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Preparations for Spring [Guest Blogger]

Apart from a brief and shallow covering of snow, and a few days of heavy frost, our garden has been subjected to mild temperatures, frequent downpours of rain and a few bright sunny days in January and February. Indeed, until the recent storms, the weather has generally been so un-winter-like, you might be forgiven for thinking spring had already arrived. The mild early weather meant the grass grew taller, Hazel catkins unfurled and plants like lesser celandine and dandelion are flowering alongside the more usual snowdrops, primroses and daffodils. Parts of the country recorded butterflies out of hibernation as early as 1st January, and my grandson and I saw a White-tailed Bumblebee queen up and about just ahead of Valentines day, resting briefly in the sun whilst searching out a suitable home to raise its family.

The recent windy weather has meant our gardening preparations are confined to reinforcing the garden structures, planning, and perhaps a little dreaming. Thankfully, having lost one fence to high winds at the end of last year, we replaced it with a ColourFence so that is one less thing to worry about. I have however cast a suspicious eye over our other fence and the shed and am keeping my fingers crossed!

Whilst we rarely embark on major changes to the garden, we are considering how we might help our native butterflies as they have been hugely affected by changes in farming and gardening practices over the past 50 years or so. Sadly, in this period, 4 species of butterfly and 60 species of moth became extinct and 70% of the others are in severe decline. As most butterflies and moths are active Mar-Sept we need to get ahead with our planning ready for when the Storm Gareth and his mates have disappeared! Adult butterflies rely heavily on plants that produce large amounts of nectar and caterpillars need specific food plants. Many popular flowers have now been bred to withstand disease, grow extra petals or flower for extended periods, but they are not good at producing nectar. I will however be scouting the local garden centres for plants showing the “RHS Perfect for Pollinators” label. So, you will find me plotting a garden full of sunflowers, asters, knapweeds, thistles, lavenders, heathers, forget-me-nots, marigolds, sage, fennel, hebe and phlox.

Monarch Butterfly on Sunflower

Our rear border has sun most of the day, so should be suitable for these plants; but I may also be on the lookout for some additional containers! All in all, I think we have a bit of work to do so all I can say is thank goodness for the low maintenance bits of the garden.

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