An insect friendly garden

by frankbeswick

The Chelea Flower Show this year is displaying an insect friendly garden, what a delight.

Britain is renowned for flower shows, ranging from small, local events to major cultural institutions, but the apex of them all, the show of shows, is Chelsea. Horticultural creativity blossoms on its crowded aisles.Every year saw a visit from the horticulturally knowledgeable Elizabeth the Second,who loved it.. But of the several show gardens produced by artistic and horticulturally talented designers, one stands out to mind, a garden that is designed to let insects thrive.

Photo of a bee courtesy of NIL-Photo, of Pixabay

Insects in Need

Many people regard insects as creepy crawlies and look on them with disgust, but l am reminded of a line from the New Testament when God says to Simon Peter that he is not to call anything that God has created unclean.Insects are essential to the thriving of ecosystems, and their preservation is ecologically vital. I will not kill an insect unless it is necessary to do so, and I have compassion for their short and vulnerable lives. Thus it was a delight to discover that the Royal Entomological Society is sponsoring a show garden at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show this year. It is in the process of development, so I have no picture to show, but words can describe well, and that's enough.

Chelsea is a show entry to which is by invite only, and exhibitors have to meet stringent criteria. I have been in teams at other shows, but never Chelsea. But you cannot have everything. 

Show gardens are designed as movable displays. Here is how the task is done. A piece of ground is cleared and suitable plumbing is installed. Plants grown specifically for the occasion are produced at specially selected nurseries, but they are grown in pots. These are laid in place according to the designer's specifications, and then the whole lot of them is covered with a concealing layer of compost or whatever material the designer has chosen to make it appear that the plants are growing in the ground. Hard landscaping, such as walls and sheds, etc, is then put in. Everything is designed to be dismantled and parts of the hard landscaping are numbered so that reassembly will be more easily facilitated. This show garden is to be reassembled and recreated to make a permanent display at the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Headquarters. It is to be a permanent educational feature in the Society's environmental educational programme. At the centre of the garden will be a laboratory with microscopes linked to a computer screen so as to show the public the insect world. Its roof is designed to resemble the complex insect eye, with steel plates placed to appear like lenses.

As insect populations are in steep decline worldwide the garden is an important resource, a tool in the horticulturalist's armoury against the threatened ecological armaggedon.

The Layout of the Garden

Even the garden fence has a role in the entomologically designed garden project, a testimony to the skill of its designer Tim Massey. The fence is designed to last, as its lower sections are pebble gabions, which create a sturdy foundation, befitting for a feature designed to endure. But the wooden sections are more than single panels, for they are designed with spaces for insects to enter and burrow their nests. This will attract mason bees and other insects of a solitary disposition. 

The garden contains a range of plants, mainly British natives, such as hawthorn and silver birch, along with other plants, such as borage, a large plant whose nectar makes it attractive to bees, and hardy geraniums .Plants whose place in the cycle of nature involves attracting pollinators have an important place in the flora of this garden. There are good reasons for selecting hawthorn and silver birch, for both can host three hundred species of insect, thus broadening the insect flora of the garden. Mediterranean plants are to be included. Moreover, both of these trees are easily available and can be available when the new owners restock the garden at some future time. A range of  soil types is to be integrated into the garden's structure so as to maximise the range of creatures that exhibitors hope will be attracted to the site, and compost  and leaf mould add to the soil's variety.. Obviously dry soils suitable for the Mediterranean plants will be part of the garden, and there is a typical woodland edge soil of the kind found in British woodlands. This hopefully will provide a home for a range of insects. Various examples of soil types found In Britain will be included, and one original feature is an area where there is an aggregate made of urban rubble, whose cavities can provide  a number of spaces for insects to make their homes.

Dead wood will also be a feature of the insect garden, as it is a home for a wide range of insects, this will be a feature that will need restocking over the years.

Insects expected and needed

Obviously a garden of this kind would be defective if it lacked space for bees, as many kinds as possible, so a honey bee feature will be included, though whether this happens before the garden is moved I know not,as honey bees dislike disturbance. But bumble bees are an endangered animal in Britain,some species of them being critically so. It is hoped that the garden will attract bumble bee colonies.  There is hope that butterflies and a variety of moths will take to the garden, though the designer is wise enough to realize that in the matter of stocking the garden's fauna we must leave things to nature. The dead wood will hopefully attract a vast variety of insect types, some of which will come to the garden as new pieces of wood, e.g. dead stumps, continue to be introduced over the years.

It must be made clear that in this garden there are no insects classed as pests, not because they are excluded, but because the concept pest is inapplicable in this garden. Clearly there are no malaria prone swamps in the garden, but there is no room for swamp fauna in this garden. It is not big enough.I must also point out that though I have used the word insect, which applies to six-legged creatures, other animals, such as spiders and mites, cannot and should not be unwelcome. Many people are scared of spiders, but the vast majority of spiders found in Britain are harmless, and the only poisonous ones are imports. I used to have a spiders' nest under my back doorstep in my previous house, and suffered no harm whatsoever.

This garden will be a great asset to the ecological project of protecting the nation's environment. I look forward to seeing it.


I am an Amazon associate and hope to earn money by qualifying purchases on this page. 

Updated: 02/26/2023, frankbeswick
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
frankbeswick on 09/01/2023

I don't know what they choose, but Maureen and I live in a large city where midges and mosquitoes are absent, so she currently is not using any repellents.

DerdriuMarriner on 08/31/2023

Thank you for the ambiant- and sentient-amicable natural suggestions and insect repellent.

They can be tried out this weekend as I do weekly hand-mowing -- in-between Labor Day weekend menus based upon Veronica's delicious recipes -- of the Chicory Cottage acre of non-turf grass and wildflowers and of the Beswick garden of Frank-recommended seed combinations around the front porch.

It's really quite frightening what big mosquitoes have done to my bandaid-covered forehead!

My skin typically may not be sensitive -- a fortunate legacy of scarlet fever as an elementary schooler -- like Maureen's but what would she and Veronica choose for insect-repelling care? Would they do Avon or natural products or both?

frankbeswick on 08/31/2023

Avon skin soft is a well known insect repellent which is on sale.

frankbeswick on 08/31/2023

Some change in advice. Water hyacinth is toxic to domestic pets. While it is good for horses skins, when usedvexternally it is probably not useful for mosquitos. You would be better off using the otherbherbs that I have mentioned.

frankbeswick on 08/31/2023

Mosquito repellent smella:catnip, cedar, cinnamon, cloves, citronella, oil of eucalyptus,garlic,speaking,peppermint and other members of the mint family,

frankbeswick on 08/31/2023

Sorry, I know of none. I did hear years ago that a product, Avon skin Soft was a repellent which worked for men building the Skye Bridge, but I don.t know whether the product works only for midges or whether it is still on sale.

DerdriuMarriner on 08/30/2023

Thank you!

I'll see if I can find oil of water hyacinth oil here. Perhaps it will work against these unbelievably gigantic mosquitoes that fly particularly into my eyes and ears and leave such giant welts that I have bandaids on my forehead and my ears from scratching them when they mostly keep me awake at night and when they rarely let me sleep.

(Would eastern pond-siders have bandaids or an equivalent?)

frankbeswick on 08/29/2023

I have heard that oil of water hyacinth works as a deterrent.

When up at Loch Torridon many years ago with my son we saw a swarm approaching, so I grabbed my son and quickly deposited him in the tent and zipped it. I then finished unpacking, after smearing my face and neck with Vaseline intensive care. Still, the beasts got behind my ears. The Vaseline deterred them. But my wife has very sensitive, fair skin and avoids midges like the plague.

DerdriuMarriner on 08/28/2023

Online sources have awful-looking pictures of highland midge-attacked hands and wrists. They mention a midge repellant spray. They offer nothing in the way of natural repellants or even of what works in the store-bought spray.

Would you know what works against them? Perhaps it would work against the giant mosquitoes here, against which nothing works thus far for me and my now-two-bandaided (one per temple!) forehead ;-{.

frankbeswick on 08/27/2023

We have fireflies, but in the south. We do not have them in the north, where I live. Mosquitoes might be making their entry into the south, but in the northern parts of Britain they would be competing with the Scottish midge. An irritating beastie.

You might also like

Wildlife on the allotment

Allotment plots, being larger than gardens, are places where wildlife can be ...

Project Tiger Saving The Big Cat

Once found in abundance the tiger in India faces extinction. The decline happ...

Moloka'i Creeper (Paroreomyza flammea): Rare or Extinct Scarle...

Found only on Hawaiian island of Moloka'i, Paroreomyza flammea, known as the ...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...