Read this week’s snippets of recent gardening news stories here…
Coronation Meadows Initiative
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the coronation, HRH Prince of Wales has set up the Coronation Meadows Initiative to create or restore 60 meadows throughout the UK, with more to follow in the next few months. 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s as a result of intensive farming and urban development. Remaining wildflower meadows will be used as ‘donors’ of seed and hay to restore existing meadows and create new ones. Wildlife species have seen a sharp decline because of the loss of meadows, including the short-haired bumblebee, which has recently been re-introduced to the RSPB’s nature reserve at Dungeness in Kent. HRH Prince of Wales said that the initiative would “revive several birds with one stone”, benefitting wildflower meadows and pollinating insects. He also said that the meadows will “recreate a lost habitat. [...] Unless we have things like this with which to inspire us in a deeper way, what’s the point of life? That’s why these things matter.” (Source The Telegraph online)
World’s first ‘grass-free lawn’
A park in west London is the first in the world to feature a grass-free lawn. Designed by PhD reseracher Lionel Smith and the result of 4 years of research, the ‘lawn’ creates a biodiverse environment with over 25% more insects and wildlife than a traditional lawn. It is intended to be an interactive space to be walked on and explored with all the senses. British native plants, such as red-flowering clover, daisies, thyme and chamomile as well as non-native species have been planted to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects.
Oak processionary caterpillar treatment ‘dangerous’
A bacterial agent recently sprayed over copses in Pangbourne to rid them of the toxic oak processionary caterpillar is thought to have endangered wildlife, according to Butterfly Conservation and Buglife. A report on the BBC news website says that caterpillar nests were destroyed in 2012 and that this year’s aerial spraying was a precautionary measure. However, wildlife experts claim that the pesticide used will kill a large number of moth and butterfly caterpillars. This will have an effect on bird and bat populations, which rely on the larvae as a food source. The woods will be monitored over the next 5 years and the hope is that the moths and caterpillars will re-colonise the area.
Oilseed rape – red flowers in future?
Pollen beetles that attack the traditional yellow flowers of oilseed rape are becoming increasingly resistant to chemical pesticides, so researchers at Rothamsted, one of the oldest agricultural research institutions in the world, have been investigating ways to control the pest. Changing the colour of the blooms from yellow to red with food colouring has shown promising results. The team involved in the experiment grew white flowered oilseed rape plants in pots, then washed off the soil, placed them in a buckets of water and added food colouring – blue, red and yellow. Tests over 2 years in the lab and in the field showed that the beetles preferred flowers that reflect ultraviolet light, so the red flowered plants were least affected by the beetles. This an exciting development, as it means that the plants could be bred to produce red flowers. Other possibilities are also being researched, such as plants with no petals at all and ‘pest traps’, where fields are planted with the resistant plants in the centre and surrounded by the non-resistant colour.