Making your garden a haven in the heart of the city

How to get butterflies back into our West London lives


London’s butterfly population 
is in trouble. While the capital’s skies used to be full
 of butterflies, spotting them is more of an event these days, thanks to herbicides, pesticides, pollution and loss of habitat.

Although many properties in Hammersmith and the surrounding boroughs are often short on garden space, there are still someeasy ways to encourage butterflies to visit your garden – no matter how big or small.  Expert garden designer, Hew Stevenson explains how to attract butterflies your garden.

Make your patch of London blossom

Butterflies are always after tasty nectar. And growing some of their flowering favorites – such as buddleia,
 lavender and oregano – in a well- designed garden can attract up to 18 different species of butterfly with a bit of luck.

Butterflies also like warmth. So choosing sunny sheltered spots when planting nectar plants is key and I always recommend providing flowers throughout butterfly season.

Spring flowers are key for butterflies coming out of hibernation, while autumn flowers assist butterflies as they build up their reserves for winter.

Leave the nettles alone

But it’s not just about pretty flowers. To get more butterflies, you need more caterpillars.

And guess what hungry caterpillars love? No, not plums, lollipops and cake, as children’s author Eric Carle would have you believe, but… stinging nettles. Unfortunately, it seems everyone’s first reaction to stinging nettles is to rip them out!

Resist the urge. Butterflies depend on nettles for the growth of their larvae. And you don’t need a sprawling great bed of nettles to satisfy them; even a small pot of nettles in a secluded corner of your garden is enough.

The sight of the winged creatures will surely take the sting out of any pesky nettle patch.

Hew Stevenson is the founder of Hammersmith-based landscape design and construction firm Shoots & Leaves, winner of the silver medal at the 2012 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (pictured) for its butterfly house display. For more details, visit:

Read the full version of this article in our latest edition of Our Patch, available online or pick up a copy from our local office