Wet weather has big impact on butterfly numbers

Peacock butterfly feeding on echinacea flowers (S)
Peacock butterfly feeding on echinacea flowers (S)

One group of plants that have provided plenty of colour and flowers this summer are the many different types of begonias.

Although their flowers look delicate and exotic, they have stood up very well to the wet and cool weather. In fact some of the plants that I have seen in parks and gardens look to be thriving in the unsettled summer conditions.

Begonia semperflorens which is often used in mass bedding schemes and containers has done very well and is producing lush, glossy foliage and masses of flowers.

A new introduction called Begonia Big that was launched into the gardening market last year is basically a larger version of the bedding begonia and is also flourishing.

The Non-stop hybrids are also performing extremely well and can be used in containers, hanging baskets or bedded into beds and borders.

This group have a very wide range of colours from white to pink, through to deep red, plus yellow, apricot and orange and as it produces a small tuber, the plants can be kept from year to year making them excellent value for money.

As well as growing and flowering well, begonias are also very disease resistant and this year they’ve stood up to the harsh conditions when many other plants have been affected by fungal diseases and moulds. Over recent years begonia sales have waned slightly, but as a result of their reliability and colourful show this summer I’m sure their popularity is on its way up again.

In fact if you are looking for some late summer and early autumn colour, many nurseries and garden centres many still have some for sale.

Readers’ Questions

Ann Aldred from Pannal has been in touch to ask if the wet weather had caused the lack of butterflies visiting her garden.

Yes, I’m afraid the cold, wet weather that we’ve had over the past few months is responsible for the lack of butterflies on nectar rich plants such as buddleja and echinacea. June was particularly bad as that is when many butterflies emerge and breed.

As a result of the rain, butterflies have not been able to fly, feed, mate or lay eggs and numbers of most species of moths and butterflies are very low.

The charity Butterfly Conservation has said that this is the worst year for butterflies since the drought of 1976, when many species were affected by the hot, dry weather.

If we get a few months of warm, sunny weather it will certainly help, but even then numbers of butterflies will still be devastated and it will take them several years to recover. Butterfly conservation are carrying out a survey on butterfly numbers at the moment and you can find out more information from their website, www.bigbutterflycount.org/about

Jobs for the Week

Lawns have had a tough time this summer with poor light and waterlogged conditions. Any areas of lawn that are still wet should be spiked with a garden fork to help surface drainage and to get some much needed air to the roots. A summer feed will also help to strengthen the grass and help it recover.

Feed tomatoes with a high potash fertiliser to encourage the green fruits to ripen.

This can either be a weekly liquid feed, or a one-off feed by sprinkling sulphate of potash around the plants and watered in to the soil.

The main bird nesting season is now over so hedges can be given a trim to tidy them up, however, check the hedge first just in case there are some late nesting birds.

If you have a gardening question for Martin Fish, email him at martin@flowershow.org.uk and we’ll print a selection of questions and answers for readers to share.

Or, write to Ackrill Media Group, 1 Cardale Park, Harrogate and we’ll pass on your question