Big Butterfly Count and Best Plants for Butterflies

Marbled White butterfly on knapweed. Image: Canva

The Big Butterfly Count 2022 is upon us! Running until 7th August, this nationwide citizen science project is a fantastic way to help our native butterflies whilst having a bit of fun in the process. With numbers of many of our native species dwindling, it’s more important than ever to keep tabs on their populations. Using the data from your sightings, conservationists can gain a clearer picture of how species are faring in different areas and habitats, which in turn helps to inform their conservation.

All you need to do is pick a spot in your garden or out and about where you’re likely to see some butterflies. Sit for 15 minutes and jot down how many of each species you see using Butterfly Conservation’s handy ID chart. It’s a great excuse to relax for 15 minutes, a fun project to do with the kids, and an easy way to do your bit to help out our butterflies in their hour of need. If you want to do more to help butterflies, we’ve compiled our top recommendations for the best plants for butterflies below too. Let’s make this year’s Big Butterfly Count as big as the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch!

Maybe you’d like to see some more butterflies in your garden? Here are a few of our top recommendations for the best plants to attract butterflies to your garden.

Best plants for attracting butterflies

Painted Lady butterfly on buddleja. Image: Canva

  • Buddleja – known as butterfly bush, buddleja will be a magnet for any butterflies in the area. Our famous dwarf Buddleja Buzz® packs the same punch whilst fitting in even the smallest garden or patio!
  • Verbena bonariensis – a hardworking herbaceous perennial that’s a staple of borders and naturalistic planting. Butterflies love drawing nectar from the tiny tubular flowers.
  • Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) – a fantastic addition to any wildflower meadow that’s a magnet for butterflies and bees alike, and is particularly attractive to the beautiful marbled white butterfly.
  • Scabious (Knautia) – there are many varieties in a range of sizes and colours to suit any border, container or wildflower meadow. Field scabious is a UK native wildflower that’s great for incorporating into any meadow and is loved by butterflies.
  • Lavender – it’s evergreen, it’s fragrant, it’s drought resistant and butterflies love it – what more reason do you need to plant lavender? Cultivars of Lavandula x intermedia are the best of all for pollinators.
  • Marjoram – as well as being a valuable culinary herb, marjoram is a great all-rounder that’s loved by a whole range of pollinators.

Gatekeeper butterfly on marjoram. Image: Canva

See our guide to how to encourage butterflies into your garden and our top 10 plants for butterflies for more ideas.

Introducing Thompson & Morgan x Anya Hindmarch

The new Pont Street Garden Centre by Anya Hindmarch is a feast for the eyes, inside and out! Image: Anya Hindmarch

In the wake of Chelsea Flower Show 2022, we are excited to share our collaboration with sustainability-focused luxury designer Anya Hindmarch and her new Pont Street Garden Centre in Chelsea, which opened to coincide with the highlight of the horticultural calendar running just around the corner. Open from 21st May to 3rd July 2022, this newest addition to the Anya Hindmarch Village is inspired by the classic 1970s garden centre and The Good Life, featuring a concept space dedicated to a wonderfully British celebration of all things gardening.

Brimming with gorgeous gardening goodies both inside and out, the Pont Street Garden Centre is a feast for the eyes. Luxurious hanging baskets and smart green staging packed with potted plants in a myriad of jewel-like colours spill out onto the street, whilst the interior is richly furnished with a carefully curated selection of accessories and shelves of lush houseplants presented in attractive brown paper sacks. Anya Hindmarch have collaborated with us at Thompson & Morgan to create a nostalgic collection of Good-Life-inspired seed packets and curated garden accessories, including picnic hampers, garden totes, aprons and watering cans. Garden essentials such as gloves, kneelers, tools, trugs and even twine have been designed with style as well as practicality in mind.

Lush houseplants abound, all uniquely and thoughtfully presented in brown paper sacking. Image: Anya Hindmarch

A popular British TV sitcom running from 1975-78, The Good Life was based on the concepts of self-sufficiency and living off the land. The Pont Street Garden Centre is a throwback to this era, featuring a Good-Life-inspired logo and ranks upon ranks of bespoke Thompson & Morgan seed packets that have been specially redesigned for the occasion. There are even vintage kaftans available for those who’d like to channel ‘Margot’ in the garden! Featuring vintage signs, a ‘reading corner’ complete with floral deckchair and even a small screen playing scenes from the show, the nostalgic décor of the shop gives you the feeling you’ve just stepped into Barbara and Tom’s world.

Browse a range of heritage-inspired tools and garden accessories as well as adorable fruit- and vegetable-themed pouches! Image: Anya Hindmarch

Anya is known for her fun and imaginative designs, and a particular highlight of the collection is the totally unique Thompson & Morgan Sunflower Seeds Tote; a dazzling evening bag in the design of a Thompson & Morgan sunflower seed packet (buy the real seeds here!). Beautifully crafted and lined with softest recycled satin, this is a true statement piece to add to your Chelsea Flower Show outfit!

While there is no set dress code at the Show, the event is famously a sartorial as well as a horticultural extravaganza, with many visitors dressing their best for this special occasion. Dapper gents sport blazers and light trousers, whilst many ladies adorn summery dresses and flamboyant hats.

This unique evening bag inspired by a Thompson & Morgan seed packet is the perfect addition to next year’s Chelsea Flower Show outfit! Image: Anya Hindmarch

In a typical day at the Chelsea Flower Show, you can meander around a vast treasure trove of amazing gardens and displays, which growers from all across the UK have poured their hearts into for the past year or more! For some, this is a chance to display a lifetime’s work. The show is your opportunity to admire unique designs and novel ideas, spot some of your favourite varieties in all their glory, or even discover new and inspiring plants to grow at home.

The theme of this year’s show was ‘wild’, with many show gardens teeming with native plants that benefit wildlife. Designs took inspiration from meadows, woodlands and hedgerows for a naturalistic feel. In the spirit of this, you’ll find Anya’s seed selection brimming with wildlife-friendly flowers such as Verbena bonariensis, sunflowers, cosmos and wildflower mix, as well as traditional easy-to-grow favourites such as nasturtiums and sweet peas, and tasty courgettes and chilli peppers.

Choose from a range of bespoke Thompson & Morgan seeds, redesigned in the theme of The Good Life. Image: Anya Hindmarch

Pop down to Pont Street by 3rd July to stock up on Perennials for Millennials, Wildflowers for Wild Women and much, much more! You can even take part in terrarium workshops for both adults and children, hosted at Anya’s Garden Centre on 18th June. Don’t forget to tag us @thompsonmorgan1855 in your photos – we’d love to see what you find!

Best Drought-Resistant Plants

Drought-resistant planting at RHS Garden Harlow Carr. Image: Olivia Drake

Spring and summer droughts are becoming increasingly common across many parts of the UK. With temperatures rising and rainfall becoming less consistent, drought-resistant plants have never been more important to gardeners. A drought-tolerant garden can be more sustainable, saves you time and effort, and cuts back on the water bill. It’s also a great option if you’re away from home for long periods.

There are many garden plants that are well adapted to dry conditions, thriving on little water even in hot, sunny weather. Like all plants they will require watering for their first season after planting – make sure to install a water butt to collect rainwater if you don’t have one already! – but once established, these drought-resistant plants will pretty much look after themselves. Here we’ll take you through some of the best drought-tolerant plants to use for a garden that will look fantastic but let you leave the sprinkler in the shed.

Perennials

A selection of drought-tolerant perennials – salvia, verbena, echinacea and lavender. Images: Canva

Salvias

There’s a place for salvias in every garden. They can be one of the most long-flowering of all perennials, are loved by pollinators, and come in an almost endless array of colours, sizes and flower shapes. On top of that, they thrive in dry conditions! For flowering duration there’s no beating the award-winning Salvia ‘Amistad’, a border hero that sends up spires of deep purple blooms continuously from June right through to November. For containers or smaller spaces, try the compact Salvia ‘Salvatore Deep Blue’, which packs a punch at only 35cm tall. If you’re looking to plant en masse, Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ is an ideal choice, providing low maintenance swathes of colour that will be abuzz with bees all summer long. Salvias don’t have to be purple, though! Try the pretty shell-pink Salvia ‘Dyson’s Joy’ for a pastel colour scheme, the elegant ‘Clotted Cream’ for a calming and refined white or ‘Hot Lips’ for adding a sizzling pop of colour to a hot border.

Lavender

Low-maintenance, highly drought-tolerant and providing year-round interest with its attractive silvery foliage, lavender is an obvious choice for any dry, sunny spot. English lavender ‘Munstead’ is one of the best, producing masses of deep blue-purple heads on neat, compact plants. These are ideal for edging paths or borders or creating a low hedge.

Verbena bonariensis

Verbena bonariensis has become a key figure in dry borders and prairie planting schemes. Its slender, airy stems rise above other plants, creating height and texture. This reliable hardy perennial is incredibly easy to grow, requires little maintenance and will self-seed if allowed to create beautiful, naturalistic drifts.

Echinacea

Echinacea or coneflower is a hardworking perennial in any garden, providing valuable late summer colour with its nectar-rich blooms, standing up to dry conditions and needing little maintenance. It’s also a staple of prairie planting schemes. You can’t go wrong with the classic Echinacea purpurea, but if you’re looking for something a bit different, try the white version Echinacea purpurea ‘Alba’, the fiery bicolored red and yellow Echinacea ‘Parrot’, or the floriferous ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ in hot shades of red and orange for a superb addition to a hot border.

Grasses

Grasses are some of the most useful drought-resistant plants of all. Image: Canva

Grasses are a staple of any low-maintenance, droughtproof garden. Stipa tenuissima is a fantastic choice: requiring very little water, it provides year-round interest, structure and movement to borders, whilst providing a matrix through which drought-tolerant herbaceous perennials such as salvias, verbena and echinacea can grow for a stunning combination. Pennisetum alopecuroides or fountain grass is a very decorative ornamental grass producing beautiful pink-tinged flowerheads like little squirrels’ tails. The tall, upright Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ has become very popular as a screening plant – a low-maintenance, airy alternative to a hedge.

Trees & Shrubs

A selection of drought-tolerant shrubs and small trees – rosemary, rock rose, olive and ceanothus.

A selection of well-placed trees and shrubs is key to creating structure, height and year-round interest in any garden or outdoor space. There are a variety of drought-resistant shrubs and small trees to choose from – with the bonus that many are evergreen!

Rosemary

Rosemary is a wonderfully hardworking shrub. As well as being drought-tolerant, it provides year-round interest, repeat flowers over a long period, and is a valuable culinary herb! Rosemary comes in different forms to suit different spaces. Upright shrub forms such as the lovely ‘Tuscan Blue’ are perfect for adding evergreen structure to borders, whilst prostrate or semi-trailing forms such as ‘Corsican’ look wonderful tumbling over a wall or in sun-drenched pots, hanging baskets or window boxes.

Rock rose

‘Rock rose’ is a name that is shared by two related but distinct groups of plants: Helianthemum and Cistus. Both are evergreen and thrive in free-draining and nutrient-poor soils, requiring plenty of sun and little water. Cistus grow into larger shrubs than the typically low-growing Helianthemum. For a good-size shrub (to 1m) consider Cistus x purpureus ‘Alan Fradd’, which bears lovely, large white flowers with yellow centres and an attractive splash of crimson to the base of each petal. Cistus x pulverulentus ‘Sunset’ is a great smaller shrub (to 60cm), producing deep rose-pink flowers all summer long. Though they are much smaller sub-shrubs, Helianthemum are too good to ignore, though: Helianthemum ‘Golden Queen’ forms neat, low clumps that become smothered in sunny golden yellow buttercup-shaped blooms from late spring to mid-summer. At only 20cm high, it is ideal for containers, rockeries and the front of borders.

Ceanothus

Native to California, Ceanothus or Californian lilac knows a thing or two about heat and drought! This gorgeous evergreen shrub is perfect for adding height to a border or as a specimen plant. Larger varieties such as ‘Italian Skies’ can also be used as a small tree, developing an attractive bare trunk over time. In late spring or summer, the small, glossy deep green leaves become smothered in dense clusters of tiny blue flowers, which are an absolute magnet for bees.

Olive

Hailing from the Mediterranean, this elegant evergreen tree provides year-round interest with its narrow, silvery foliage. Our olive tree standard is ideal for patio pots and will happily overwinter outdoors in most parts of the UK providing it is in a sheltered spot; alternatively you can move it into a greenhouse or conservatory over winter.

Rosemary is one of the best drought-tolerant shrubs. Image: Olivia Drake

Ground Cover

A selection of drought-resistant plants for ground cover – thyme, lithodora, erigeron and aubretia. Images: Canva

Thyme

Thyme is another herb that is just as useful in the garden as it is in the kitchen. This mat-forming evergreen makes excellent dry ground cover as well as being a lovely addition to containers, rockeries and the front of borders. The pretty clusters of tiny flowers are also very attractive to pollinators. Thymus ‘Silver Posie’ is a particularly attractive variety, boasting a silver variegation to the leaf that intensifies in winter, making it a great addition to winter and spring container displays.

Lithodora

Forming a low, evergreen carpet, Lithodora is ideal for the front of borders, rockeries, gravel gardens and containers. Lithodora diffusa ‘Heavenly Blue’ is one of the best varieties, producing masses of vivid electric-blue flowers from late spring throughout summer.

Erigeron

Thriving in dry soils, walls and rockeries, this endlessly cheerful little daisy produces dainty white and pink flowers non-stop all spring, summer and autumn! It will readily self-seed to form a delightful carpet, making it ideal for ground cover. It also looks great as a gap-filler around taller plants in borders. Erigeron ‘Stallone’ is a floriferous variety with a lovely mix of white and pink flowers.

Aubretia

Surprisingly drought-tolerant once established, aubretia quickly spreads to form an evergreen mat which becomes smothered in four-petalled purple blooms throughout spring. As well as ground cover, it is perfect for rockeries, the front of borders and cascading over walls.

We hope this selection of drought-tolerant plants has given you some ideas for your own low-maintenance, sustainable garden that will thrive in a dry climate. For more ideas, see our list of drought-resistant plants and our guide to plants for dry, sunny borders. You might also find our water-saving tips useful!

Best plants for low hedges

Low box hedging surrounding parterre beds at National Trust Wimpole Estate. Image: Canva

There are many situations that call for a low hedge. It could be a formal edging to a border or path, a way to divide up a small garden into separate areas without cramping the space, a structural backdrop to other planting or simply a way to separate your drive from your neighbour’s. The beauty of a low hedge is that it creates a divide whilst still maintaining an open and spacious feel.

Whilst the size of almost any hedge can be limited by how often and how hard you trim it, there are certain plants that lend themselves particularly well to low hedges without wearing out the hedgetrimmer. The ideal candidate is a compact, small-leafed evergreen shrub that is not too fast-growing. Here we’ve picked out some of the best plants for a low hedge – whether you’re looking something formal, informal, flowering or prickly, read on to find the best for you!

Box

Buxus sempervirens is an absolutely classic low hedging plant and for good reason. A bushy habit with masses of small, densely packed deep green leaves makes box ideal for trimming into precise shapes and offsetting complex planting schemes. Box is often used to enclose formal beds, forming the backbone of parterres and knot gardens around the world. However, as almost anyone who has tried to maintain a pristine box hedge will know, it can suffer from blight and the increasingly common box caterpillar. If this is a risk you’d rather avoid, there are some great box alternatives out there – read on to discover some of the best.

Height: to 200cm (79in)
Type of hedge: formal
Great for: stepover hedges, topiary

Box is traditionally one of the most popular plants for low hedges in a formal setting.

Box is traditionally one of the most popular plants for low hedges in a formal setting. Image: Canva

Lonicera pileata

Lonicera pileata or box-leaved honeysuckle is one of the most convincing box lookalikes that can be used in many of the same situations, but won’t succumb to box blight or caterpillar. This tough, drought-tolerant evergreen will quickly fill out to form a dense, compact hedge, which can be easily kept to a desired shape and size by trimming in summer or autumn. The display is enhanced by creamy flowers in spring and purple berries in autumn.

Height: to 100cm (39in)
Type of hedge: formal
Great for: stepover hedges, topiary

Lonicera pileata is a box lookalike that avoids the risk of disease. Image: Canva

Euonymus

A low-growing Euonymus such as ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ is another great alternative to box without the risk of disease. ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ is the variety of choice for edging small formal beds at renowned National Trust garden Hidcote Manor.

Height: to 60cm (24in)
Type of hedge: formal
Great for: stepover hedges, adding colour with variegated leaves

Euonymus 'Emerald 'n' Gold' makes a great alternative to box for formal low hedges.

Euonymus ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ makes a great alternative to box for low formal hedges. Image: Canva

Pittosporum

For a more informal hedge, Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’ is a great option for mild areas. Boasting attractive deep glossy purple foliage, ‘Tom Thumb’ forms a dense, rounded shrub that is ideal for a cloud-pruned hedge.

Height: to 100cm (39in)
Type of hedge: formal or informal
Great for: coastal gardens

The glossy purple foliage of Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb'.

Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’ boasts stunning purple foliage and is a great choice for mild or coastal regions. Image: Sempra

Hebe

Compact hebes such as ‘Red Edge’ make a great low hedge that requires virtually no maintenance. Year-round interest is provided by the small, pointed greyish-green leaves attractively edged with red. The display is enhanced in summer by conical clusters of pale lilac flowers, which are attractive to bees and butterflies.

Height: to 45cm (18in)
Type of hedge: informal, flowering
Great for: wildlife, low-maintenance gardens

The attractive pink-tinged foliage of Hebe 'Red Edge', a great low-maintenance plant for low hedges.

The attractive pink-tinged foliage of Hebe ‘Red Edge’. Image: Canva

Ilex crenata

Ilex crenata ‘Stokes’ is another great alternative to box for a low formal hedge, producing small, glossy dark green leaves with a gently scalloped edge. White flowers in May are followed by glossy black berries. Japanese holly is an extremely cold tolerant hedging plant that won’t scorch like box, while its compact habit and slow growth rate means it won’t need trimming very often.

Height: to 60cm (24in)
Type of hedge: formal
Great for: stepover hedges, topiary

With its small, glossy green leaves, Ilex crenata makes a great alternative to box for low hedges.

With its small, glossy green leaves, Ilex crenata makes a great alternative to box. Image: De Nolf

Sarcococca confusa

This gorgeously scented winter-flowering evergreen makes a lovely informal or informal hedge, depending whether you allow it to take on its natural form or trim it into shape. Year-round interest is provided by the glossy deep green, spear-shaped leaves and shiny black berries, but the plant really excels in January when it fills the air with the most delicious, heady scent from its clusters of small cream flowers. This makes winter box the perfect plant for low hedges near paths, doorways and patios, where its fragrance can be enjoyed to the full.

Height: to 150cm (5ft)
Type of hedge: formal or informal, flowering, scented
Great for: wildlife, winter gardens

Sarcococca confusa makes a highly fragrant low hedging plant.

Sarcococca can be used for either an informal or formal hedge and fills the air with gorgeous scent in winter. Image: Thompson and Morgan / Derek St Romaine

Lavender

A row of lavender makes an attractive, drought-tolerant, fragrant divide that will attract bees and butterflies. Little maintenance is required other than a light shearing back after flowering to retain a compact shape and prevent legginess. Producing a haze of blue-purple flowers above attractive greyish evergreen foliage, lavenders such as ‘Munstead’ are a great low hedging choice for dry areas.

Height: to 45cm (18in)
Type of hedge: formal or informal, flowering, scented
Great for: wildlife, dry sites

Lavender 'Munstead' makes a fragrant and wildlife-friendly plant for low hedges that is ideal for dry sites.

Lavender such as ‘Munstead’ makes a fragrant and wildlife-friendly low hedge that is ideal for dry sites. Image: Shutterstock

Shrub Roses

Compact shrub roses such as ‘The Fairy’ can make a beautiful low hedge. Tresses of lavish pink blooms are produced throughout summer and autumn on arching stems that form a shapely mounded plant. This prickly hedging choice is ideal if you’re looking to discourage animals such as cats from passing through.

Height: to 60cm (24in)
Type of hedge: informal, flowering
Great for: summer colour, deterring animals

Rose 'The Fairy' is a great choice for a floral low hedge.

Rose ‘The Fairy’ is a beautiful choice for a flowering low hedge. Image: Shutterstock

Hypericum calycinum

Thriving almost anywhere, including in deep shade, Hypericum calycinum or St John’s Wort is an ideal choice for difficult spots. Though it can be easily trimmed to shape if desired, Rose of Sharon requires virtually no maintenance. This versatile shrub becomes festooned with large yellow flowers in summer and autumn, which are followed by decorative red berries. You can view our full range or flowering hedges here.

Height: to 60cm (24in)
Type of hedge: informal, flowering
Great for: shade, wildlife, low maintenance gardens

The large yellow flowers of Hypericum calycinum, a great shrub for low hedges.

Hypericum calycinum is a versatile low hedging plant producing pretty buttery yellow blooms throughout summer in autumn. Image: Canva

We hope we’ve given you plenty of ideas for the perfect low hedge for your garden. You can view our range of low hedging plants here and our full range of hedging plants here. For further tips and helpful advice, head over to our dedicated tree and hedge hub page.

 

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