Pollinators and wildflowers: a timely reminder from Sarah Raven

For some time now there has been increasing concern about the plight of the Bumblebee but this extends further to include pollinators in general, wildflowers and the insects that rely on these flowers.  Sarah Raven’s BBC2 programme ‘Bees, Butterflies and Blooms,’ the first episode of which aired last night, is a timely and important reminder of the swathes of wildflower habitats that have been lost in this country during the course of the last century and the detrimental impact that this has had on pollinators and other insects, let alone the survival of wildflower species and the landscape as a whole.

As with so many environmental catastrophes created by mankind, it is only when we are at a state of crisis that we begin to try and repair the damage.  It can only be hoped that campaigns such as Sarah Raven’s and others start to really get into the public consciousness and cause a change in the general attitude towards how we manage our environments, both urban and rural.

It is shocking to think that it is in rural areas where the problem is greatest; monoculture farming, the removal of hedgerows, and the use of pesticides is nothing but destructive and it is time that such practices were addressed more forcefully than they currently are.  We can no longer plead ignorance about their impact.

Of course there needs to be some sort of economic benefit for farmers, otherwise they just won’t get on with planting wildflower strips on the margins of their fields to increase biodiversity (this is a reality that unfortunately can’t be escaped; money seems always to trump any environmental concern); education on the subject, at all levels, doubtless needs to be improved also.

The other despairing thing about the programme was the palpable reluctance of many of the folk of Creaton, Northamptonshire to give over even a small part of the vast village green to wildflowers (should a Parish Council really be able to delay or even completely reject a plan of this kind?).  It seems that unless a TV camera is on-hand such things are easily swept under the carpet.  The old photograph of the green full and alive was far more appealing to my mind than the perfectly clipped state the village green currently exists in.  Hopefully the villagers will now press forward and do more and be a beacon to others to do the same.

So there we have it.  Simple really: learn, campaign and practice what you preach and maybe attitudes and practices will change.  The RHS has developed the ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ label after being approached by Sarah Raven to support her campaign.  A full list of these plants is available as a PDF.

Other sites to look at:

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

National Hedgelaying Society


Article on Biodiversity and Agriculture from Global Food Security


7 responses to this post.

  1. These are the programmes I miss so much. Italian tv has nothing to offer like this. Maybe at sometime in the near future programmes like this will be available to view with iplayer in countries outside the UK. Thanks to the RHS list of pollinators. The pdf link doesn’t work but I followed the RHS link and that worked perfectly. Thanks for sharing this, Christina


    • Hi Christina,

      Thanks for pointing out the broken link; it’s now fixed. It’s a shame that the BBC don’t allow programmes on iplayer in other countries but I guess this is a licence fee issue. Perhaps someone will drop the episodes onto youtube sometime. I’d be interested to hear whether you plant anything from the list and if it results in increased visitors to your garden.




  2. Posted by patientgardener on February 10, 2012 at 18:26

    I enjoyed the programme and had ordered quite a few packets of wild flower seeds by the end of it. However I have for a few years been growing butterfly/bee friendly flowers in my garden and whilst there are plenty of bees butterflies are noticeable by their absence. I wonder if this is due to the lack of flowers in surrounding gardens?

    I am going to grow some of my wild flowers on my allotment to replace the wildflowers that were cut down when they cleared the site for the plots – a small token but a start


    • Hi Helen,

      There are certain butterflies that I see every year in the garden, but none as varied as were shown in the programme. I live in an area that is surrounded by woodland and also adjacent to a new RSPB reserve that is being returned to natural heathland; hopefully the variety and quantity of butterflies that we see in the garden will gradually increase over the next few years as the heatland re-establishes itself.

      Good luck with your wildflower growing; it will be interesting to see if this draws in the butterflies to your garden.



    • I planted a wild flower garden here in the communal garden where i live.
      Not many butterflys, some bees but i have many earwigs,black beetles, ladybirds,and a big fat toad who lives in the compost heap.

      I think the shade is the problem.

      Many birds come here to feed and have their young, so i am doing something right.

      I tried to get our borough council to leave areas of grass to grow and set seed, and to stop spraying herbicides around our town but they are very reluctant to change!


  3. Hi Helen,

    Firstly love the program its given me lots of ideas, but the problem is Im not a gardener, I know absolutely nothing about it, but I was a wildlife photographer before I became disabled (not physically or mentally) I have a small L shaped garden and would like to lawn most of it but want some flowers to attract the pollinators, could you give me some idea of what to plant please.


    • Hi Ray,

      Helen is actually someone who commented on my post about wildflowers. As I mentioned in the post, the RHS provide a comprehensive list of plants that are good for attracting pollinators (the link will take you to the list) and there are a number of online suppliers from whom you could purchase a wildflower seed mix or choose specific varieties: wildflowers.co.uk, naturescape.co.uk, sarahraven.co.uk.



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