Summer Friends and Foes

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Most gardeners can't but help to be in awe of the tremendous complexities and intricacies of nature. Of course it's frustrating when your plants are attacked by hoards of weird and wonderful insects and their larva. But when you stop to think of the barriers and adversities these creatures have to endure to survive in today's climate it is quite simply a miracle. Just how do the butterflies and moths know which plants are the host plants that their caterpillars will feast upon? How do the whitefly find your greenhouse tomatoes, and where do the population explosions of aphids suddenly appear from.

A lot of the miracle is achieved by generations of pests creating huge numbers of offspring in a very short time scale and when successful it is the effect of these large populations on your plants that cause such enormous damage.

So before you reach for the chemical spray, remember that for every pest there is a predator that needs this vital food source to survive, but that also every pest and predator has a part to play in the delicate ecosystem of your garden. Even the slugs and snails have an important role in the decomposition process, that's why you'll find hoards of them in the compost bin and beneath rotting vegetation. Wasps too play a significant role in garden pest control throughout the summer.

Great Plants for butterflies

Summer wouldn't be quite the same without the exotic dancing butterflies that move from plant to plant in our gardens. Their relentless search for nectar helps to pollinate our flowers and adds a dazzling extra dimension to the garden. With wild habitats on the decline, the gardener really can make a difference.

Perennials such as Achillea millefolium ‘Cerise Queen'; a form of yarrow, is a firm favourite with butterflies. Other great perennial plants that attract a good variety of species include Aster x frikartii ‘Monch'; the glorious purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), its honey scented and a wonderful border plant and the ice plant (Sedum Spectabile).

Shrubs such as Buddleia are particular favourites with butterflies, choose Buddleia davidii ‘Empire Blue' or ‘Black Knight' for stunning flowers and a wonderful display of nature's dancers that will move from flower to flower in search of their precious sweet drink, other good shrubs that provide nectar and beautiful flowers include Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Kew Blue' and Heliotropum ‘Chatsworth' which has deep purple flowers with a glorious scent, this plant is often grown as a summer annual.

Marching ants

The onset of summer spells the perceived nuisance of the ant nest. These active creatures are persistent and prolific in terms of nest building; summer after all is their busiest time. So it's no wonder our lawns, patios and flowerbeds are often partly buried by excavated soil that is moved while they make their nests. In theory ants cause little damage to our plants, but in reality newly planted bedding and patio plants can be undermined to such an extent that their health can suffer.

Eliminating ants from the garden is a fruitless task, as some will almost certainly remain to rebuild their empires in another prime location. Pouring boiling water into their unsuspecting presence seems an unnecessarily cruel demise for these tiny beings. Instead consider how much of a problem they really are and if you decide that they do have to go then opt for a nematode based control or product based on natural plant oils.

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