Plant sunflowers and lavender in your garden this spring to reverse the decline of previously common garden species, the RSPB has urged the UK public.
The bird charity has launched a ‘Nature on your doorstep’ campaign to highlight that gardens and balconies across the UK together cover 4,000km2, an area more than twice the size of Greater London. Together, these connected habitats could help reverse the fate of species such as starlings, bumblebees and hedgehogs.
Decades ago, all of these species were abundant, but they are under threat due to habitat loss and the changing nature of agriculture. Starling numbers have fallen by two-thirds in Britain since the mid-1970s, populations of half the country’s bumblebee species are declining and hedgehog numbers have fallen from 30 million to around 1 million since the 1950s in England, Wales and Scotland. .
The charity suggests growing sunflowers which provide a veritable buffet of seeds that last from late summer to early fall, and are particularly popular with birds. They also recommend cornfield annuals, foxgloves and say lavender is another good option as it is rich in nectar for bees, so one of the best choices for supporting pollinators.
There are several helpful lists of plants to help wildlife, and some seed and plant vendors have special labels for particularly insect-friendly species. Standout favorites include verbena bonariensis, Meadow’s crane-billed geranium, nepeta, wild marjoram and buddleia.
A YouGov survey commissioned by the RSPB found that three-quarters of people now do at least something in their garden or outdoors to help wildlife (with 19% trying a lot, 30% trying a good amount and 26% trying a little).
RSPB wildlife gardening expert Adrian Thomas said: “I am delighted to hear how many people are now taking action to help wildlife in their gardens and outdoor areas. It looks like a movement is afoot in which people recognize that our gardens can be wonderful shared spaces for us and for wildlife, for the benefit of all.
“To play your part, the best and easiest place to start is to grow more plants. They provide varied and healthy food sources and offer shelter and nesting places. And the lovely thing is that many plants that are good for wildlife are also beautiful, colorful and richly fragrant, making outdoor spaces more welcoming, relaxing and interesting for all of us.So this Easter weekend, why not try planting, maybe starting with wildflower seeds?They produce beautiful flowers in just a few weeks, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll see pollinators buzzing through your garden!
Bee Buffet: Five of the Best Plants for Wildlife
Sunflowers – beautiful and easy to grow from seed, these classic flowers are ideal for pollinators and an excellent food source for birds when they produce seed.
Cornfield annuals – for just a few pounds, you can have the glow of red poppies and blue cornflowers in weeks.
Mini-meadow – simply let parts of your lawn grow for a few months, or even better until the end of summer, and be rewarded with drifts of clovers and other meadow flowers.
Lavender – fragrant grass which is excellent for bees and butterflies.
Foxgloves – large purple, pink and white flowers that attract bees.