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Musings of a Plant Centre Manager: Insect Friendly Plants

Saturday 4th August 2018

Insect Friendly Plants

 

It has been one of the driest summers for a while and the gardens are all looking a bit parched. However this has been a bumper year for certain insects and there are some great plants out there if you want to attract an array of different creatures into your garden.

We hear on the news often that bees are in decline and I have seen a lot fewer butterflies this year than I have for a long time. I have always been fascinated by insects and just love to have them flitting about the garden. Some, of course, are not welcome but everything has its place and so I have decided that this autumn I am going to re-think some areas of my garden and try and make them more insect friendly. With this in mind I have decided to look and some of the plants that you could grow in your garden to attract insects and hopefully keep them visiting for years to come. 

 

Echinacea ‘Tanz Mellow’

 

Like all ‘cone flowers’ this beautiful form prefers full sun in any fertile well drained soil. As the flowers age, the cone in the centre develops as each individual flower opens. This is a great source of nectar and pollen for many insects including butterflies, bumble bees and hoverflies. It is a compact growing form only reaching about 1ft in height and spread, and so is ideal for the front of a border or in a more open spot where winds can damage taller perennials. If you have not got a garden then it is just as happy in a container as long as it has good drainage.

 

Agastache ‘Kudos Mandarin’

 

Attractive to bees, this lovely herbaceous perennial needs full sun and well drained soil to perform well. Plant it near a pathway so that when you rub past, it releases a lovely minted scent from its foliage, some people dislike this smell but I love it. If dead headed regularly it will flower all summer encouraging all sorts of different beasties!

Passiflora caerulea – ‘Passion Flower’

This vigorous climber needs good drainage and is much hardier than people realise. If we do get a cold winter, like we had this year, put some fleece over the bare stems and this will reduce the risk of it being cut back too hard. However if it does get cut back a little, then this is actually quite beneficial as it often makes the plant a lot bushier and therefore it has many more flowers.

If you have a sunny wall then this plant is a real winner.

What I love about this tropical looking flower is the scent, which is generally underrated but is quite strong, and I think smells like sugary germolene! The honey bees seem to love it as well as they are busy collecting the sticky nectar that it produces (see pictures).

 

 

Angelica gigas

 

Stunningly architectural, this herbaceous plant makes a real show when in flower. The large umbel shaped flower heads can be as big as 6-8 inches across and are made up of many individual flowers. The leaves are very attractive in their own right and unlike the normal angelica they have a bronze tinge when young and they are slightly more finely cut. The flowers are very attractive to insects especially bees and wasps. 

 

Rudbeckia ‘Cappuccino’

 

Another member of the daisy family that produces a cone like structure in the centre of the flower. This type of flower is ideal for insects as the large flat petals are an ideal ‘landing pad’ for them. Like most Rudbeckias it likes full sun and fertile well drained soil. This variety can be a bit tender in cold wet winters and so it might be useful to add some extra grit to the planting hole. Of medium height it is a useful plant for late summer colour. 

 

 

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’

 

Single flowered Dahlias are very good for insects as they have the central boss of stamens which allow them to forage for pollen and nectar. The ‘Bishop series’ are a good group to start with but other good ones are D. ‘Twynings After Eight’, D. merkii and D. ‘Verrones Obsidian’.

Like the Rudbeckias the Dahlia has big open flat flowers which are ideal for insects. These wonderful flowers start to flower from late May, and will go on until the first frosts in October, or even November if dead headed often. There is a resurgence in their popularity and there is one to suit every one’s taste, be it bi-coloured, pompon, cactus, or dinner plate!! 

 

Sedum spectabile ‘Iceberg’ 

 

Probably one of the most well-known insect attracting plants are these, the ‘Ice plants’ (Sedums). Like a lot of good insect-beneficial plants these have a mass of small flowers born in clusters or umbels from late summer through to autumn. They are high in nectar and pollen and very popular with insects such as butterflies and honey bees. Because they have swollen leaves that contain water they are ideal plants for warm, sunny and well drained spots. They also make good container plants for hot sunny patios and terraces.

 

 

Jobs for August:

 

Climbing Roses – these have now produced their first flush of flowers and so it is an ideal time to dead head them. Tie in any new growth as it appears and give them a good feed with a high potash food such as ‘Toprose’. Once applied, water well to let the fertilizer start to work.

 

Rambling Roses – there are a few of these lovely shrubs that repeat flower but most have finished now and will need all of the old flowers cut off. Like the climbing roses above, tie in new growths as they appear and feed well, any of the flowered shoots can be cut back to 2-4 buds which encourages new growth which can then be pruned to encourage flowers next spring. 

 

Shrub Roses – when pruning these lovely plants always cut back to an outward facing bud to keep the plant in good shape, and to encourage new flowers in just over a month’s time, feed well as above and keep them well-watered.

 

Happy gardening,

PCM Matt

   

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