Plant sunflowers and lavender in your garden this spring to reverse the decline of previously common garden species, the RSPB has urged the British public.
The bird charity has launched a “nature on your doorstep” campaign to highlight that UK gardens and balconies combined cover 4,000sq km, an area more than twice the size of Greater London. Together these connected habitats could help reverse the fortunes of species including starlings, bumblebees and hedgehogs.
Decades ago, all of these species were abundant, but they are facing threats because of habitat loss and the changing nature of agriculture. Starling numbers have fallen by two-thirds in Britain since the mid-1970s, populations of half of the country’s bumblebee species are falling, and hedgehog numbers have crashed from 30 million to an estimated 1 million since the 1950s across England, Wales, and Scotland.
The charity suggests growing sunflowers that provide a veritable buffet of seeds that last through late summer to early autumn, and are especially enjoyed by birds. They also recommend cornfield annuals, foxgloves and and say lavender is another good option as it is rich with nectar for bees, so one of the better choices to support pollinators.
There are several helpful lists of plants to help out wildlife, and some seed and plant sellers have special labels for particularly insect-friendly species. Standout favourites include Verbena Bonariensis, Meadow’s crane-bill geranium, Nepeta, wild marjoram, and buddleia.
A YouGov survey commissioned by the RSPB has revealed that three-quarters of people are now doing at least something in their garden or outside space to help wildlife (with 19% trying a lot, 30% trying a fair amount, and 26% trying a little).
Adrian Thomas, the RSPB’s wildlife gardening expert, said: “I’m thrilled to hear how many people are now taking steps to help wildlife in their gardens and outdoor spaces. It feels like a movement is under way in which people are recognising that our gardens can be wonderful, shared spaces for us and for wildlife, to the benefit of all.
“To play your part, the best and easiest place to start is to grow more plants. They provide varied, healthy food sources, and offer shelter and nesting spots. And the lovely thing is that lots of plants that are good for wildlife are also beautiful, colourful and richly scented, making outdoor spaces more welcoming, relaxing, and interesting for all of us to enjoy. So this Easter weekend, why not give planting a go, maybe starting with some wildflower seeds? They produce beautiful flowers in just a few weeks, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you see pollinators buzzing into your garden!”
Bee buffet: five of the best plants for wildlife
Sunflowers – beautiful and easy to grow from seed, these classic flowers are great for pollinators and are a great food source for birds when they set seed.
Cornfield annuals – for just a couple of pounds you can have the glow of red poppies and blue cornflowers within weeks.
Mini-meadow – just let parts of your lawn grow for a few months, or even better until late summer, and be rewarded with drifts of clovers and other meadow flowers.
Lavender – the familiar lovely-smelling herb that’s brilliant for bees and butterflies.
Foxgloves – tall purple, pink and white flowers that are bee magnets.