All creatures great and small are vital to keeping our gardens healthy, and we all have a role in creating welcoming environments where they can thrive. We work closely with Garden Design Consultant Caroline Scaramanga to ensure our gardens are an oasis for pollinating partners all year round. Here, she gives insights into creating sustainable, biodiverse habitats everyone can enjoy.
Fruit trees need friends
Many fruit trees rely on pollination partners, so choose those that flower simultaneously. Some trees can go it alone, however, such as the self-fertile Victoria plum. Do check with suppliers for guidance on finding the perfect partner for your tree! While flowering time is important, you need the bees, butterflies, and insects to pollinate them. Simply put, it’s invitro fertilization by experts in the field as the insects travel from one blossom to the next. During their journey, they accidentally pick up pollen on their legs and wings from the stamens, transferring that pollen to a second flower’s stigma where pollination occurs.
A helping hand
Almost all plants rely on cross-pollination, which is where we can help by encouraging pollinators to thrive. The good news is that these plants add colour, scent, and texture to a garden. Nature is clever – in summer, plants can often rely on their large colourful flowers to guide insects to the nectar. In winter, flowers adapt to cope with the weather by emitting scent to draw insects to them. For example, Viburnums, Illicium, and Magnolia all have intensely scented cultivars that are wonderful for us humans to enjoy but also vital to draw insects to them.
Lighten the load
It may sound like hard work, but designing for pollination and biodiversity can also lessen the workload: grass can be left to grow long and conceal the spent leaves of spring bulbs as they die back, an important part of the bulbs growth cycle that ensures they retain the best of their nutrients for the following year. For that wow factor, I like to plant bulbs in vast shaped swathes to create patterns of colour and movement.
Work with the space
On a larger scale, meadows or meadow strips can be sown. It is essential, in my view, to mow paths through them, and, if at all possible, mow seating circles within them, so you can see the insects at work. In contrast to the open spaces, woodland canopies provided by trees, shrubs and leaf litter offer a range of homes for wildlife. Recycling fallen or felled trees can create bark-chipped paths through woodlands and piles of deadwood and stumperies for ferns and mushrooms to grow, and where bugs can hide. Thinner canopies within the woodland mean Bluebells and Wild Garlic will get the light they need to multiply, creating a ready supply of pesto for your pasta!]
Switching it up
Variety is key for providing different habitats and food sources, so differ canopy layers, vary flowering times and incorporate alternative textures. Apart from the usual spring and summer flowers, some herbs also provide a food source for insects. Many herbs tolerate poor soil, growing naturally in rocks and stony hillsides, so Rosemary and Lavender are ideal for above backfilled retaining walls. Full herb gardens don’t need to be huge but, when carefully planned, they can offer form, scent and colour throughout the year.
As an alternative to allowing the grass to grow long, wildflowers offer not just an understorey for insects but also seed for birds. Unlike perennial meadows, annual wildflower meadows do not need impoverished soil – seed can be scattered mixed with sand to make it easier to spread. You could even consider creating patterns – alternating rings of mown grass with rings of wildflowers or longer grass, or creating grass mazes.