Life

Butterfly Conservation offers tips on how to make your garden better for butterflies

A small tortoiseshell butterfly on lavender

As the charity Butterfly Conservation celebrates its 50th anniversary, its garden expert Natalie Ngo offers advice on how to help the beautiful insects thrive.

1. Create an area of long grass and wildflowers

Let an area of grass grow long and meadow brown butterflies should breed in it. Among the best grasses are some of the bents (agrostis), cocksfoot, false brome, fescues and meadow grasses. They are wild grasses, not ornamental.

Lawns are slightly different grasses. Rye grass isn't quite right for butterflies. Buy a packet of wild grass seed and find a patch.

If you have room, sow wildflower seeds. The flowers and grasses provide nectar for butterflies and moths, along with food and shelter for their caterpillars.

2. Use colourful additions

Silver-studded blue will lay their eggs in heather, while honeysuckle provides an ideal spot for white admiral, and violets attract fritillaries to their leaves. Some caterpillars will feast on nasturtiums, which can act as a deterrent to them eating your cabbages.

3. Keep clumps of nettles

Many common garden butterflies, such as the red admiral, comma and small tortoiseshell, lay eggs on stinging nettles. The colourful nymphalid butterflies will lay their eggs on the nettle leaves, which will provide food for the caterpillars. Look out for eggs laid singly by the red admiral and comma or in batches by the small tortoiseshell and peacock.

4. Make the rest of your garden a magnet for butterflies

Choose sunny, sheltered spots when planting nectar-rich plants, as butterflies like warmth. Put in a variety of plants to attract different types of butterflies and plant the same varieties in blocks. Make sure you plant to cover all seasons, taking into account the importance of spring flowers when butterflies are coming out of hibernation, to autumn blooms which will help them build up their reserves for winter. Keep flowers going by deadheading regularly, watering well and mulching with organic matter, to boost nectar supplies.

:: For more information, go to the Butterfly Conservation website

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