Summer colour

It’s summer at last and time to relax, the garden is at its best and flowers of every shape and size fill our borders in as many colours as we could wish for, and the majority of us do wish for maximum colour above all else.

Some want eye popping vibrancy others more subtle muted shades, we all have our favourites, but what about the rest of our gardens inhabitants, how do they see the colour of the flowers around them and does colour actually matter to them too?

Our pet dogs and cats see colours differently to us and each other. It’s thought that dogs definitely see blue and yellow well but red is rather dull and cats don’t see colour as well as dogs, but they see both much better than we do in low light, it’s all to do with the number of rods and cones in their eyes. It all makes sense if we think of them as the hunters they originally were.

But what about the animals most closely attuned to flowers, whose lives actually depend on them and which the flowers themselves have evolved to attract.

Insects with their compound eyes see a different wavelength of light to humans, they see the ultra violet end of the spectrum too. Bees’ preference is for purple, blue, white and yellow flowers but what they see is not the flat colour we do. To attract and guide them in to the working part of the flower where the plant needs them to go in order to be pollinated, they see what we describe as honey guides, ultra violet streaks, spots, bulls eyes and concentric radial patterns. Their reward is in a good feed of nectar but along the way, following the path so vividly laid out, they pick up pollen which as long as it’s the same species, will fertilize the next flower they visit.

It’s a system of mutual benefit, vital to the survival of both plants and insects and has worked perfectly for millions of years. For our gardens to continue to flower and for us to benefit from it’s beauty and colour we must allow nature to work the way it does best, after all who among us would want to see a summer without the colour of flowers?