With all the talk about the collapse of our bee populations and the decline in the number and variety of our native butterflies, gardeners can do their bit by providing the flowers that can help to support butterflies, moths, bees and hoverflies as they journey around our gardens looking for a pollen and nectar fix.
Some years ago, the RHS developed lists of plants called ‘Perfect for Pollinators.’ The two lists are for cultivated plants and wild plants across the seasons. Check out http://www.rhs.org.uk for more details and the lists.
Rudbeckia ‘All Sorts Mixed’ & Cosmos ‘Xanthos’
Over the last century, gardeners, growers and breeders have concentrated some of their efforts on developing and using double flowers to increase the effect of the display and this, alongside many other factors, has not helped us to support our pollinating insects because the pollen and nectar are hidden deep in the flowers, making them inaccessible to the insects.
The ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ lists contain, for the most part, wild species of plants whose flowers are simple, single and easily accessible. Comb through your latest Thompson & Morgan seed and plant catalogues and compare them with the ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ lists. It will not take you long to find some stunning plants for your garden that will not only give you a lot of pleasure, but will help to support some of our vital flying insects as well – everyone is a winner!
Ageratum houstonianum ‘Pincushion Mixed’ & Perfect for Pollinators
The new Rudbeckia collection, with three fabulous cultivars that will flower from July until October, with their simple, flat, open daisy-like flowers are a perfect example of a flower design that suits all of our pollinating insects. The new yellow Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ is another excellent example to search out.
Plants that have lots of very small flowers in clusters, such as the new Ageratum ‘Pincushion Mixed’, that will flower from June to September, are perfect examples of plants that will provide that quick nectar fix that butterflies and moths need to give them the energy to search out a mate – an essential part of maintaining their populations! The 2016 catalogue contains a number of different strains of Foxgloves and I feel sure that we have all seen bumblebees struggling to clamber into one of those inviting trumpets to get their daily pollen supply and a nectar fix for energy.
Foxglove ‘Dalmation Mixed’ & Cornflower ‘Classic Fantastic’
Many of our hardy annuals (HA in the catalogue), that can be sown directly into the garden in April and May, will provide hundreds of nectar and pollen rich flowers from June right up to the first frosts of autumn. Some can even be sown in September and October, lasting the winter as young plants and flowering in April, May and June. Examples to look out for include the new Nigella ‘Midnight’, Amberboa muricata, Ammi visnaga, Bupleurum ‘Green Gold’, Calendulas, Californian Poppies, Cornflowers, Cosmos and Daucus ‘Dara’ .
I will leave you to go through the rest of the catalogue yourself to discover the many other wonderful examples of plants that can provide that essential support for our butterflies, moths, bees and hoverflies. Remember that 30% of all that we eat is reliant on pollinating insects – apples, pears, plums, blackcurrants, blueberries and runner beans, to name but a few.
I provide garden care in North Norfolk and trained at Easton College, as it states in my bio below. Just because I have my Diploma it doesn’t mean I know it all. I am constantly learning new things and am intrigued by a great deal. College doesn’t teach you about our relationship and need for animals and insects in our gardens and horticulture. But, through my work, I have learned how much we rely on them and how much they rely on us – and how exploitive of us they can be too!
I often stop when I see a bee and watch as it carefully lands on a flower then oh-so delicately extracts the sweet nectar that it beholds. How could we do all that pollinating without them? And how could they live without us planting for them? There’s a big push at the moment for planting wild flowers in gardens and leaving bare patches for the bees to make their homes in. Birds love it too!
We can spend £100’s on feeders, fat balls, meal worms, baths, tables, bug hotels, insect feeders and nest boxes all in a year. Just so we can see the flutter of a butterfly, chaffinch, blue tit and but most often than not those blooming pigeons!
In one garden I care for, I have a friend. She follows me around like my shadow. Often pushing her way into where I am working to get the good stuff. I am talking about Athena, the very bold female Black Bird (True Thrush/Turdus merula).
This week I was digging up ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) and she walks right up to me sitting on the ground, working away with my hand fork, to find her lunch. She filled her beak many times! Athena was with me for nearly two hours, coming and going, filling her beak (and stomach) and watching the three Robins (Erithacus rubecula) fight over who’s “turf” it was that I was providing dinner on. It’s a wonderful feeling when it happens.
Many people with think I’m daft but I always talk to them, bees, birds, butterflies and the odd squirrel that visits when I’m in another garden. After all the birds help to keep those pesky aphids and slugs at bay and the bees do the hard work for us! (Not too sure what the squirrels do?)
I love my job because not only do I help people to enjoy their gardens again, as most are of the age where they are not able to do it themselves, but I am helping nature to help me. It makes me proud of what I do. And I hope that the rest of you gardeners are too, whether amateur or professional!
So smile, you’re doing something that really matters.
As a Royal Academy exhibition examines the role gardens have played in art history, with Monet masterpieces as the starting point, Thompson & Morgan reveals its historic link with the world famous artist, his gardens and paintings.
Claude Monet Summer Garden
Best known by the general public for his Impressionist paintings, it is less well known that Claude Monet first designed, planted and tended his iconic garden scenes before setting them to canvas. Monet’s natural flair for garden design and his artist’s eye led to harmonious colour planting and distinct design principles in his garden at Giverny, Normandy, that have inspired gardeners around the world ever since.
But where did Monet get his inspiration? Something of a ‘seedaholic’, Monet was famed for poring over the latest seed catalogues of the day, seeking out the latest introductions to try out in his flower and vegetable gardens before immortalising them in paint.
In their book ‘Monet’s Palate Cookbook’ Aileen Bordman & Derek Fell note that: “Monet always delighted at the arrival of the new season’s seed catalogs. He would study the new varieties and decide what to order…… from foreign sources, such as Thompson & Morgan in England (a company that sold seeds to Charles Darwin). He would often order new varieties to evaluate against his traditional selections and invite comments from his family and friends.”
Thompson & Morgan trial ground
But his inspiration didn’t just come from catalogues – in his day, gardeners relied on text alone – there was no glossy plant photography in the Thompson & Morgan catalogues of the time, and it is well documented that he travelled to Suffolk to view the Thompson & Morgan trial fields. This ‘living catalogue’ inspired many of the planting combinations still seen today at Giverny.
Flowers with fluttery petals were a Monet favourite, and he used them widely in the gardens to re-create the iconic ‘Impressionist shimmer’ present in his paintings. Thompson & Morgan poppies (annual, perennial and Californian), nasturtiums, pansies, dahlias, cosmos and pelargoniums, among many others, made their way into his planting schemes, cultivars of which are still used today in the gardens at Giverny.
Tree Lily® ‘Monet’
It wasn’t a one way relationship either. Thompson & Morgan took on an oriental poppy hybridised by Monet’s son. Named Papaver orientale ‘Claude Monet’, it was a popular variety in the early 20th Century, sadly it has since been lost to cultivation.
Links to this relationship still exist in today’s modern offering from Thompson & Morgan. The seed and young plant specialist has carved a niche in recent years with towering Tree Lilies® – the star performer in the collection is Tree Lily® ‘Monet’ (3 bulbs £11.99).
Even today the gardens at Giverny shout exuberance, but many of the elements in Monet’s planting schemes can be created with just a few packets of easy to sow seeds. If you’re looking to make a big impression on a small budget, Thompson & Morgan has all you need to get the Giverny look this summer.
Get the Monet look in your garden with Thompson & Morgan:
Claude Monet’s Summer Garden
Grande Allee (Arbour-covered gravel pathway): If you have a gravel path, create your own Grande Allee by planting Nasturtium ‘Crimson Emperor’ (30 seeds £2.39) along the path edges. Allow it to scramble over the stones to get the Giverny look. In autumn plant with tulips and peonies for a spring display.
Monet’s summer island beds: Create Monet’s tiered island beds by underplanting a standard pink or white rose (£11.99) with red bedding geraniums such as ‘Best Red’ F1 (30 garden Ready plants for £14.00), then edge the display with Dianthus ‘Scents of Summer Pink Peony’ (10 postiplugs (£17.99)
Monet’s Arbours: Pair Morning Glory ‘Heavenly Blue’ (50 seeds £2.69) with Nasturtium ‘Climbing Mixed’ (40 seeds £2.29) for a floral arch of blue, orange and yellow.
Pair Clematis jackmanii (3litre potted plant £14.99) with red flowering climbing rose ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ (2 bare root plants £14.99)
Monet’s late summer border :
Claude Monet late summer garden
Orange Dahlia ‘Motto’ (5 tubers 13.99), perennial sunflower – Helianthus x laetifolia (25 seeds £2.49), Aster ‘Composition’ (60 seeds £2.99), Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ (30 seeds £2.49, 25 plug plants £11.99), Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ (100 seeds £2.99), Marigold ‘Zenith Mixed’ (40 seeds £2.49), blue Salvia patens (15 seeds 99p), Ageratum ‘Blue Danube’ (100 seeds £3.39)
Dahlia Orange’ Motto’, Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ & Rudbeckia ‘Goldstrum’
Oriental pot: Yellow Gladioli ‘Limoncello’ and orange ‘Brown Sugar’ (10 corms £9.99) surrounded by Nasturtium ‘Tom Thumb’ (40 seeds £2.29)
Half barrel hydrangea: Hydrangea ‘Blue Danube’ (3.5litre potted plant £1o.99) underplanted with Gypsophila ‘Gypsy’ (50 seeds £3.29).
Seed varieties are available online and at garden centres. Plant material available from www.thompson-morgan.com
Painting the modern garden: Monet to Matisse runs until 20th April at the Royal Academy, London.
See www.royalacademy.org.uk for details
To visit Monet’s garden see www.giverny.org
As this is my first blog, ever, I thought I would start by reflecting a little on where our gardening world has been going since the Second World War and, of course, where we are on the journey now!
Immediately after the war our successive Governments, of a variety of political persuasions, encouraged farmers and growers to maximise the cropping potential of every acre of land they could make productive. This move, in turn, caused what became known as the chemical treadmill. Where we applied stronger and stronger chemical products to kill off pests, diseases and weeds; that dared to attack our ever increasing acreages of crops. By the time we reached the 1970’s we had food mountains and wine lakes and had, without realising it, started to kill off wild flowers, insects, birds and wild animals in numbers that are now causing us serious concern.
Meadowland Mixture and Wildflower ‘Honey Bee Mixed’
When Rachel Carson wrote ‘The Silent Spring’ in 1962 few people listened to her concerns about the excessive use of chemical pesticides across the developed and developing world. When Dr. Chris Baines got the BBC to make the film ‘Bluetits and Bumblebees’ in the early 1980’s we all watched it but did not pick up the message. The Henry Doubleday Research Association (now Garden Organic), started in 1954 by Lawrence Hills has been encouraging amateur and professional growers to steer away from inorganic pesticides for over 60 years but who has been listening?
Now that scientific evidence and advanced knowledge of the damage that we have done to our planet over the last 60 + years has come into the public’s view, our Seed companies, breeders, researchers, nurseries and growers are seeing the potential market in offering us new strains of old favourites that require less and less pesticide attention.
Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’ and Carrot ‘Flyaway’ F1 Hybrid
Scanning through the first eleven pages of Thompson and Morgan’s 2016 Seed Catalogue, I have found five cultivars of popular vegetables that have known resistance to one problem or another. Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’ F1 is resistant to early and late blight; Carrot ‘Flyaway’ F1 is resistant to carrot root fly; Parsnip ‘Gladiator’F1 is resistant to Parsnip canker; Cucumber ‘Bella’ F1 and Courgette ‘Defender’ F1 are both resistant to powdery mildew.
Parsnip ‘Gladiator’ F1 Hybrid and Cucumber ‘Bella’ F1 Hybrid
Maybe someone will find strains of Impatiens and Aquilegias that are not devastated by Downy mildew in the future and Ash trees that are resistant to Ash dieback.
Busy Lizzy ‘Divine Mixed’ and Aquilegia ‘Swan Mixed’
This is all fantastic work on the part of breeders and growers and I feel sure that the list will get longer over the years as the pesticides gradually disappear from our Garden Centre shelves and pests and diseases become more resistant to them.
This cultural method of reducing the impact of pests and diseases should now be at the forefront in our battle with Mother Nature and, if we use physical barriers to help prevent attacks alongside the occasional use of biological control methods, we should be able to stop the use inorganic pesticides altogether.
Bees, birds and butterflies are reducing in numbers and whilst the cold weather is contributing to their reduction, there are so many things we can do to help increase their numbers.
By growing more pollinator friendly plants, you can provide food for our pollinating insects. Simple right? However, not all flowers are pollinator friendly, so it is important to do your research. Sow half hardy annuals in early spring and move outside once the risk of frost has passed. You can sow hardy varieties directly in the garden from April.
What plants are pollinator friendly?
Plants for bees
There are 24 species of bumblebee living wild in the UK. They are easily recognised by their characteristic fluffy bodies. If you are encouraging bees into your garden then it is important to avoid using insecticides as these will kill helpful pollinating insects (including bees) as well as the target insects. It’s best to aim for a good variety of pollen rich flowers that have different flower shapes and a range of flowering periods from early spring to late summer. You can also view our guide on encouraging bees to your garden for more information.
Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Sonata Series Mixed’ – half hardy
An award winning variety in a superb mixture of colours. This beautiful dwarf Cosmos reaches a maximum height of 60cm (24”) making it perfectly proportioned for sunny borders and containers. Sow in March, April and May. Flowering period; July, August, September and October.
Calendula officinalis ‘Neon’ – hardy annual
One of the most eye-catching varieties in our flower trials, with glowing orange, double flowers edged in burgundy. The edible flowers of Calendula ‘Neon’ add height and interest to annual borders, and make a stunning cut flower. Sow in March, April, May and August. Flowering period; June, July, August and September.
Plants for butterflies
Plant some suitable nectar plants for butterflies and they will visit your garden, however small it is. If you’re looking to create a container garden for butterflies there are many smaller nectar plants which are suitable for growing in containers and window boxes. Herbs left to flower such as Thyme, Oregano, Lavender and Mint are excellent plants to try. For more information on view our encouraging butterflies to your garden article.
Buddleja ‘Buzz’™ Collection – Hardy shrub
A new twist on a much-loved garden favourite, ‘Buzz’™ is the world’s first patio buddleja! These attractive, compact plants are loved by bees and butterflies, but won’t take over your garden. Buddleja ‘Buzz’™ is easy to grow and problem-free with a super long-flowering period. Flowers June – October.
Verbena bonariensis – Hardy perennial
Tightly clustered florets form glowing lavender flower heads that float atop stiffly upright, branching stems. The long lasting blooms of Verbena bonariensis attract clouds of bees and butterflies. In autumn, apply a dry mulch of bark chips or straw to protect the crown of the plant throughout the winter months. Flowering period; July – October.
Birds are among the most welcome garden visitors. Not only are they interesting to watch, they eat aphids, caterpillars, slugs and other grubs, keeping the pest population under control. Plants can be used to provide shelter or nesting sites for birds, protecting them from cats and other predators. Trees, shrubs and hedges are excellent ways to encourage birds into the garden and by choosing a few evergreens you will ensure there is shelter all year round. For more information including shelter, water and nest boxes take a look at our encouraging birds to your garden guide.
Lavender – Hardy shrub
Flaring petals from compact bracts crown slender stems. Very attractive bushes of aromatic grey/green foliage. Favoured by citizens of the Roman Empire for fragrance. Easy to grow and trouble free. Sow in March – October. Flowering period; May, June, July and August.
Crab Apple ‘John Downie’ – Hardy Tree
One of the most popular crab apples for jelly making! Pink buds open to reveal pretty white cup shaped blossom in April and May, followed by large orange and red fruits in autumn.Crab apples are self fertile and if planted near orchard apple trees make excellent pollinators.
Inspired by a photo of a homemade bird bath I’d seen on Pinterest a while ago, I decided to put the pile of bricks at the side of my house to good use and make one myself!
We’re trying to be much more mindful of wildlife in our garden (I often refer to it as a wildlife garden, when in fact it’s just a bit untidy…) and this was the perfect project. It also had the added bonus of making me clear out a load of bits and bobs we’d kept hold of ‘just in case they come in handy’.
I started off by digging a small trench where the first layer of bricks was going to go. Our garden slopes a lot, so we chose the flattest, sturdiest spot, which also happens to be next to the buddleja that self-seeded from a neighbour’s garden and attracts dozens of bees and butterflies every year. After getting the first layer as level as I could, I set my daughter the task of choosing the best bricks in the pile – some were starting to crumble, some had lumps of mortar stuck to them – and giving them a quick brush. 8 layers later, it was ready for the bird bath to be added. My daughter put some pebbles into the bath itself for bees to land on – we’d read that bees are thirsty little creatures, but either need very shallow water or somewhere to land.
It was really easy – it probably took us half an hour or so to make, so it’s the perfect project to do with children. Interesting and different enough for them to want to be involved, but not so difficult or time-consuming that they get bored.
We’re really pleased with the finished result, even though it is a tiny bit wonky. It goes very nicely in our ‘rough and ready’ garden, now all we’ve got to do is wait for the birds and bees. It could take a couple of weeks for worker bees to find it, so we’ll just have to be patient!