Simon Odell shows how you can extend the value of schemes this spring.

    This image 'Aubretia' is by Auntie P on Flickr, published under the Creative Commons licence.

    Spring is here. For many though, spring should have started a while ago. And that is as true for our invertebrate fauna as it is for us. A sobering thought as many are concerned about the state of UK pollinators. I read that a quarter of the remaining 267 species of bee are at risk (“Update on the Great British Bee Count”, The Buzz, News from Buglife, Winter 2014).

    But there is good news. We have always sought to extend the period through which plants are of interest in our ornamental schemes. But now that it has become recognised that non-native species can be good for invertebrates – a key layer within the food chain pyramid – there can be a co-incidence of interest. Planting mixes that include early spring and late autumn flowering plants can not only be good for aesthetics, but also for wildlife. Many of these plant species are surprisingly fragrant too (which is part of their attraction to insects). So, through good choice of the plants we specify we could help extend the period through which our landscapes are delivering ecosytems services.

    There is a need for better information about the ecosystem services that individual plant species offer, whatever their origin. But just a personal ‘starter for 10’ for extending the value of schemes in early spring would be as follows:

    Aubretia
    Chaenomeles speciosa
    Erica carnea
    Eranthis hyemalis
    Galanthus nivalis
    Helleborus
    Mahonia x media
    Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’
    Sarcococca ruscifolia var chinensis
    Viburnum x bodnantense

    For a fuller list of ornamental species of benefit to wildlife, Ken Thompson, the author of “No Nettles Required” recommends the one produced by CCW. The RHS has also produced guidance on species perfect for pollinators.

    Other reading:
    Urban pollinators blog
    British Bee Keepers
    London Bee Keepers Association
    Bees’needs
    A previous blog also discussed the importance of encouraging pollinators in 2015 for the green flag award.

    LI Members can carry on the discussion on Talking Landscape.

    Simon Odell CMLI

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