No matter how small your garden, or outdoor living space, you should always find some room for plants to attract butterflies, for there is nothing more evocative of an English summer than the sight of a beautiful butterfly flitting from flower to flower on a warm sunny day. Every gardener needs to create a wild area to attract butterflies, as well as birds and bees, into their garden to make up for the number of natural habitats that are rapidly dwindling in the countryside because of modern farming methods and aggressive development.

Any kind of wild oasis is going to give our native butterflies a better chance of survival in the long-term. If you have a reasonable sized garden but not that many butterflies then it may be time to consider the sort of plants that you grow.

If you have lots of lawn and evergreen shrubs, for example, but very few butterfly friendly plants you almost certainly won’t spot many butterflies on your property. The other problem you may encounter is going to be the region you happen to live in; some areas of Britain have more species of butterfly than others. The South West, in particular, is abundant in butterflies if you know where to look or make an effort to attract them by gardening with butterflies in mind.

On the whole butterflies prefer the open countryside and other sites that have been left undisturbed. Some species are restricted to chalk downland or ancient woodland so inevitably there are going to be certain butterflies that you will probably never be seen in your garden, except by a lucky fleeting chance. However this still leaves a large number of varieties that can easily be lured into your garden by creating hot sunny spots, providing nectar plants and caterpillar food.

Of course, if you are an obsessively tidy gardener this will present you with a large problem since the caterpillars of many butterflies such as Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Orange Tip feed on annoying weeds like stinging nettles, thistles, Garlic Mustard and Ladies Smock – none of which are going to look great in a pristine show garden that aims to impress the neighbours. This said though, making small sacrifices will give a different kind of pleasure which is that of knowing you are helping to preserve our threatened wildlife.

Butterflies love nectar rich plants such as lavender, red valerian, marjoram, thyme, honeysuckle, michaelmas daisy, sedum, aster, hop, catmint, wallflower, ivy, common bramble, knapweed, bluebell, yarrow, heather, dog violet, holly, ragged robin, scabious, cone flower, blackthorn and that old garden favourite buddleia, which may be so covered in butterflies on a sunny day that it is can almost appear to change colour. Any of these plants will survive in a semi-wild part of your garden and if you can add a true wildflower meadow so much the better.

Don’t make your butterfly area too tidy; leave a corner for brambles, as well as nettles, since butterflies love the small pale pink flowers for the nectar. If you have somewhere tucked away at the bottom of a long garden or an old hidden orchard, with a relaxing garden hammock, this would be ideal to attract lots of different species. One small point; if you grow cabbages you will almost certainly attract the Large White and Small White butterflies which will then leave their offspring to feast on your prize vegetables. Still when it comes to any form of wild gardening you can’t always choose who your visitors are going to be!