24 July 1998



THE charity Butterfly Conservation launched Gardens for Butterflies year where at Chelsea Flower Show it won a gold medal for its impressive Quarrymans Garden designed by Marney Hall.

With the loss of so much of our countryside to road construction and out-of-town building, gardens are becoming increasingly important habitats for many species of butterflies and moths. Farm gardens are ideal places; being actually in the countryside, they can attract species that would not normally be considered garden butterflies. Providing the right plants at the right time of the year is vital. Gardens near the Norfolk Broads for example are visited by the spectacular swallowtail, our largest species.

But you must do something to attract them. It is not simply a question of planting suitable flowers. Choose plants that together will give continuity of flower from early spring to late autumn.

Few humans like nettles, but several of our most colourful species of butterfly would be extinct without them. Try leaving or even creating a wild section in your garden, the larger the better, and in an area which incorporates as many different habitats as possible.

However, plants must be managed. Even nettles will require chopping down to encourage new growth as the small tortoiseshell likes fresh, low plants on which to lay its eggs.

Many garden centres have joined the gardens campaign and now stock a range of specially chosen butterfly-friendly plants. Call Butterfly Conservation (01206 322342) for your nearest one. And remember, some of our best butterfly plants originate from British wild flowers.

Michael Edwards

Gardens for Butterflies is available at £4.95 and includes Gardening for Butterflies a new 44-page colour guide worth its weight in nectar. Contact: Butterfly Conservation, P O Box 222, Dedham, Colchester, Essex CO7 6EY.