Bumblebee numbers have fallen dramatically since 1970 – partially, it is thought, due to a loss of wildflowers
Could gardens save Britain’s wildlife? The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and The Wildlife Trusts (TWT) are spearheading a new initiative to help halt the decline of animals such as hedgehogs and butterflies here in the UK, and are calling on the public to get involved in ‘Wild About Gardens Week’ (25-31 October, 2013).
In May, the State of Nature report, compiled by 25 wildlife organisations, found that 60% of the 3,148 UK animal and plant species assessed have declined in the past 50 years for a range of reasons including loss of habitat. For example, hedgehog numbers have reduced by a third since the millennium and tortoiseshell butterflies, once common in gardens, have declined by 77%.
In reaction to this, the RHS and TWT have teamed up to raise awareness and are urging the public to get involved. The RHS will encourage its 3,300 community gardening groups, 17,250 schools, 145 Partner Gardens and the public to hold wildlife gardening events during the week. A microsite (www.rhs.org.uk/wildaboutgardensweek) will be set up for groups and individuals to log events. The first 200 registered groups* to add events will receive free bulbs from the RHS.
Whether private or public, gardens offer a wealth of habitats for wildlife. For example, a pond is one of the most effective ways to attract garden wildlife, and wildflowers provide essential food for insects such as butterflies and bees.
Throughout ‘Wild About Gardens Week’, talks and events will be held at the four RHS Gardens and TWT visitor centres. There will also be wildflower seed giveaways by TWT and the public will be asked to ‘Do One Thing’ – whether this is to create a pond, build a hedgehog house or simply put out some bird seed.
Helen Bostock, RHS Horticultural Advisor, said: “What’s most alarming at the moment is that many of the ‘common’ garden species – hedgehogs, house sparrows, starlings and common frogs, for example – are becoming much less common. Historically these species have done well in our gardens and so their decline is something we really need to sit up and take notice of. This is where gardeners can make a difference and help to halt the declines we’re seeing, by making their gardens more wildlife friendly. This should be a wake-up call to all of us.”
Chris Baines, Vice President of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The nation’s gardens are hugely important for wildlife and as a habitat network they are second to none. Inner-city balconies and courtyards, the suburbs’ hedgerows and lawns, and the orchards and allotments of market towns and villages: all have the potential to be incredibly rich habitats for wildlife. There are many simple ways in which we can make our gardens naturally richer. Nest boxes, birdfeeders, log piles, nectar plants, fruiting shrubs, wall climbers and ponds all improve the life chances for many garden creatures; and, as each of us improves our garden habitat for wildlife, the plants and animals that we attract will bring more pleasure in return. It’s a win-win situation.”