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The roses’ friends…

After last night’s excellent talk by Ross Barbour, he and I recommended a couple of fascinating books about insects and ecology. They were ‘A Sting in the Tale’ and its sequel ‘A Buzz in the Meadow’ by Dave Goulson. A professional entomologist, an expert on bumblebees, he is also a really entertaining writer whose love of his subject and the derelict farm in central France (which he bought so that he could protect and study its meadows as a habitat for his beloved bumblebees) radiates from every page.

Another book on a similar theme to Ross’s talk (but one that he hadn’t read) and which I recommended to him was ‘Wildlife of a Garden: A thirty-year study’, published by the RHS in 2010 (I should declare an interest, as I designed the book, and also have some photos in it. Unfortunately it’s only available in hardback). It’s written by Dr Jennifer Owen, and sums up the results of an in-depth study that she and her husband began in 1972, counting all the visible wildlife (including wild plants) that came into their small suburban garden on the eastern outskirts of Leicester. She continued it after his death. In fact it was the results of her work (which eventually lasted 30 years) that first demonstrated that non-native plants are just as valuable to insects as sources of nectar and pollen as native ones, and showed that gardens are potentially our largest nature reserve.

Also well worth reading (and inspired by Jennifer’s work) is ‘No Nettles Required: The reassuring truth about wildlife gardening’ by Ken Thompson, who has also written several other fascinating books about gardening, science, ecology and biodiversity.

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