Posts tagged ‘dahlia’

September 12, 2012

My top ten plants for bees

So, I promised that I’d give you a list of my favourite plants for attracting bees. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but I’ve chosen plants that I really like, so not only the bees benefit! Bees prefer a relatively sheltered space, with sunshine. We’ve successfully grown a wildflower mix on the allotment and I’ve also decided to replant the small raised bed I have in the front garden with bee-friendly plants too.

There are a few points to bear in mind:

1 – It’s useful to have a variety of plants with different flowering seasons throughout the year, giving a longer period to support the bees.

2 – Local native flowers are better, which seems quite obvious really, as they share natural habitat. You don’t have to solely plant native species, but consider including them in your garden. Make sure that you get any native species from an approved supplier instead of collecting from the wild, obviously.

3 – Single flower varieties of cultivated plants are better than fancier double-flowered varieties.

4 – Weeds are a great source of food and habitat for many beneficial insects and pollinators, so if you’ve enough space to leave a patch wild, that’s always appreciated. You could go the whole hog and have a logpile too…

Lovely bee! Image from the super talented Abi Manifold.

My Favourite Plants for Bees – these are plants that I’ll be including in my planting either at home or on the allotment.

1 – Lavender. Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ which is the one that you’ll think of as the ‘traditional’ type or Lavandula stoechas, which is French lavender, with the bracts at the top ( like a pair of bunny ears!)

2 – Sunflower – Any variety of Helianthus annus will be great. After this summer’s success, we’re definitely planting these on the allotment again.

3 – Hellebore –  Helleborus argutifolius or really any other type. I love Hellebores, they’re gorgeous plants that hide away often unnoticed in the garden. They’re perennials, so they don’t have to be replaced each year, and they’re in flower before almost anything else – which helps the pollinators in the colder months. Other early flowers include crocus and single varieties of snowdrop, which are also lovely – but look at my Hellebore!

Hellebore in my front garden.

4 – Dahlia. I adore Dahlias. The more flamboyant and day-glo the better. For the bees, however, we need less flamboyance and single varieties instead, such as ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ which is popular and well-established. So, I’ll include a few single varieties in my all-new-and-improved cutting patch on the allotment next year. The good thing about dahlia is that they’re flowering once many other things have gone to seed, so extending the season into early Autumn.

5 – BorageBorago officianalis. A pretty herb, the petals and young leaves of which can be frozen in ice cubes to serve in summer drinks. A win – win situation, I call that… Just be aware that this can self-seed and get a bit invasive if you don’t keep on top of it. I might grow mine in a separate bed on the allotment.

6 – Harebell. Campanula rotundifolia. This is the wild Harebell, so if I did grow it, I’d have to be sure that I got it from an approved supplier. I love this little wild flower – it’s the perfect example to me of something that might be called a ‘weed’ but is completely beautiful. Also, Plantlife named it the county flower of Yorkshire a while ago, so it seems fitting that I grow it.

7 – Comfrey – I keep this in a pot as it can go a bit mad and over take everything. Comfrey is also called knitbone  (something I learned in an old pony book as a child!) – and is used as a herbal remedy for problems with bones, muscles and bruising. It also makes a great, although stinky, high- potash plant food when the leaves are infused in a bucket of water. Again, a plant that benefits me alongside the pollinators.

8 – Mint.  I really recommend Mentha piperita ‘Black Peppermint’, it has a strong, quite powerful fragrance and taste, making it perfect for tearing up in a mug with hot water for peppermint tea. Far better than the dried out sachets you can buy. Mint can also be invasive, but if you keep it alone, don’t put it in too small a pot, it’ll just be unhappy. Give it plenty of room.

9 – Apple – Malus domestica Hurrah! Bees love apples too. A great excuse for me to finally get that last space in my row of cordoned trees filled with another old English variety of apple. I’m thinking a cooking variety this time. For pies, obviously…

10 – Jasmine. Jasminum officinale We have a giant plant of this outside the front of our house and it smells incredible – I’ve already told you how I bring it into the house. The bees love it too. They must be as attracted to the fragrance as I am.

So, there we have it. My list of ten plants I will be growing to attract the bees – as well as use as cutting flowers or for eating! It’s important to choose the right plant for the right place, considering your soil type and the exposure to the wind, for example. The Royal Horticultural Society have a big list of both cultivated varieties and wild flowers that will attract pollinators, so do go to their website and have a look.

I’ve just realised that this blog has got very gardening-heavy recently. I will blog about different things soon, I promise!

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January 11, 2012

The Year of the Dahlia.

So, I  realise that 2012 is going to be the year in which lots of things happen. The London Olympics, the end of the world (if you believe the long-dead Mayans) and more importantly than that, my first trip to Rome. Did I mention that I’m going to Rome? I did? Sorry. I’ll stop. For a while, anyway.

2012 is also the year in which I am going to plant more dahlias on the allotment. Lots and lots of dahlias. Which, incidentally, are pronounced like Roald Dahl, rather than ‘day-lia’ because they’re named after a Swedish botanist who also had the name Dahl.

I still pronounce them ‘day-lia’ because that’s how my Grandma says it, and I know better than to argue with her. She is, after all, my dahlia inspiration. Every year, Grandma enters the local show with her flowers and every year she comes away with prizes. Given that she’s a superb knitter too, she’s like the family version of Kirstie Allsopp. This year, although I won’t be entering any shows, I want to be able to go to my allotment and pick great big dramatically bold and beautiful bunches of flowers for my house.

The cutting bed last year.

The lovely dahlias have suffered in the past for being exactly that – a bit too bold and bright, especially those with pompom or spider-like shapes too. Like 1980’s style, they went out of fashion when everyone suddenly decided that minimalism was chic and that bright and blowsy was just a bit common. However, those of us who like a bit of colour never wavered in our love for them. Now, thankfully, they’re back and in a big way.

The main place I look every year at dahlia tubers is the beautiful and inspiring Sarah Raven catalogue. The variety of types, sizes and colours available there is second to none. If this goes anything like my vegetable seed buying from there turns out every year, I am going to struggle to narrow it down to a few varieties and will end up ordering half the catalogue and then spending the rest of the year frantically trying to grow everything. The good thing about the dahlias though, is that they will not end up in seed trays all over the house, like my vegetables…