Helping wildlife in the garden starts and ends with plants. Even when putting up nestboxes (made out of wood) or feeding the birds (with plant seeds) or making compost (from dead plants), you can't escape that essential fact.
It means that one of my greatest joys is growing the diversity of plants that in turn lead to the diversity of life. It is why I always say to people who want to help wildlife in their outdoor space, "Start with the plants, and don't worry whether you consider yourself a gardener or not".
So I couldn't resist getting into my garden this week to photograph some of the plants that I have in flower right now, each and every one itself 'designed' with wildlife in mind, yet each one fascinating and beautiful to our eyes, too.
I love all of them, both for what they do for wildlife and for their own inherent interest.
So, in case any are unfamiliar to you, and you're thinking you might like to have them in your garden, here is a little bit about each and why I grow them.
First, the wonderful Yellow Rattle. It is the indispensible aid for turning your lawn into a haymeadow because of how it reduces the vigour of the grasses, plus it is a brilliant bumblebee flower to boot.
This is the tiny and yet most curious flower of the native Salad Burnet in my lawn meadows. As its name suggests, the leaves did indeed used to be included in salads. This is one of those flowers which is so easy to overlook but will repay you for getting on your hands and knees to give it some close attention.
Purple Toadflax, one of those flowers that just wants to grow anywhere and self-seeds itself around borders, and such a fine flower for bees.
Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant', a type of catmint that is in my Top Ten of plants for bees.
Houndstongue, a native plant of sandy soils with such an unusual flower colour. I collected the seed from the countryside.
Corn Marigold, one of the staple flowers of a cornfield annual mix. So fast to grow that if you sow it now you'll have a mass of sunshine flowers by August. The flat, open flowers make them better for hoverflies than bees.
Allium. Grown from bulbs, I've forgotten what type it is because there are now so many cultivars, but almost without exception they are great for bumblebees.
The unspellable, unpronounceable Eschscholzia, so we'll call it Californian Poppy instead, again a hoverfly flower rather than bee attractor. An annual that is very easy to grow from seed.
Elder flowers can't compete with the colour explosion of things like the poppies, but the scent for me is part of late spring, and it is what the flowers represent that is as important - they foretell of masses of berries in August for the Starlings and Blackcaps to feast on.
Perennial Cornflower, a flower I've enjoyed growing wild in the Alps, and much loved by many types of bees.
My beloved Echium Blue Bedder, in my Top 5 of plants for bees, in part because once it starts flowering (now) it will go on until October.
And, to finish, well, considering it is a 'wildflower', bravo to Mother Nature for having created something as glorious as the Foxglove. "Come on in" those open mouths say to bees, "And follow the dots up to nectar heaven."
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