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Going wild in the garden

There is a very fine dividing line these days between what is a weed and a plant, especially now that natural- style, wildlife friendly gardening is so fashionable – and rightly so, since many of our genuine natural habitats are disappearing.

Incorporating wildflowers into our gardens may initially feel a tad uncomfortable to those of us brought up believing flowers are good and weeds are bad but times have changed. Half the fun of gardening is learning how to meet new challenges –even if it does mean giving room in the garden to plants that were once taboo.

Wild plants provide part of the natural diet of our wildlife. Berries, fruits and seeds are great for our feathered friends. Nectar supports a wide selection of insects including butterflies and bees some of whom are beneficial to our gardens because they eat plant pests. So it goes without saying that growing wildflowers must be good for the environment. Yet, if you want your garden to look good, there’s a balance to be struck so it pays to know what you are dealing with.

Well behaved wildflowers that are beneficial, attractive and easy to control can include Birds-Foot Trefoil that will naturalise on a grassy bank. The red streaked yellow flowers attract butterflies and bees and the foliage is a food source for several caterpillars. One of my favourites is the Dog Violet creating ground cover in cottage style borders and wild areas and what’s more it is slow to spread. Foxgloves look great in larger groups in light shade, under trees or in long grass. Bees adore the flowers of this short lived perennial.

Red Valerian is ideally suited in hot, dry borders, on walls or cracks in paving. The large flower heads are a magnet for butterflies. Teasel is great at the back of a large border and the seed heads are much loved by goldfinches and other birds. More suggestions next month.

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