Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Thistles, spikes and bees

If you don't have any thistles or eryngiums in your garden I strongly suggest that you get some.  They might not be an obvious choice of garden plant, but they have architectural foliage, striking flowers, a long season of interest and they are adored by bees. What is not to love!
Eryngium zabellii Big Blue has incredibly vibrant blue flowers

The flowers seem to have the same effect for bees as catnip does for cats. It was hard to take a photograph without at least one bee in the frame. We often find groups of bees on the Cirsium flowers completely stationary for hours, just chilling out.
Cirsium rivulare Trevor's Blue Wonder (brook thistle)

It is wonderful to watch bees going about their business in the garden, but they also do an essential job of pollinating. This week is National Pollinator Awareness Week. Read more about the importance of pollinators and how you can help: 
Eryngium zabelii Neptune's Gold has bright yellow foliage
Many of the thistles have architectural foliage before the pink or purple flowers. The individual flowers don't last very long, but they turn into wonderful fluffy seed heads that last until the seeds disperse on the wind.
The seed head of Cirsium rivulare Atropurpureum

Silybum marianum (milk thistle)

Seed head of Silybum marianum

Common Knapweed in our wild flower bed

Eryngiums have an even longer period of interest. Many have interesting foliage before the flower spikes appear, which are usually in shades of silver or vibrant blue. The seeds heads dry and remain attractive for months. 
Eryngium agavifolium (agave-leaved sea holly)

Also of interest in the garden at the moment
Sarracenia (pitcher plants) in a floating basket in the pond

Tradescantia Blue and Gold (spiderwort)

Our current to-do list

1. Sowing seeds of biennials - you can sow seeds of biennials such as foxgloves now. They will make small plants by autumn and can be planted out in the garden to flower next year.

2. Staking - we never seem to do enough staking in advance and the recent storms and winds have made a few plants keel over. Must do better next year!

3. Buy more plants - it saddens me when I think that the garden is full, but somehow another plant-buying opportunity always presents itself. We have removed an overgrown Fatsia japonica (castor oil plant) from the shady bed and now have a new area to fill. We are hoping that a trip to our favourite plant show at Chenies Manor will prove fruitful. 

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