Bristol Botanic Garden – Pollinator Walk and Talk

There’s a popular theme at the moment, that’s pollinators! The University of Bristol Botanic Garden has chosen pollinators as it’s theme this year, and for very good reason, they recognise the trouble the pollinators are having.

Similar to how Bee Worldwide was created, the Botanic Garden is raising the profile of the importance of pollinators in the UK. We often hear that people would like to help the pollinators but are unsure on how to approach it. Firstly, what do we mean by pollinators? The term tends to cover honeybees, bumblebees, moths, butterflies and hoverflies, to some extent even regular flies.

Back to the Botanic Garden, last night was the first of a few upcoming pollinator walking talks around the Garden. This one was with Professor Jane Memmott who has a keen interest in pollination ecology. She was converted to the topic of pollination ecology from reading The Forgotten Pollinators whilst on holiday – a highly recommended read by Jane, it’s not a scientific paper.

On a rather warm summer’s evening the Pollinator Walk and Talk started with an informal introduction then a stroll through the garden and greenhouse. Through the walk she provided an interactive overview on pollinators, the difference between nectar and pollen, and suitable environments for pollinators. Even handing out a Lily Beetle for us to hear it squeak!

In the greenhouse we were handed an example of the smallest flower and largest flower in the world.

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 We returned to the patio where we tested nasturtium, picked earlier in the garden during the walk, for its nectar value and closing the evening with a Q&A session.

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A few interesting notes:

• Urban spaces have more species of pollinators than farmland

• Grow more bee friendly plants – whether you have a balcony, a patio, a back yard or a window sill you can still help! If not, you could try guerrilla gardening with seed bombs

• It’s not just about the flowers. Growing shrubs, trees and even ivy will help

Spring: Crocuses, primroses, pussy willow, lungwort
Summer: lavender, ox-eye daises, verbena bonariensis
Autumn: Ivy and hebes
Winter: Mahonia shrubs and cyclamen

• Mow the lawn less often and ideally remove grass cuttings to allow plants to flower

• Have a patch in you garden which has chalky or lime rich soil? Try a calcareous grassland with clover, grasses, scabious, ragworts, greater broomrape and a variety of thistles such as greater knapweed, plymouth thistle, musk thistle, saw-wort

• A favourite to get pollinators in your patch with maximum reward in terms of flowering and value for money – Erysimum ‘Bowles’ Mauve’ (type of wallflower). The perennial grows from March to November has a wonderful spread and sometimes flowers all year – a staple for those pollinators come the colder months


•Think carefully about whether to use pesticides

An area of interest was the current University of Bristol project on pollinator lawns which is on display at the Garden. The University is investigating the effect of different seed mixes and mowing regimes on flowers and pollinators. This project aims to recommend low-growing native plant species that can be planted in lawns. The demonstration plot is at the Botanic Garden with experimental plots at Bristol Zoo’s Wild Place Project and RHS Harlow Carr.

The Forgotten Pollinators by Stephen Buchmann and Gary Paul Nabhan

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