Posts tagged ‘Hardy Geranium’

June 24, 2013

Gardening for the soul

24 June 2013

The reaction of people on coming into my garden for the first time is often “it’s so peaceful”, and they couldn’t say anything which would please me more. I do enjoy the compliments on the flowers and the colour, but it’s even better to know that the feeling of spiritual uplift I get from the garden communicate itself to others.

Bed of yellow, orange and blue flowers 2009 - I find these colours very uplifting. The yellows and oranges are varieties of French marigold, the blue is cornflower, the spiky white is anthrrhinum and the lower white is chrysanthemum 'snowcloud'.

Bed of yellow, orange and blue flowers 2009 – I find these colours very uplifting. The yellows and oranges are varieties of French marigold, the blue is cornflower, the spiky white is anthrrhinum and the lower white is chrysanthemum ‘snowcloud’.

Linked to this, I was pleased to read in my latest magazine from the charity  “Garden Organic” that horticulture is coming into the national curriculum. It scares me that so many people are growing up with no connection to the land, to nature or to the species with which we share this planet. Nobody is going to value and protect something if they know little about it and feel no connection to it – but protect it we must, or we shall harm ourselves.

Research has shown that contact with nature has a definite therapeutic effect; it’s even got a name: ecotherapy. Gardening has also been proved to help people with mental health problems, and some charities set up nurseries to allow such people to learn about and enjoy growing plants (so if you’ve got a local plant nursery like this, please support it; Chestnut Nursery in Poole and Cherry Tree Nursery in Bournemouth are two such organisations).

Garden in 2012 - lots of plants!

Garden in 2012 – lots of plants!

I look at the garden sometimes and try to analyze why it feels like it does. The conclusion I have come to is that it has a lot to do with it being a garden for plants and wildlife, not primarily a garden for people. When you come in the gate and look up the garden (past the patio) it is dominated by plants – no decking, no structures for sheltering humans, not even any lawn which exists for human use. A neighbour once said she like my garden because you walked through it and not round it, and again, this is because plants take first place – it does get a little out of hand sometimes, mind you: one of the paths is virtually impassable at the moment because of a mass of hardy geraniums; I’ll probably chop them back, as there is still time for them to re-grow and provide some later colour, and there are a lot of different hardy geraniums out in the garden at the moment – to the delight of the bees and white butterflies.

Left: hardy geranium 'Claridge Druce' flopping over path. Right: bee on the same geranium.

Left: hardy geranium ‘Claridge Druce’ flopping over path. Right: bee on the same geranium.

Its seems that when you create a garden for wildlife you get paid back many times over in the sense of closeness to nature – peace – tranquility – spirituality – call it what you like, but it nurtures the soul.

June 20, 2013

Wildlife gardens don’t have to look a mess

20 June 2013

The garden is looking  spectacularly colourful at the moment, and is buzzing with bees and other insects. This is the central herbaceous bed today:

Flowers in bloom on 20 June 2013

Flowers in the garden in bloom on 20 June 2013

This style of garden may or may not be to your taste, but you have to admit it is full of colour and not a mass of messy weeds, which is what a lot of people fear they will have to have if they garden for wildlife. These are the main flowers you can see and some reasons I grow them in a wildlife garden:

Flowers numbered

  1. Red rose campion – wild flower. Largely grows itself, but is a superb burst of colour and should be good for moths. It does flop as it finishes its first flowering, so either cut it back or pull it out at this point.
  2. Cornflower – blue. A hardy annual which you can start in the autumn – as these were – or grow in the Spring: they grow very fast and very easily from seed. Some butterflies will nectar on them.
  3. The haze of bluish-purple is catmint. Superb for bees, as well as cats. Keep it tidy by cutting back after the first flowering, and you’ll get a second lot.
  4. The yellow thing sticking up is asphodeline. I’ve been waiting two years for this to bloom, and I don’t think I like it! Oh well, you win some and you lose some.
  5. The white haze is a garden variety of the wild flower called meadowsweet. Seems to attract the smaller flying insects.
  6. The blobs of mauve are knautia macedonica – they come in various pastel shades plus deep red. A scabious-type flower, which butterflies will use, then the birds will nibble at the seedheads: as these are on long, slender stems, the birds (usually goldfinches) sway around a lot.
  7. Foxglove. I let these self seed then move them to where I want them – except for the ones I miss. One of the best flowers for some of the bees, and it’s fascinating to watch the bees disappear up inside the tubes.
  8. The blue/purple of which you can see a little is a hardy geranium, which is covered in flower. Good for smaller flying insects.
  9. The large pink blob is an Oriental poppy. I’ve tried to dig up this particular clump three times now, but it keeps coming back. I do like them, but I these were some I was given that were grown from seed and I ended up with three different colours growing together and clashing like mad. Bees and many other insects will use them, getting covered in pollen in the process, to the point where the insects even appear to have changed colour.
  10. Bright pink hardy geranium ‘Claridge Druce’. A thug, though a pretty one; the white butterflies nectar on it, and bees use it.
  11. Yellow viola ‘Glenholme’. One of my perennial violas. Not a fantastic insect plant, but no trouble and flowers for months.
  12. The pale pink mound is astrantia. I’ve only just got these going – they are certainly good for bees, so I await the arrival of more butterflies with interest to see what they think of it.
  13. Pale mauve viola ‘Maiden’s Blush’ – another perennial, with daintier flowers.
  14. The tall yellow spikes are sisyrinchium. Not sure how it got here, but I like it. Will watch it to see how the wildlife use it.
  15. The white flowers you can just glimpse are hardy geranium ‘Kashmir White’. Not sure of its wildlife use.
  16. Tall bright pinky/red flowers – these are a type of thrift (armeria). Thrift is generally good for bees, but I haven’t noticed anything on this yet – it’s a very different colour to the pale pink of the wild flower.
  17. The blue blobs are echium ‘Blue bedder’. This is a garden variety of the viper’s bugloss, which is wonderful for bees; I’ve only just planted these out (they are easy to grow from seed) so I’ve yet to see how they perform.

So there you are – 17 flowers, many good for wildlife. I’ve only talked about their potential as nectar plants above, but some will also work as foodplants for butterfly and moth caterpillars – but that’s another post.

June 4, 2013

Wildlife value of some garden plants

4 June 2013

It’s about time I showed you how the flower garden is doing. Now we’ve had some good weather, the rate of growth is quite astonishing, and there’s a lot of colour to enjoy.

Garden June 2013

Garden June 2013

In terms of what is good for wildlife, I’ll pick out  a few highlights:

  • The soft pink poppies in the foreground to the left are superb for bees, who buzz round inside the cups formed by the petals getting covered in pollen.
  • The purple flowers amongst the poppies and the pink flowers to the right are aquilegias; these are also good for bees.
  • The very bright pink in the middle of the photo is Red Rose Campion, just like you see on roadsides at this time of year – there are garden varieties, but I’m happy with the wild sort, and it’s more certain that insects will like it. The main insect which uses campion is probably the moth, which may nectar on it, and there are at least nine species of moth whose caterpillars use it as a foodplant. It can become a bit of a problem after it flowers, as it flops in all directions, but that is the time to chop it back – it may even give you a bit more flower later in the year.
  • The pink to the far right of the photo, on the other side of the path, is a hardy geranium called ‘Claridge Druce’. As a garden plant, it’s a thug, but it is very colourful and the white butterflies will sometimes nectar on it.

I’ll round off with a close-up of an Iris sibirica. I’ve no idea if it is of any wildlife value, but I’ve been waiting for it to bloom for three years, so I’m rather pleased with it!

Iris sibirica - pale lilac blue

Iris sibirica