May 2022: Val Bourne on ‘Butterflies in Gardens’

CABAHS welcomed Val Bourne to speak at our May meeting, sharing her photographs, experience and knowledge of butterflies in the garden. She emphasised that she is not a butterfly expert (but she knows one!), she’s an organic gardener who has spent a lot of time observing butterflies, their habits and preferences – and, sadly, their decline in recent years.

Photograph of the FSC's Butterfly ID chart

As a starting point, Val recommended a book and a tool: ‘The Philips Guide to Butterflies’ and the Field Studies Council’s butterfly identification chart. Butterfly Conservation also provide a range of identification guides online. Photographs of a wide range of species – 24 different ones have been spotted in the Spring Cottage garden – showed us the beauty of even the smallest, brownest examples!

Val explained how useful even a small meadow area is for many species, how some species rely on quite a narrow range of plants for nectar, and how the timing of a butterfly lifecycle is intrinsically linked to the lifecycle of their food plants. She stated that climate change – causing plants to flower at different times – is demonstrably messing up this synchronisation, so as gardeners it’s important to grow a wide range of butterfly-friendly plants to try to mitigate that situation.

Some examples of butterfly-friendly plants, and the butterflies that particularly need or enjoy them:

Continue reading May 2022: Val Bourne on ‘Butterflies in Gardens’

Member Angela B has submitted this article about her concerns for the environment and her ideas on how gardening, even in flats, can help:

“The Extinction Rebellion demonstration over the Easter Weekend has dramatically brought to the public’s attention once again the problem of Global Warming and the abuse of the planet by humans. Gardening, which we keen gardeners all do for pleasure, can make a small but significant contribution to mitigating these effects.

Take one example: pollution. It is a major problem in London, including in Greenwich, parts of which are above the legal limits.  Plants take in carbon dioxide and secrete oxygen, which helps purify the air. Greenwich residents should be encouraged to garden and plant as many pollution-absorbing plants as possible.

Unfortunately, there is an increasing shortage locally of gardening space. Many residents have paved their front gardens to provide space for parking their cars. Also many back gardens are now astroturfed or covered in decking which does not help. Nor has Greenwich Council’s policy of building high rise flats in the borough rather than houses with gardens.  And what few of the latter are built usually have small gardens.  For example, many thousands of flats have already been built in the borough and many thousands more are planned for the Thames Riverside site between the Thames Barrier and the Yacht Club and around Woolwich Town Centre.

Given this situation, one solution if gardening is to be encouraged locally, is for blocks of flats to become a focus of balcony gardening in the borough. Greenwich Council and its Planning Department is apparently in the process of declaring a climate emergency. That being the case they should encourage  developers to build all flats with large wide balconies which would allow for a significant amount of gardening.  Also the Council might like to encourage the managing agents of blocks of flats to set up residents gardening clubs.

Flat dwellers are already showing an interest in gardening as it has become very fashionable to grow indoor plants, especially succulents. So if they were provided with sizable balconies they are very likely to start growing other plants as well.

If any of you are interested in promoting these ideas. Perhaps you could spread the word and if you come into contact with Greenwich Council Councillors or staff you might bring up the subject of promoting gardening in flats.”

Additional thought: Perhaps we should copy Stefano Boeri’s fantastic apartment blocks in Milan which won many awards when it was built in 2014.  Here is Bosco verticale, the ultimate in balcony gardening!

Milan flats 1

Milan flat vertical forest