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This is the Wild Flower Conservation Society

Highdown Gardens - TobyHi, my name is Toby. I am one of the craft gardeners here at Highdown Gardens.

Did you know that some butterflies are producing up to three broods a year? Due to longer warmer temperate seasons, butterflies are laying more clutches of eggs, unfortunately the wild flowers they rely on for food are not keeping up.

This is just one of the fascinating insights you’ll learn while chatting with John Gapper, founder of the Wild Flower Conservation Society. With the apt moniker ‘The Green Man of Sussex’ he was raised in the village of Stanmer on the South Downs, so John has spent his entire life working with and observing nature.

John Gapper, founder of the Wild Flower Conservation Society

Photos: John Gapper

I first met John while studying Horticulture at Plumpton College and doing research for a wild flower unit, so when the opportunity arose to develop a meadow in the old orchard at Highdown Gardens, he was the first person I thought of.

John’s pioneering work in collecting wild seed has been bolstered in recent years, with support from the Brighton & Hove Council and the South Downs Communities Sustainable fund, who have equipped he and his volunteers with a new polytunnel where they produce plug plants to sell to the public.

During my visit I was lucky enough to be given some seeds to germinate in the new glasshouse here at Highdown, so that we may plant out our own plug plants next spring. John recommended devil’s bit scabious and corn marigold to get us started, as their flowering season goes right through to October and even November, which will be of great benefit to the Downland butterflies.

Seedlings growing in glasshouse

Photo: Seedlings growing in glasshouse

If you’d like to support John’s vital work helping to preserve the Sussex downland wildlife, pop up to Stanmer and pick up some plug plants for your garden, and please come and see our new meadow develop here at Highdown next year.

Hopefully, with plenty of butterflies!

Devils bit scabious and Corn marigold

Photo: Devils bit scabious and Corn marigold