by Lynn Fomison 2005
Fomison wasemployed professionally by Butterfly Conservation,
being Reserves Manager of 4 reserves. There are only
28 such reserves in the UK.
Branch President George Yorke, site manager Lynn Fomison
and Sir David Attenborough)
Lynn is also noted for her large, totally organic
garden, featured several times in magazines and on
television, attracting all forms of wildlife, and
her family are self-supporting in vegetables.
90% of the plants in our gardens are non-native, or
have been cultivated beyond recognition. The great
plant-hunters during our empiric days, heroically
ventured to all the corners of the earth, bringing
back exotic plants and changing the face of our gardens
is said that we are the keenest gardeners in the world,
we can grow virtually anything in our summers, and
the importance of this is that the land given over
to our gardens, far exceeds all the nature reserves
much of our wildlife evolved slowly, simultaneously
with our native plants. Many species of butterfly
for example, are genetically programmed to feed on,
or lay their eggs upon, one species of plant only.
Although some butterflies are migratory, others are
not and are unable to bridge large areas, consequently
die out. Exotic plants may have brighter colours,
larger flowers which are longer lasting, but are no
good for our wildlife.
most exotic sought-after exotic plant during the early
Victorian period was the Rhododendron. Exbury Gardens
of the New Forest, in the early summer, must be unsurpassed,
2 1/2 miles of Azaleas and Rhododendrons in every
colour, vivid or pastel, for a few weeks one of the
most colourful gardens in the world. But, Rhododendrons
can run out of control, their roots sap all life;
just look underneath, they are devoid of life, useless
to our native creatures and plants.
you do not want to go organic, and it is more difficult,
why not consider just leaving a space, say 10% of
your garden, and allow it to return to nature. Nettles
are a favourite for many species of butterfly to lay
their eggs, as few animals can eat them. Throw some
wild flower seed down, and over the coming years,
you will be rewarded with beautiful natural flowers.
If you are of an unpleasant disposition, you should
be a good wildlife gardener, as you have to be nasty
to the soil. Reverse all of your programmed thinking
about enriching the soil with fertiliser, that just
encourages the strongest plants to thrive, grass will
overwhelm everything; the poorer the soil, the greater
the variety. Dorset has probably the greatest variety
of wildflowers in the UK due to its poor soil, as
can be seen by the paucity of its arable farming.
be unpleasant to that soil, leave a little land untended
and untidy, and in time nature will reciprocate and
will reward you.
1983 we moved to five and a half acre plot in the
heart of the East Hampshire countryside. It could
justifiably be described as ‘needing attention’,
and we saw the neglected meadows as ideal paddocks
for our horse. The bungalow lacked any garden but
was surrounded by overgrown grass, weeds, a very old
orchard and welcome shade was provided by an old walnut
tree. There was ample space for the vegetables that
we wanted to grow. Then, just before we had had time
to make any grand plans, something happened.
was the end of June and within a couple of weeks of
moving in, the place was awash with butterflies. We
had already been impressed by the birds, having regular
visits from nuthatches, treecreepers, woodpeckers
and so many others, from the adjacent wood. Very quickly
we vowed that we must do nothing to spoil the place
for wildlife. That decision moulded the way we gardened.
The wildlife came first and we had to get it right.
Stories abounded about declining wildlife and the
poor state of the countryside.
I turned to the library. Reading Rachel Carson’s
‘Silent Spring’ made me a convert to avoid
chemicals. Further inspiration, and the knowledge
of how to tend land organically, came from the books
of Laurence Hills, founder of The ‘Henry Doubleday
Association’. We were not new to encouraging
wildlife in the garden, as we had used Ron Wilson’s
‘The Back Garden Wildlife Sanctuary Book’
to good effect, at our previous home. Published in
1979 this was probably the first of the really useful
books on how to encourage all kinds of creatures in
we had followed his advice on providing ponds, bird-boxes,
plants that provided nectar for insects, and seeds
for birds, somehow I had overlooked his opening section
on – ‘A Poison-free Environment’.
To a busy person, garden chemicals represent a quick
solution to all manner of gardening ills. I had followed
advice in gardening magazines, from my dad or the
next door neighbour, and had been using the full range
of chemical fertilisers, weedkillers, pesticides and
fungicides. I did not know any better. Four years
on I started following Ron’s advice.
went all the chemicals and in came wildlife-friendly
methods, of designing and maintaining the garden.
Our garden was gently carved out of a wild plot. We
took it slowly, assessing the effect of changes as
we went. The wildlife approved of what we were doing!
It looked good too. The old orchard trees were allowed
to keep their gnarled shapes and coatings of lichen
& mosses. Weedy areas were garlanded with wild
flowers. Matthew Oates (author of ‘Garden Plants
for Butterflies’ gave me excellent advice which
I follow to this day, ‘Don’t do the
same thing to the whole of the plot at the same time’.
So different mowing and grazing regimes were established,
both to benefit wild flowers, and to safeguard the
various life-stages of butterflies, other insects
and wildlife generally.
came more inspiration, by way of Chris Baines and
a wonderful TV programme ‘Blue Tits and Bumble
Bees’, and his book ‘Making a Wildlife
Garden’, republished in 2005. The positive approach
promoted by Geoff Hamilton on ‘Gardener’s
World’, meant that at last gardening for wildlife
without chemicals, was really becoming a popular pastime.
well as keeping us in organic fruit and vegetables,
attracting abundant wildlife, including 28 species
of butterfly, our plot has attracted many human visitors
too, many of whom were enchanted by this wild garden
and its inhabitants and, we like to think, are encouraged
to garden this way too.
if you have not taken the plunge and safely disposed
of all those chemicals, take encouragement from Garden
Organic (formerly Henry Double Day Research association
HDRA). A recent poll suggests that 61 per cent of
British gardeners would like to grow organically but
need help and advice to do so. I reckon they probably
need a bit of motivation. What you do WILL make a
difference. News has recently emerged from DEFRA proving
that organic farms really do support more wildlife.
Some years back research by Butterfly Conservation
showed butterflies fared better on organic farms.
Birds benefit even more as wild plants and invertebrates
flourish. But don’t take my word for it; try
it out in your own garden.
no more slug pellets and you should see an increase
in thrushes as snails increase, amphibians –
very sensitive to absorbing chemicals through their
skin - should thrive, and there will be more insects
to provide ample food at the bottom of the food chain.
So look out for bats, brilliant birds and marvellous
mammals! Don’t panic you WILL still have an
attractive garden, a natural garden, full of beautiful
flora, birdsong, butterflies insects and animals.
are now many books on this subject - just Google
of good information to download from their guide gardening
with wildlife in mind.
Also non-internet people can ring English Nature 01733
455100. They do a set of 10 booklets
recommended book is ‘How to make a Wildlife
Garden’ by Chris Baines