Planting wildflowers and natives will not only attract bees and butterflies, but also other pollinators and wildlife.
Native plants and wildflowers are especially adapted to the climate and conditions of a country, and suit the indigenous wildlife, without upsetting the balance of nature.
This is not to say that non-native flowers should be avoided - indeed, many non-native flowers and plants provide a wonderful amount of nectar and pollen for bees - some are especially helpful. The trick is to be responsible: don't introduce invasive plants, and be careful if you live close to an environmentally sensitive area.
Wildflowers and native plants are, however, some of the best plants for bees, and ideally, every ‘bee garden’ should have at least a few of the wildflower plants in a border, of if you have space, a patch of lawn can be converted into a wildflower zone. It's possible to find suppliers selling a range of mixes for a variety of soil and light conditions, as well as wildflower ranges for bees and butterflies.
Many a native wildflower landscape has been lost due to farming practices and building development.
The national Wildlife Federation of the USA make this comment:
"Before European settlers arrived, unique wildflower species covered the American landscape, from sea level to the highest mountain meadows. But with the onset of agriculture, grazing and the construction of communities, habitat shrank and populations became fragmented and isolated. Today, nearly one-fourth of the 20,000 known native flowering plant species in the United States are considered threatened or of conservation concern."
The decline is evident across Europe too.
For example, in
the UK, only 3% of lowland wildflower meadows remain
(according to The Grasslands Trust).
We have become obsessed with tidying up, but allowing a few "weeds" and wildflowers to flourish, or creating a small wildflower habitat in your border could help address this imbalance – if only on a small scale.
You may feel that your efforts will not count, but ordinary people as well as councils, are becoming more aware of the need to make space for wildlife.
Your efforts could help enhance a nectar corridor, or provide a valuable ‘feeding station’, however small, for wildlife. And wildflowers are beautiful too!
There are many suppliers offering a wide range wildflower mixes. It's even possible to make buy wildflower seeds according to soil type and conditions, to increase your chances of success. If you have a large area or lawn that you are wishing to convert to wildflower, particularly difficult growing conditions (such as drought or clay soil) it may be worth seeking advice about an appropriate selection and method for sowing. It could save you a lot of expense, time and effort.
In general, I recommend that you seek out such a supplier. Commercial mixes can be especially attractive, but be careful to check the origin of the seeds, and that they have not been coated with agrochemicals, and also that they are not considered invasive in your region.
For general interest, here is a list of great wildflower plants that attract butterflies and bees - it's not exhaustive, and but some of them may be included in your seed mix. In addition, a few of these may not be welcome in all gardens!
Bird’s Foot Trefoil (long season)
Dead-nettle (red and white
Wild garlic (Ramsons)
Devils’ bit scabious
Please note, I DO NOT recommend you use weedkillers when you are planting a mini-meadow. If weedkillers are recommended to you, find out about alternatives, such as planting Yellow Rattle (a plant loved by bees) which parasitizes grasses, and adapt the mixture to the soil if possible.
Do check with your local environment agency whether species are appropriate for your country and region before planting to get the most appropriate mix of flowers. There are many online resources.
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