Go wild at the garden centre

© Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

With garden centres reopening from May 13th, follow our planting guide to create a garden that is blooming marvellous for bees and other pollinators.

Many of you will be delighted that garden centres have reopened and will be keen to purchase plants which will bring in butterflies, bees and the myriad of other pollinators to your garden.  So here are some quick tips on which plants to choose with some handy tips.

Come prepared

Before you spend money on plants, it’s important to check your soil type to ensure your new purchases survive. A simple ph kit (available from many garden centres) will tell you if your soil is acid, alkaline or neutral. Most plants prefer a pH of 6.5 to 7 – the point where nutrients are most easily available.

As a general rule of thumb, clay tends to be neutral, chalky soils are alkaline and peat heavy or sandy soils are acidic.

It’s also good to know how well your soil retains water. Clay and peaty soils hold water better than sandy and chalky soils, so choose drought resistant plants if your soil is well-drained and be careful not to place plants in boggy or clay-heavy areas if they can’t tolerate it.

Plants for pollinators

When you start choosing your flowers, go for a mixture of seasonal flowering or berry producing plants, herbs, shrubs and even trees if you have the space. This will ensure a year round food source for pollinators and other wildlife in your garden. Many garden centres include bee friendly labels on their plants, making this much easier.

Spring flowering plants (March-May

  • Barberry (shrub)
  • Marsh marigold
  • Cotoneaster (shrub)
  • Crocus (spring-flowering)
  • Erysimum ‘bowles mauve’ wallflower
  • Cranesbill
  • Hebes
  • Honesty
  • Oregon grape
  • Native cowslip
  • Native primrose
  • Skimmia japonica (shrub)
  • Forget-me-not

Summer flowering plants (June-August)

  • Yarrow
  • Hollyhock
  • Alliums
  • Alkanet
  • Angelica
  • Poppy
  • Thrift
  • Borage
  • Buddleja davidii (shrub)
  • Common marigold
  • Vipers bugloss
  • Heather
  • Honeysuckle
  • Greater & lesser knapweed
  • Cornflower
  • Red valerian
  • Cosmos
  • Ice plant
  • Sweet william
  • Foxglove
  • Common teasel
  • Coneflower
  • Blue eryngo
  • Hemp agrimony
  • Fuchsia
  • Corn marigold
  • Sunflower
  • Hydrangea
  • Jasmine
  • Feld scabious
  • Ox-eye daisy
  • Ragged robin
  • Evening primrose
  • Jacob’s ladder
  • Firethorn (shrub)
  • Coneflower
  • Salvia species
  • Lamb’s ear
  • Verbena bonariensis

Autumn flowering plants (September-November)

  • Japanese anemone
  • Michaelmas daisy
  • Clematis
  • Crocus
  • Common ivy
  • Salvia species

Winter flowering plants (December-February)

  • Crocus (winter flowering)
  • Snowdrop
  • Hellebores
  • Honeysuckle

Buy peat-free compost!

Peat bogs are home to all sorts of plant and animal species and also store 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon across the globe. Sadly, more than 94% of the UK’s lowland peat bogs have been destroyed or damaged, and a wealth of wildlife has disappeared along with it. This vital habitat isn't easily replaced.

Avoid the pesticide isle

With rows of chemical weed controls, slug pellets and other pesticides to choose from, it's easy to think they are required for a successful garden. Whilst they may help keep a few pests at bay, they will also kill or deter many beneficial species that visit your garden. Adopt chemical free deterrents instead, such as companion planting and plants that attract predatory insects that eat pest species.

More on chemical alternatives

Plants for ponds

To begin with wildlife ponds and small bucket or container ponds are the most needed garden features in Surrey. We simply don’t have enough and they are essential waterholes for all of wildlife.  Ponds of all sizes not only benefit frogs and toads, but are life giving for birds, bees and hedgehogs too.

Pond plants create a tranquil wildlife haven as while they keep the water clear, they also offer shelter for wildlife.

Top pond plants

Enjoy asking for the myosotis scorpiodies, a Water ‘Forget me not’, the ranunculus flammula, Lesser Spearwort, and the best of all butomus umbellatus, a flowering rush.  These are all suitable for small ponds and great for wildlife.

Add a healthy clump of callitriche stagnalis, oxygenator plant, and plant a third in pond compost will help keep your pond water clear too.

What pond would be complete without a water lily, the white dwarf water lily, pygmaea helvola, is perfect for small ponds too.

One top tip is don’t forget to buy pond compost and a basket if your plants come bareroot.  Do not be tempted to put garden soil in your pond as it may turn your pond reddy brown.

How to create a wildlife pond


Please bear in mind that garden centres may be very busy catching up on orders as there has been a whole new wave of interest in creating wildlife gardens. Please be patient with garden and pond plant retailers while they adapt.


More wildlife gardening tips