In August, autumn is in the air. The last of the summer flowers bloom for late-flying pollinators, while hips, fruits, berries and nuts ripen for small mammals and migrating birds. Our gardens our quieter, as the buzz of bees and song of birds is muted for another year. Yet there’s still plenty to see – in my garden, dragonflies and damselflies continue to lay eggs in my pond, while grasshoppers flirt in the long grass. It’s also the best time of year for spotting garden butterflies, such as the small tortoiseshell, red admiral and peacock.
August wildlife inspiration
Plants featured in this video
Verbena bonariensis is a great late-nectar plant for a variety of garden species, including butterflies and bees. I love the way it grows through and towers over other plants in the border, and then if I leave the seedheads, goldfinches come and eat the seeds.
Another pollinator favourite, that’s just about still flowering in August is viper’s bugloss, or Echium vulgare. This native wildflower has sumptuous blue leaves with pink anthers, and is LOVED by a huge range of different bees, butterflies and hoverflies.
Dyer’s chamomile, Anthemis tinctoria, is a magnet for solitary bees and hoverflies. It’s such a great flower for bees, one year I watched leafcutter bees use its petals to line their nests – I couldn’t understand why the petals kept disappearing and so I sat next to one and watched the bees travel from the flowers to my bee hotels and carve the tiny petals off. It didn’t make the flowers look so good but I was happy the bees were using them – and they haven’t done so since!
Long gone are the summer’s honeysuckle flowers. Instead, look for the sticky red berries that follow. They don’t last long though so you’ll have to be quick! Honeysuckle berries are loved by birds such as robins, blackbird and thrushes.
While lots of butterflies are on the wing, many caterpillars are still in larval form, including the larvae of the small and large white butterflies, known as ‘cabbage whites’. Regarded as a pest and often squished by gardeners, I prefer to grow nasturtiums as a sacrificial crop, to save my brassicas. Simply plant nasturtiums next to your brassica plants and then when you spot cabbage white caterpillars, you can transfer them on to the nasturtiums, which they will eat instead. It’s a much nicer way to protect your veg crop than using netting or sprays.
Wildflower meadows are past their best now but greater knapweed, Centaurea scabiosa, is still in flower now, with those that have gone to seed providing food for the goldfinches. Even in my tiny front garden, which sits on a pretty busy side road, goldfinches take seed from my knapweed. It’s lovely to see but I’m convinced their farming it – for every seed they eat they drop two. Watch out!
Devil’s bit scabious
Devil’s bit scabious is another late-flowering meadow plant, beloved by pollinators. I love its tight purple flower heads and the huge variety of species that turn up to feed from them, like this gorgeous common blue butterfly, here.