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Growing golden for wildlife

PUBLISHED: 15:44 21 July 2014 | UPDATED: 15:55 21 July 2014

Red-tailed bumblebee. Photo: Jon Hawkins

Red-tailed bumblebee. Photo: Jon Hawkins

Archant

To mark Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust’s golden anniversary this year, the charity has launched a ‘growing golden’ project. Sarah Buckingham explains

Meadow buttercupsMeadow buttercups

The Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is celebrating 50 years of working for wildlife this year, so we are growing a border of golden flowers in our wildlife garden at Grebe House, St Albans, and inviting Hertfordshire residents to grow golden for wildlife too.

Gardens are increasingly important havens for wildlife as habitats shrink and fragment. Although each garden on its own may be small, gardens together form a patchwork linking green spaces in towns with nature reserves and the wider countryside. With an estimated 16 million gardens in the UK, the way they are managed can make a big difference to wildlife. Here are some ideas to get you started.

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Yellow native flowering plants>>>

Hay meadow with yellow rattle. Photo: Lee SchofieldHay meadow with yellow rattle. Photo: Lee Schofield

Try growing – or just not digging up – some of our wonderful native species to attract wildlife. Native wildflowers are most likely to be suited to local soils and the British climate of course. Here are some of our favourites – see if these natives suit the conditions in your garden:

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• Agrimony, Agrimony eupatoria. 
Does best on a well-drained site. In the wild it’s found in woodland margins, on roadsides, field borders and on open grassland.

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Common blue butterfly feeding on a buttercupCommon blue butterfly feeding on a buttercup

• Kidney vetch, Anthyllis vulneraria.
Likes infertile soils and will cover bare ground with the right conditions. If you have chalky or sandy soil in your garden, this could fit the bill.
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• Marsh marigold, Caltha palustris. 
Also commonly known as kingcup, marsh marigold is perfect for planting near ponds or on wet ground.

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• Greater celandine, Chelidonium majus.
Grows readily in most soils. Seen in hedgerows and road verges in the wild.

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Birdsfoot trefoil. Photo: Neil WyattBirdsfoot trefoil. Photo: Neil Wyatt

• Yellow flag iris, Iris pseudacorus. 
A stunning accompaniment to the margins of your wildlife pond, yellow flag is one of two native irises. Thrives on wet soils.

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• Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris. 
Native perennial that likes dry, infertile soils. More frequently found on chalky soils than acid sites.

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• Field buttercup, Ranunculus acris. 
Found on loamy, sandy, chalky and particularly heavy clay soils, the often overlooked buttercup has declined with chemical use in agriculture.

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Free wildflower seeds>>>

As part of our anniversary celebrations, native wildflower specialists Emorsgate Seeds has carefully selected four yellow wildflowers that are perfect for sowing this autumn. Order your free packet of golden wildflower seeds at hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/growgolden.

Choose from bird’s foot trefoil, yellow rattle, corn marigold or cowslip:

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• Bird’s-foot trefoil. 
Absent only from very acid or very infertile soils. Tolerant of cutting and grazing, so suitable for flowery lawns. Mainly pollinated by bees. The larval food plant for a number of moth species including six and five spot burnet and of the common blue butterfly.

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• Yellow rattle.
Suitable for low to medium fertile soils. Intolerant of shade. Well suited to fine turf and tolerant of cutting. It parasitizes the roots of grasses, so can be sown into a lawn to create a nice display. Excellent for bees.

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• Corn marigold.
Can be grown on most soils but prefers a light and moderately acidic soil. Will attract bees and butterflies.

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• Cowslip.
Occurs on a range of calcareous and occasionally dry, non-calcareous soils but thrives best in moist, free draining sites. Intolerant of waterlogged soils and is only rarely found in shaded habitat. Great for insects.

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There are lots of other yellow flowers that are great for wildlife too – for a full list of golden plants that will get your garden buzzing, visit hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/growgolden

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