Take the dandelion dare

To capture your attention I could do a lot worse, it seems, than encourage you to “Make space for dandelions.”  Rarely has one single plant raised the ire of so many, but let me explain whilst I make a plea for this very special flower.

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Now, I will concede from the outset that dandelions have had a bad press.  Think dandelion and you might very well think tap roots. Not just any old tap roots, but the kind which it seems refuse to be dug out, cling to earth with a tenacity that belies their delicate flower, and will even set up home in cracked concrete and brick. It isn’t just an issue of devilish determination, there is an aesthetic challenge here too. For anyone who loves that vision of a lawn which resembles a bowling green dandelions ruin the scene.

However,  hear me out, dandelions, given half a chance, can considerably enhance your experience of wildlife in the garden.

Delay that first spring cut, let the dandelions have their time in the sun and you could be feeding so many hungry pollinating insects.  A little concession on your part, a potential life-saver for our hard-pressed insects.

The problem for insects, especially emerging queen bumblebees, is that food sources are quite thin on the ground in spring.  Add to that the northerly location of Scotland and you can see that things can be tough for insects.

A dandelion in bloom is vivid yellow, and a tempting restaurant for those insects seeking to stock up before they begin the serious job of raising the next generation.  For some gardeners they might as well be bright red, like the cape of a matador is to a bull. But try to think beyond your conventional idea of a gardening canvas.

 

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There is a temptation to keep our gardens neat and tidy. And that’s fine, but if we compromise and set aside a little bit of space for nature we can deliver a big benefit.  By letting the lawn-mower languish in the shed for a week or two longer we could make life a lot easier for insects

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), wasn’t always unpopular. It was believed to have a medicinal value as a diuretic, hence a variety of fairly uncouth old names.  Its early leaves used to be viewed as a snack stuffed with vitamins, and there were those who swore that the sap of a dandelion was a cure for warts. Add to the mix some stories suggesting that it could work against blood pressure issues, colds, poor circulation, and hot flushes and you can see why it was viewed rather differently in the past.

However, what about the here and now I hear you ask?  The emergence of dandelions in March or April is a boon for honeybees, hoverflies, beetles, butterflies, solitary bees and the ever popular bumblebees.  That’s a roll-call of some of the very insects we need to give a helping hand to.

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Someone once said “Don’t mow, let it grow”.  I don’t know if they had the humble dandelion in mind when they uttered that lovely phrase, but I hope they did, and what’s more I hope someone heard.  If you let the plant have its day, perhaps in a wild corner, you can even look forward in time to a relaxing game of blowing the feather-like seed heads in the wind.

Hang fire on cutting your grass, let the dandelions have a spell in flower, and congratulate yourself on helping our pollinators.