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The flower border

Plenty of birds, plus hedgehogs will peck around in the flower border, either after worms and other creepy-crawlies in the soil, or insects in and around the plants, or the plants and their seeds themselves. Butterflies and insects too will be attracted, not only by the flowers but to feed on the green vegetation.

Recommended plants for butterflies:

  • For the adult butterflies, the key is to provide flowers that provide plenty of nectar. There are plenty of non-native garden flowers that do this just as well as native flowers, but the flowers to avoid are usually those cultivars which have been bred for big showy flowers with masses of petals which is usually at the expense of nectar. Good nectar flowers include hemp agrimony, sedum, marjoram, lavendar, valerian, knapweeds, scabious and cirsium thistles. The campions are a great source of nectar for night-flying moths, as is rosebay willowherb.
  • Butterfly caterpillars often rely on a very restricted range of plants to feed on. Many actually feed on meadow grasses, but other favoured plants for certain species include sorrel (small copper), nettles (peacock, comma, small tortoiseshell), Ladysmock and Garlic Mustard, plus Honesty (orange tip), violets (various species), bird’s foot trefoil (common blue). Moth caterpillars can also be similarly specific in their choice of foodplant, although some are more generalist and feed on many garden flowers.



Recommended plants for birds:

Many plants produce seeds which are eagerly taken by birds. However, the gardener’s instinct is to dead-head the flower before it has gone to seed. In the wildlife garden, leave seedheads to develop where and when possible.
Good plants, which can include more showy garden cultivars of wild species, include:

  • Cornflower, evening primrose, forget-me-not, sunflower, teasel, thistle species, burdock, wallflowers, plus the seeds of many common weeds such as nettle, goosefoot family, chickweeds, coltsfoot, dandelion, groundsel and sow thistle.
  • For more exotic bird food, try red hot poker, the nectar of which is favoured by great spotted woodpeckers and sparrows. And sage leaves are liked by sparrows to be taken back to the nest as natural insect-repellent.
  • Of course, any plant that is good for insects and their larvae/caterpillars is a good plant for birds. Much of wildlife gardening is about growing the right plants to ‘grow’ insects to ‘grow’ birds.

Recommended plants for insects:

Some plants don’t attract butterflies but specialize in attracting other insects such as bumblebees. The campions are a great source of nectar for night-flying moths, as is rosebay willowherb. The white umbels of hogweed, angelica and wild carrot attracts hundreds of insects. Ivy and bramble are excellent.


'Information supplied by RSPB, August 2002'





Hard head


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