to attract moths and other insects, he also started planting with insects in mind introducing rosebay willowherb, geraniums and wildflowers, and he left brambles and nettles to flower.
At On The Verge Cambridge we believe that making our city a haven for pollinators is not only do-able but will enhance life for all of us. City gardens play a vital role in completing food corridors, allowing insects to graze from one to the next. Stronger insect populations means more stable crop pollination. Humans are dependent on insects to do the vital work of pollinating crops because without pollination plants don’t make seed. Without seed, we don’t eat. It’s simple. Without insects, our birds don’t eat either. We can make our cities welcoming to pollinators through simply planting miles of what they need. Increasing plant biodiversity in our city can have a positive impact on the insect population immediately. We are working with city and county councils, businesses, individuals and schools to plant miles of flowers in and around our city in parks and on verges.
TV star and presenter Chris Packham explains his reasons for being optimistic about the future of nature, and his insights into why the natural world is so important for us all. Screening from Monday 29 March.
Find out how you can use your interest in birds and the natural world to help deliver the evidence that supports conservation action and policy decisions.