Gardening season started

5 February 2013

The gardening season is getting underway, even if the butterfly season isn’t – though a number of Painted Ladies have been seen in my area, none have come into my view (sulk!)

Painted Lady butterfly on chives - May 2009

Painted Lady on chives – May 2009

I know the gardening season has started, because I’ve got antirrhinums (snapdragons),  sown about a week ago, coming up in the greenhouse, together with a grass called ‘Frosted Explosion” – I just hope that name doesn’t indicate the summer weather to come!

Both of these annual plants are destined for the part of my garden I keep for plants which only live for one year, so I can play around with different colour schemes and types of plant. I have had two real successes: one year when I used nicotiana and cosmos, which (more by luck than judgement) blended supremely well, and the other was a year when I grew every variety of single-flowered French marigold I could find, from 8 inches tall to 3 feet tall, and mingled them with bright blue cornflowers – one visitor described it  as “vibrant”. The other years varied from OK to “we won’t talk about them”.

I garden to cater for wildlife, including butterflies and moths, so at least one of the annuals each year will be good for these insects. Nicotiana is night-scented, which shows that it is visited and pollinated by moths, while cosmos has the open sort of flower that is good for butterflies, though I wouldn’t say it’s a top favourite. French marigolds do attract butterflies, especially Small Tortoiseshells, and cornflowers are visited by the butterflies such as Small and Large Whites

Small Tortoiseshell on French Marigold

Small Tortoiseshell on French Marigold

This year’s display is planned to be rudbeckia ‘Prarie Sun’, another open flower, mingled with creamy snapdragons (good for bees). Then a lower front layer of ‘Frosted Explosion’ grass plus lemon-coloured marigolds (calendulas), which I hope will attract various insects. Of course, that’s the plan, what will turn out in reality remains to be seen – come back to find out.

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