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UK Butterfly Crisis Highlighted at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
12:50pm Tuesday 3rd July 2012 in Grow Your Own
UK butterfly species are being threatened by declining habitats and changing weather patterns. There are fewer than 60 species of butterfly resident in the UK, some of which are under threat and at risk of extinction with natural habitats disappearing at an alarming rate. Research1 has shown that butterfly numbers in the UK countryside fell by almost a quarter last summer.
The Butterfly Jungles - Transition garden at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show has been inspired by the threats butterflies are facing, both in the UK and worldwide. It aims to educate people about steps that can be taken to help protect these insects. The garden depicts a journey though butterfly-friendly planting styles, with a gradual transition from wildflowers to prairie-style and exotic planting, concluding with a tropical butterfly glasshouse, which contains live butterflies in a jungle-style habitat.
The garden mixes wildflowers, including caterpillar food plants, with cultivated nectar plants to create a sustainable butterfly habitat, where butterflies will not only visit for nectar, but stay and breed too.
Andrew Halstead, RHS Principal Scientist, says: "Butterflies play a crucial role in indicating the condition of Britain's insect biodiversity, both in the countryside and in urban green spaces. Other types of insect, including those important as pollinators, have also suffered declines in recent years. It is vital that we consider the needs of natural pollinators, and provide them with the habitats and food sources they need to survive.
"The RHS is committed to helping gardeners support biodiversity, and through our Perfect for Pollinators campaign, have introduced a practical guide to help gardeners identify and grow plants that are best for a variety of pollinating insects, including butterflies."
Andrew suggests some ways to encourage butterflies into the garden: Leave fallen fruit under fruit trees. In late summer butterflies, such as red admiral and painted lady, will feed on fruit juices in fallen over-ripe pears, plums and apples.
If possible, avoid the use of pesticides, especially on or near plants that are in flower.
To increase butterfly numbers, it is necessary to cater for the needs of the caterpillar stage.
The following plants are the host plants of butterflies that do or may visit gardens: Alder buckthorn and purging buckthorn: Eaten by Brimstone butterfly caterpillars Birdsfoot trefoil: Food plant for Common Blue caterpillars Cabbage, other brassicas, nasturtium: Eaten by caterpillars of Small and Large Cabbage Whites Docks and sorrels: Food plants for Small Copper caterpillars Garlic/hedge mustard and lady's smock: Eaten by caterpillars of Orange-tip and Green-veined White Holly and ivy: Holly Blue caterpillars eat holly flowers in late spring and ivy flowers in autumn Mixed grasses grown as a meadow: Provides food for the caterpillars of Speckled Wood, Wall butterfly, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Marbled White, Ringlet, Small Heath, Large Skipper, Small Skipper and Essex Skipper Stinging nettle: Eaten by caterpillars of Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell. Needs to be grown in a sunny position to attract egg-laying females, preferably in large clumps Thistles: Painted Lady lays eggs on welted and creeping thistles, also on giant thistle (Onopordum) Butterflies also feature at the show in Roger Kennett's garden Las Mariposas, supporting Amnesty International's Butterflies of Hope campaign for women in Nicaragua. One of eight conceptual gardens at the show, the garden uses bold planting, strong simple forms and tropical butterflies to contrast equality and freedom with pain and containment.