Posts tagged ‘Viola’

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.

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May 11, 2013

Violas of the perennial sort

11 May 2013

I’ve only got into violas in the last few years. They aren’t hugely good for insects, though some of the smaller ones will use them, but they are very colourful and wonderful for just blooming for months on end with no need for human intervention, except perhaps a bit of an autumn haircut; they also propagate easily from cuttings and quite well from seed, though if you’ve got several varieties I don’t know if they come true from seed. I look on it as a way of having a pretty garden and simultaneously allowing me more time to cultivate insect-friendly plants in the other bits.

Before I get deeply into this article, we’d better define “viola”. The violacae family includes what we think of as violas, pansies and violets. I’m talking about violas.

The sorts of violas you see for sale as winter or spring bedding plants aren’t what I mean: I’m talking about truly perennial violas. For example, the photo below (taken today) is of Viola Ivory Queen – it’s one plant that I bought in 2011 and it’s just been getting bigger each year.

Viola Ivory Queen

Viola Ivory Queen

My knowledge of violas mainly comes from the nursery www.elizabethmacgregornursery.co.uk who do a very wide range of the perennial viola. From them I also had viola ‘Glenholme’, shown below – another photo taken very recently, so you can see they are early flowerers.

Left: close up of Viola Ivory Queen. Right: Viola Glenholme

Left: close up of Viola Ivory Queen. Right: Viola Glenholme (with forget-me-nots)

There is a particular strain of viola called viola cornuta which is also perennial. I haven’t named the photos below as I’m losing track of what I’ve got. The one on the left is either Maiden’s Blush or Victoria’s Blush. The centre on is definitely Viola Cornuta Minor Alba. On the right is either Broughton Blue or Icy but Spicy: I find it hard to tell the difference; if you look towards the top left of the picture there is a small hoverfly. The photos were taken in May, May and July last year respectively.

Various viola cornuta

Various viola cornuta

 The plants from Elizabeth Macgregor are currently £3.45 each (plus postage) – and each of my photos is of just a single plant. So if you want a good do-er and very good value for money, go perennial if you like violas.

PS I have no links with this nursery, I just think they are good. The plants are packaged beautifully and arrive in very good condition.