RHS Tatton Flowershow 2017: Butterfly Dome

Last week something special came to RHS Tatton Flowershow, something straight out of the pages of science-fiction pulp magazines or from the clay pits of Eden; this inflatable structure was surrounded by a modest but effective wildflower meadow and housed something we all should be passionate about.

RHS Tatton Flowershow Butterfly Dome 2017

The meadow outside the dome was built to attract British native butterflies, even we have seen a little spike in butterflies this year with a Comma butterfly being attracted into our greenhouse.

Get involved with the butterfly count

However, nationally we have seen a slump in butterflies over a four year period and we ask you all to get involved in the butterfly count this year to log an important pollinator in our gardens. We need to see whether we can bring butterflies back from the brink of extinction and what we can all do to stop this. At Tatton, the dome has been created to highlight tropical species of butterflies, and our own native species (and decline). Some of the tropical butterflies are the size of your hand, flitting between luscious planting and the people walking carefully around as the butterflies tend to bask on the paths.

RHS Tatton Flowershow Butterfly Dome 2017

So tread carefully and enjoy one of nature's most glorious insects and remember that if we want to retain them we need to change our gardening ways. We'll share some tips with you at the bottom of this post but a good one that we all could do is to stop mowing every inch of grass we have, let part of the garden becoming a managed wild. It is a beautiful sight in any garden.

RHS Tatton Flowershow Butterfly Dome 2017

RHS Tatton Flowershow Butterfly Dome 2017

According to the RHS there are, '59 butterfly species resident in Britain, plus up to 30 others that come here as occasional or regular migrants from elsewhere in Europe.' So, why are they dying out in the UK?

RHS Tatton Flowershow Butterfly Dome 2017

The simple answer is, us. Our desire to bring order to gardens and green spaces, changing tastes in flowers and are use of chemicals have driven some species of butterflies to extinction in the UK. Here are some tips to being more butterfly friendly in your garden:

(1) Stop using pesticides. Most pesticides kill butterflies. You can still have pest control by introducing predators, embracing bio-diversity and picking pests off by hand. You need to stop being squeamish, and;
(2) Try your hand at growing some native plants or plants that butterflies love. So, for example, Comma butterflies have shown up in our garden because we grow hops but our most favourite butterfly, the Painted Lady loves mallows and thistles, and we have plenty of those in the orchard.
(3) Select sunny spots for planting, butterflies come out on hot days and need all the support we can give them. Even a pot of daisies on a sunny front door step will bring them in. Select bright colours, butterflies love reds, pinks and purples but make share the flowers are open, flat topped or have short flowering tubes.

Look out at garden centres for the RHS Perfect for Pollinators sticker that looks like this:

RHS Pollinators sticker

You can do your bit by planting some wildflowers in that grass you have stopped cutting, here's two of our favourites that spread easily:

Centaurea scabiosa (greater knapweed)

Centaurea scabiosa (greater knapweed) is a great plant that finds its way around any garden creating clumps of thistle like heads that are lovely to see among long grass or in borders.

Digitalis purpurea (common foxglove) the art of bringing butterflies into your garden

Digitalis purpurea (common foxglove) is everywhere in our garden and the hills around us. To try an eradicate this foxglove is pointless, shameful and more importantly, neglectful. This is a plant that will self seed around your garden year after year, it is maintenance free, glorious to behold when smothered in bees and butterflies. It can be dug up early in the season if in the wrong place and never complains about being replanted. This is not a a wimp of a plant, once you have it, you have it and frankly we should all have it. This is not a weed as many gardeners believe, it is a vital plant in our garden palette and if the colour isn't for you, well there are so many different colours available in its garden border cousins. 

Embrace a herb garden to bring in pollinators

You could also cultivate a herb patch allowing the marjoram and oregano to flower. A good herb garden will bring in many butterflies and bees. The great thing about the herb garden, unlike the digitalis, is that the herbs are edible unlike digitalis which will kill you. Don't shy away from it though because if we started to list every plant in your garden or in public gardens or in your neighbour's garden that could kill you, or even what plant extracts are in your drinks and food that in larger doses could kill you, you'd never see blue sky again or butterflies again.


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