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Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Wednesday, 11 August 2010 16:30 UK
Wild orchids flourish at North Wales Police's HQ

Bee orchid
The bee orchid mimics the female bee to attract the male for pollination

Not cutting your grass and hedgerows until late summer has great benefits, says the RSPB and Conwy County Council.

Keeping your strimmers under wraps for a few more weeks will protect the food supply and habitat of native birds and mammals, while keeping your lawn mowers in the shed will give wild meadow flowers the chance to thrive.

Since 2003, Conwy County Council have allowed some grassy areas of their grounds and parklands to grow wild, with great results. This year, wild orchids have sprung up on former cut lawns at the North Wales Police HQ, Colwyn Bay.

Anne Butler, the council's Biodiversity Project officer, says the key to attracting such pretty flowers as the bee and pyramidal orchid is not to cut your grass until the end of August, remembering to collect the cuttings.

"Removing the cuttings is important," she said. "Most soils are too fertile for orchids and wild flowers, but if you remove the cuttings once a year, the fertility will reduce and you'll get more interesting species in a few years' time."

If you want to speed things along, Anne suggests removing a layer of top soil, which might uncover ground which is less likely to have been saturated by artificial nutrients.

"Most meadow flowers, like oxide daisies, bird's foot trefoil or cuckoo flowers don't like it because of the dominance of certain grasses which you'll see all around us in agricultural fields - they thrive and out-compete the meadow flowers."

The council's biodiversity team were delighted to discover the wild orchid seeds which had existed beneath the top layer of soil at their Colwyn Bay offices.

"Because it's on a natural slope, down to the helipad, the area wasn't as fertile as it could be," said Anne.

A common-spotted orchid
The orchids are at their best in late June/July

"The orchids were at their best in late June and each year the variety of flowers seems to be increasing."

She is also delighted to be doing her bit to increase the amount of meadowland in the UK, which decreased by 95% after WWII.

"Before the war, they used to cut for hay and bale it each year, which allowed for an amazing diversity of plants.

"Then the management for silage became more intensive which wasn't so good for wildlife."

But it's not only the attitudes of local councils and farmers which need to change.

"Some people see grassland as tidy, regularly mown lawns," said Anne. "But when they see what grows in meadows, their perceptions might change.

"You might not want to change every piece of grass in your garden into a meadow, but you could pick one corner where it's perhaps flower-rich already, and keep the other short for the kids to play football."

Collared dove
The RSPB are encouraging local councils to delay strimming, too

The RSPB are hoping for this more relaxed, biodiverse attitude to gardening too.

Many plants still have an abundance of berries which could see small mammals and birds through the winter, and some common species will still be nesting until early autumn. So cutting down hedgerows this soon could have a very negative effect on native wildlife.

Dana Thomas from RSPB Cymru, said: "Many calls to our Wildlife Enquiries line at the moment are from people that have started hedge trimming and discovered a nest.

"It is very disturbing for gardeners to think they have upset their garden birds and they worry that they may fly the nest and the young won't survive.

"Save yourself a job and avoid it for a few weeks yet, ideally until late September at the earliest. But if you do need to do it sooner, for safety reasons perhaps, try and replace any greenery as much as possible so as not to deter the birds."



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