Gardening writer Hannah Stephenson gives tips on how to attract butterflies into your garden, with a little help from a star of the silver screen.
She’s banged the drum for the Gurkhas, she’s the ambassador for an initiative to combat climate change and waste - but most recently, actress and keen gardener Joanna Lumley has turned her attentions to the plight of the humble butterfly.
Backing this year’s Big Butterfly Count, the world’s biggest survey of butterflies organised by Butterfly Conservation and Marks & Spencer, Lumley explains: “I’ve been fascinated by butterflies ever since being brought up in the Far East where they were, like many things there, huge, bright and extraordinary.”
The public is being asked to take 15 minutes to participate in the count, which runs from July 20 to August 11 (prime time for butterfly activity), to help identify trends in species that will aid conservationists in planning how to protect butterflies from extinction.
Butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators. Butterfly declines are an early warning for other wildlife losses. Almost three-quarters of UK butterfly species have decreased in population during the last decade.
Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation surveys manager, said: “The predictions are that numbers will be down again this year.
“As butterflies had such a bad year last year because of the wet weather, it’s likely that fewer offspring will emerge.”
The Butterfly Conservation offers the following tips to attract butterflies to your garden:
*Choose sunny, sheltered spots when planting nectar plants, because butterflies like warmth.
*Select different plants to attract a wider variety of species.
*Prolong flowering by deadheading regularly, mulching with organic compost and watering well.
*Don’t use insecticides and pesticides which kill butterflies and many pollinating insects.
*Grow plants which will attract butterflies including buddleia, lavender, perennial wallflower, marjoram, nasturtium, escallonia, cone flower, aster, sweet rocket, and herbs including chives, thyme and mint.
For further details of the Big Butterfly Count, visit www.bigbutterflycount.org.