One of these is working with Carmarthenshire County Council to regenerate a field into a pollinator-friendly wildflower hotspot.
We have started by sowing seeds of the parasitic species Red bartsia (Odontites vernus) and Eyebright (Euphrasia species) to weaken the grasses over time, allowing space for more wildflowers to flourish. Also, science officer, Dr Kevin McGinn and myself have started to plant plug plants across the field. The first batch to be planted are Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), a beautiful wildflower with a splash of pink flowers, like little fireworks in the summer meadow. Kevin and I planted them in the wetter parts of the field where they will grow quickly.
The plantings will also include devil’s bit scabious (Succisa pratensis), the key food plant for the caterpillars of the threatened marsh fritillary butterfly (Euphydryas aurinia). The other wildflowers, like ragged robin, will provide flowers for the adult butterflies to forage nectar from, and it is hoped this will help to connect key breeding sites. A range of other wildflower species have been specially chosen for the site – all shown to be important plants for different pollinators, from solitary bees to hoverflies, by the Garden’s researchers.
The plugs were all grown at the Garden in our glasshouse facility called NG4 using seeds collected from our on-site Waun Las National Nature Reserve. We use deep ‘root trainer’ trays to grow our jumbo plugs so that the wildflowers have a good root run before planting. Over the year or two, we plan to add more plugs to this field, along with ‘green hay’ – fresh hay packed full of seed from our wildflower-rich meadows – to make it a fantastic habitat for all types of wildlife.
Botanic Gardens are great places where horticulture and science cross over. It is a joy to work alongside scientists Kevin, Abigail and Laura as their wildflower and pollinator research increases our knowledge of the great value of wildflower-rich spaces, and when combined with the practical experience of growing, this can be applied to boost biodiversity out in the wild.