It’s National Gardening Week (10-16 April), and we’ve been inspired to get outside into our garden!
The acre surrounding The LookOut in the middle of Hyde Park is designed to attract and support wildlife, like invertebrates, birds and small mammals. Gardens are an incredibly important refuge for invertebrates, especially pollinators like bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Take inspiration from our patch of the park and attract wildlife to your garden too!
Are you a city dweller without a garden? You can still get up close and personal with London’s invaluable wildlife by getting involved with Mission: Invertebrate. One way is to become a Citizen Scientist! Sign up to one of our volunteer days to help scientists conduct research projects in the parks. You don’t need to have any specialist knowledge, and all of our volunteers receive training before they start.
Make it your mission to help our garden friends!
Our top 5 plants to attract wildlife to your garden
1. Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum)
Comfrey is a tall, easy to care for plant with beautiful purple and cream blossoms which flower May-July. It’s a favourite of solitary bees, honeybees and especially bumblebees, and our patch in the garden has been buzzing with these pollinators on the recent sunny days.
It’s not just useful for our precious pollinators - their large leaves can provide shelter for small animals, birds, insects and frogs too. Slugs and snails love wilting comfrey leaves, meaning they can be used as a distraction to keep other plants such as lettuces safe!
2. Cowslip (Primula veris)
These yellow bell shaped wildflowers are in bloom during April, May and June, attracting early pollinators including bees, beetles and butterflies. They are native wildflowers that have evolved alongside native insects for thousands of years, depending on each other for food and pollination. They are now very rare due to habitat loss, so planting them in gardens is really important.
Did you know the name cowslip comes from their habit of growing in pastures near ‘cowslops’ or cowpat?!
3. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
Native Hawthorn is an incredibly important hedgerow shrub because it supports so many invertebrates. You’ll find earwigs, the hawthorn shield bug and bumblebees, which are preyed on by ground beetles, harvestmen and garden spiders. It’s not just invertebrates that benefit, small mammals and birds also nest and hibernate here!
You can choose Hawthorn for your garden as a hedge or tree. It’s very adaptable for small gardens and thrives in different soil types. This shrub is covered with a wonderful white blossom in the spring, whilst in autumn this is replaced by shiny red berries that are a real treat for birds.
4. Mini wild patch
Think about leaving a mini wild patch in your garden. You could sow a wildflower patch like we’ve got at The LookOut, or if you’re pushed for space try leaving a patch of grass to grow long.
We’ve lost wildflower meadows at an alarming rate in the UK during the past century - over 95% of our meadows have disappeared. By allowing wildflowers to grow, you’ll provide food for pollinators and bring some colour to your garden. Try sowing mixed wildflower seeds on bare, raked ground in spring or autumn. Remember to keep the soil moist as the plants grow!
5. Green Alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens)
Bees across the country are vulnerable and in decline, and our gardens are an important refuge for them. Unfortunately many of their favourite plants including Green Alkanet are considered a weed, but we love it in our garden and so do the bees!
These small intensely blue flowers are irresistible to bees. They appear in May and often last well into the summer months. In order to make the most of the space in your garden the lowest and larger leaves can be removed, but try to leave all of the wonderful blue flowers for our bee friends to enjoy.