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The importance of providing food for wildlife.

Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn) in berry.

I have always felt that gardeners should be working to support nature in the garden wherever possible. So providing food for wildlife especially in town gardens is a really positive thing.

Just by using a small tree like the Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna you can easily combine great aethetic pleasure with a really useful source of food for the local bird population - or indeed humans if you want to go through the labour of cooking up some Haw Sauce!



Eupatorium - Another bee favourite

Eupatorium maculatum in flower

In the same garden as the Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' there was also a number of impressive stands of Eupatorium maculatum - Joe Pye Weed.  This has rightly become a firm favourite for providing height in the border and for mixing with grasses to produce that 'Prarie' effect.  It has good winter structure and is also a great favourite amongst bees and other insects.  Where you have space it is very well worth growing. 

We have a native Eupatorium - E. cannabinum (Hemp Agrimony) which is great in a wildlife garden.  It loves a bit of moisture and will produce great stands up to six feet high.  Again it is an important food plant for bees and other insects.



Autumn colour and great for the bees!

Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' in flower

By mid to late September we are well and truly into the Autumn display - plus we have had so nice sunny days which have helped everything along.

A couple of days back I saw a really good stand of Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' which is the most cheerful and generous of plants, producing these fabulous lemon yellow flower heads.

It is also great for the bees which is really important with winter not that far off.  These flowers were clearly very popular with a steady stream of insect visitors.



Pelargonium sidoides

Pelargonium sidoides in flower

Another plant new to the propagation bench is the magnificent pelargonium sidoides - a species Pelargonium with amazing magenta flowers set off against elegant grey green leaves.  Plus it has a long flowering run.  Am currently trying to work up a stock - hopefully there will be enough to start selling it mid to late next year.


Maurandya 'Red Dragon'

Maurandya 'Red Dragon' in flower

Talking of Maurandyas, I have also been trialling another one called 'Red Dragon'.  This has much larger leaves and flowers and so far seems pretty fast growing. I will protect it over winter then plant it out next spring to give it a whole year to perform - am looking forward to seeing the results!


Maurandya barclaiana - the mexican viper.

Maurandya barclaiana in flower

One of the plants I have been growing this year from seed as a trial to see how they do is Maurandya barclaiana, a semi tender climber from Mexico. 

Having previously grown the related Asarina erubescens (sometimes called Lophospermum erubescens) which is a pretty pink climber / scrambler with flowers like a pink snapdragon, I thought that it would be well worth growing this charming purple flowered version. 

So far so good - it has grown vigorously has started to flower late summer.  However I'm hoping that by keeping it relatively dry and frost protected over winter I can get it through to next year when it should really show its potential.


Abelia grandiflora - amazing flower power!

Abelia grandiflora

Abelia grandiflora, the glossy abelia my not be the most exotic or rarified of shrubs but it can certainly claim to produce a most impressive display of flower through summer and well on into the autumn.

There is a lot to be said for plants that a simply 'good doers' even if they don't have to kudos associated with the more unusual collectors plants.


The beauty of the sporing fronds of the Hart's Tongue Fern

Fronds of Asplenium scolopendrium

There is much of beauty to be found in gardens through an appreciation of detail.

It would be easy to overlook the patterns on the back of fern fronds - such as these Asplenium scolopendriums - Hart's Tongue ferns.  However look closely and you get to see their amazing stripes of spores - like little strips of chocolate brown velvet on the back of the leaves.

Hart's tongues will often propagate well in gardens - I have found that baby hart's tongues can often be found on the edges of lawns where the face of lawn forms a growing surface.  Perhaps it is the combination of shade and moistness that forms a suitable microclimate?




Cyclamen hederifolium - an early star of autumn

Cyclamen hederifolium flowers

As my previous posts have indicated I have a distinct soft spot for Cyclamen.  Late summer / early autumn is a great time for the cyclamen enthusiast as many of the species are coming out of their summer dormancy and into flower.

C. hederifolium is perhaps the cyclamen best known to British gardeners as it is pretty hardy and is an excellent garden plant.  Beautiful for both its flowers and its varied leaf patterns it is a star of the woodland garden from now until late spring / early summer when it goes dormant again and sheds its leaves.  In many a garden is will happily seed around helped by the local ant population, which are drawn to the seeds by their sugary coating.  It is not unusual to find seedling cyclamen growing in laws.  It is well worth collecting the seeds from their pods on the end of coiled spring like stems - the seed is easy to germinate and the corms can grow reasonably quickly.  Grown from seed they generally produce healthier plants than corms that are bought in as dried plants from the bulb sellers.


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