Grow a secret garden for butterflies!

Peacock butterfly by Vaughn Matthews

This year’s Wild About Gardens campaign, run jointly by The Wildlife Trusts and Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), is calling on gardeners to get growing to help the UK’s falling numbers of butterflies and moths.

The new campaign draws inspiration from a dazzling new film adaptation of the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic, The Secret Garden, starring Colin Firth, Julie Walters and newcomer Dixie Egerickx as Mary Lennox. The film will bring the magic of wildlife, childhood and gardening to the big screen this spring when it blooms in cinemas across the UK from Good Friday, 10 April 2020.

Dixie Egerickx and Amir Wilson in the 2020 adaptation of The Secret Garden

Dixie Egerickx and Amir Wilson star in the new adaptation of The Secret Garden

Butterflies and moths are important pollinators and, along with caterpillars, are vital food for birds like robins and blue tits as well as bats. However, their habitats have faced catastrophic declines and once-common species like the small tortoiseshell have dropped by up to 80 per cent in the last 30 years in some areas.

An ideal butterfly garden has a wide variety of flowers throughout the year to support their life cycles – for butterflies and moths emerging from hibernation, egg laying females, caterpillars and then adults. Early flowering species include dandelions, aubretia and native bluebells could be followed by buddleia and red valerian, wildflowers and long grasses. Ivy flowers late into the autumn. Even a small flowerbed or flowering window box could throw declining pollinators a lifeline, especially in urban areas.

A large white butterfly feeding on lavender flowers

Large white butterflies are fond of lavender. Image by Megan Lowe

The Wildlife Trusts’ gardening champion, horticulturist and TV presenter Frances Tophill says:

“Our garden flowers and plants provide a rich source of rejuvenating nectar for these much-loved garden visitors as they emerge from hibernation to herald the start of spring. Go wild in your garden and leave the dandelions and daisies in the lawn to provide a meal, aim for year-round flowers and include a wildflower area for egg-laying females as well as gardeners’ favourites like lavender, nasturtium and verbena. The Wild About Gardens website is packed with information and easy actions we can all take to support butterflies and moths throughout their impressive life cycle.”

Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager of The Wildlife Trusts says:

“We all love watching moths and butterflies as they flutter by and brighten up our gardens – being in nature replenishes us and makes us happy. We know that UK wildlife is in decline and needs our help – that’s why we’re asking gardeners to work together and create a wave of long grass, wildflowers, colour and perfume across the country – a Nature Recovery Network for these gorgeous creatures.”

Helen Bostock, Senior Horticultural Advisor at the RHS says:

“Many moth and butterfly species are helpful pollinators and an important part of a balanced, healthy garden. With many of their natural habitats under threat, consider rewilding an area of your garden to provide food and shelter for these fascinating insects or sacrificing a patch of plants – for example, a window box bursting with nasturtiums will help attract large white butterflies away from your cabbage crop.”

A burnet moth caterpillar walking down the stem of a plant

Burnet moth caterpillar by Katrina Martin / 2020VISION

Pledge for butterflies

Every butterfly garden counts. We want to know about every new wild area, box or border that’s being grown for butterflies. Each garden contributes towards the network of green spaces that nature needs to survive. Please click the button below to pledge a bit of garden for butterflies and put it on the map.

Pledge your butterfly garden

Take notice of nature

In the story of The Secret Garden, the garden eases grief, heals rifts and brings the joy out in all who experience it. Make a special place for wildlife – your very own Secret Garden where you can replenish your soul, reconnect with nature and help wildlife to thrive. You’ve probably noticed how spotting butterflies or birds, or walking through woodlands, or alongside rivers and streams can help to lift your mood. Make some time for nature today and enjoy the restorative benefits.

Download or pick up a booklet

The Wildlife Trusts and RHS have published a beautiful – free – booklet with colourful advice and easy tips designed to make our outdoor spaces more attractive to butterflies, moths and their caterpillars. Click the image below to download a copy.

The Wild About Gardens booklets will be available at special events during the spring including the Chelsea Flower Show, and will be promoted through Wildlife Trust events, visitor centres and community action groups including the In Bloom network.