Perhaps prompted by the incident referred to in my note on the value of Ivy on page 22, I have given some thought how people can help wildlife in small, urban gardens where there may not be room for most shrubs, let alone trees. Apart from small bushes such as Hebes, rosemary or ground‐cover sub‐ shrubs such as the late winter‐flowering Erica heaths, we are mostly limited to herbaceous plants. Here again, are some of my favourites:
Erica carnea (winter flowering), primroses, bellflowers, asters (long season of various species or varieties (includes the 'Michaelmas daisies'), Salvia spp., our familiar bugle Ajuga reptans in various varieties, toadflax Linaria spp., mints Mentha spp. (for small tortoiseshell butterflies and others), marjoram Origanum vulgare (great for bees), Tobacco plants Nicotiana spp. (the latter especially for hawk‐moths on warm evenings). And, of course, plant native ivy Hedera helix against a sunny wall!
Other good shrubs would be Cotoneaster horizontalis and C. sternianus.
With such plantings, you will find insects ‘stopping over’ for sustenance and you may even have a hummingbird hawk‐moth visiting, as one did, one more than one occasion (suggesting return visits), at a very urban garden in Llanelli, to where I had provided some of the above plants. If all householders did a little in their gardens, and likewise with school or office grounds, just think of the cumulative benefits for wildlife. Spare plants can always be given to friends or neighbours to improve their gardens for biodiversity.
The Cotoneasters have both bee‐friendly flowers and abundant berries in autumn that will sustain thrushes and blackbirds. Cotoneaster is also seemingly particularly attractive to a species of bumblebee that has colonised Britain in the last few years – the 'tree bumblebee' Bombus hypnorum. It has been seen at Kidwelly and the National Botanic Garden this year as well as in the Tywi Valley last year. This summer I saw (my first) record at Mynydd Mawr Woodland Park, Tumble on Cotoneaster. It has also been noted elsewhere in South Wales. It is a distinctive species (see photo on page 11) and could soon be visiting your garden, although it was recorded for the first time in the UK as recently as 2001 !
If you have a bigger garden, then the range of plants you can grow is more extensive and will include various trees and shrubs, perhaps a small orchard or a pond – but I can discuss this in a future article! If considering apple trees (perhaps the best small wildlife tree option), remember that you will have to plant at least a pair of different varieties but with both being of the same pollinating group, to ensure abundant fruit. For other ideas see rhs.org.uk/plants‐for‐pollinators