Many people have been spending more time in their gardens lately and you may have noticed what an amazing variety of wildlife visits our gardens.
Our gardens are particularly important refuges for pollinating insects like bees. To give pollinators a helping hand, gardeners can grow a range of plants that offer a rich larder of pollen and nectar throughout the year.
But how do we know which plants are best for pollinators?
Twelve years of research at the Botanic Garden led by Dr Natasha de Vere has been looking at this question, using DNA barcoding to find out which plants bumblebees, solitary bees, honeybees and hoverflies visit.
To make this scientific evidence available to gardeners, a new ‘Saving Pollinators Assurance Scheme’ has been developed by our Growing the Future project. Plants proven to support pollinators by the Botanic Garden’s research scientists are given the stamp of approval on garden centre benches, in the form of our Saving Pollinators Assurance Scheme logo.
To be eligible for the Saving Pollinators Assurance Scheme, plants also need to be grown in an environmentally sustainable way. The drastic decline in pollinating insects has been partly caused by the use of chemical insecticides. Alarmingly, many plants labelled by retailers as ‘pollinator friendly’ have been shown to harbour significant residues of synthetic insecticides that harm pollinators and our environment. Many retailed plants are also grown in peat-based compost, the production of which is very environmentally damaging.
Plants in our Saving Pollinators Assurance Scheme are grown peat-free, without synthetic insecticides.
Over the past two years, I have travelled across Wales with Growing the Future beekeeper, Lynda Christie, meeting growers dedicated to sustainable growing. We are so pleased that a range of growers have now signed up to grow at least some of their plants to Saving Pollinators Assurance Scheme standards.
Keep a look out for our Saving Pollinators Assurance Scheme logo on plants in garden centres and nurseries across Wales, including on plants for sale in the Y Pot Blodyn Garden Centre at the Botanic Garden.
Plants displaying the logo are not only proven to support pollinators, but have been sown, grown and nurtured in an environmentally sensitive way, by a range of passionate growers across Wales.