I’ve just had a quick whip round my garden to pick a few flowers for a vase to cheer up a shelf in the hallway. It’s a hastily gathered bunch and I’m no great shakes at flower arranging but it does look very pretty with all the artless grace and freshness of early summer. Shining yellow buttercups, tall white willow herb, pink and white campions, burnt orange fox and cubs, spires of purple toadflax and dog daisies, their faces turned up to the sun.
You’ll notice from the names that there’s nothing terribly exotic here, no hybridised and interbred garden flowers, in fact they are all common native flowers or very close relatives and no less lovely for that.
I enjoy having them in the garden even more than in the house, they are a perfect example of ‘the right plant in the right place’ perfectly suited to the conditions they’ve evolved in. Growing healthily and vigorously, full of flower and joie de vivre they are also full of pollen and nectar for the local insect population and importantly, a food source for bees.
We all know what a hard time bees are having now and how vital they are to our economy as well as our ecology, it’s a scary thought that we couldn’t grow many of our food crops without them but as gardeners there’s so much we can do to help.
Choosing flowers which are bee friendly, rich in pollen and nectar which is easily accessible to them isn’t difficult, lots of traditional ornamental garden flowers like Nepeta, Sedum, Aster, Anemone and Verbena are great but many wild flowers are even easier to grow and lovely to look at too, they are an essential part of my summer garden
There are flowers arranged in flat topped bunches called umbels, like cow parsley, wild carrot and hogweed and daisies, big and small, are not single flowers they’re masses of tiny ones jam packed together in the centre of a circle of ray florets. These arrangements allow bees to eat and drink their fill within a small area, not wasting energy flying between widely spaced flowers.
Tubular shaped flowers like honeysuckle, foxgloves and clovers often grow close together in spires or ball shapes and are perfect for bees too, some like white clover are better for honey bees while bumble bees prefer red clover, apparently it’s all to do with the length of their tongues.
It isn’t just their wildlife benefit which makes wild flowers so valuable to my garden, or their lovely vibrant colours, it’s the combining and contrasting of their shapes which gives my garden its summer structure. Just like a flower arranger I can use their forms to create interest, harmony and balance.
No wonder they look so good in a vase!