Rewild your garden with easy-to-grow flowers says Sheffield wildlife expert

During lockdown many people have been increasingly dependent on both local greenspaces and on their gardens to have a little contact with nature.

Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 4:45 pm
Garden nasturtiums, photographed by Prof Ian D Rotherham

Furthermore, it is increasingly recognised and accepted that such contact with wildlife and the natural world is not only ‘good’ for us, but in fact essential.

Nature-therapy is important for health and wellbeing and up there with simple physical exercise in the low-cost delivery of health benefits.

Surprisingly as yet, these health benefits are not really acted upon by our much overloaded and overworked health services.

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Prof Ian D Rotherham

Rather like my old school reports, ‘could try harder’ and ‘could do better’ are writ in big bright letters when it comes to turning aspirations to actions in making people fitter, healthier, and happier.

This is understandable at one level but surprising when a cash-strapped health service could save millions of pounds by working more effectively with nature.

One thing that anyone with a garden or even a window-box can do is to rewild for nature and for health.

Simply seeing wildlife is good for us, and greenery such as flowers in winter, helps uplift the spirits.

For nature in the wildlife garden, we need to encourage year-round flowers to provide pollen and nectar for bees, hoverflies, and even butterflies and moths.

Increasingly with mild weather a lot of species are active later and they need to feed.

So when planning the wildlife garden, it is important to have late-season flowers in sheltered and sunny spots.

This can be tricky, but this year, in particular, a lot of flowers are still in bloom as we haven’t had many hard frosts.

One example is my giant climbing nasturtium, which continues to scramble and to flower.

Occasional bumblebees out and about on sunny days will still take advantage.

Mild weather means fewer birds on the feeders, but the late flowers are a joy and help compensate.

Soon, however, I know the frosts will arrive and the flowers will be gone; but the flocks of birds will return to feed.

Prof Ian D Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, is a researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues