Our garden has extremely heavy, clay soil – the sort you could make pottery from if you were so inclined. Generally it is either too wet or rock solid and I have to wait for a gardening window when digging over the soil or planting anything. I have added loads of home-made compost and grit over the years, which has improved some areas. However, the most important lesson I have learned is to grow plants that are tough and don’t require too much fussing over once established.

Tonight it was so dry that I just had to water the vegetables and annuals. Our neighbour has a pond, but I swear the frogs spend more time in our garden than in the pond. This little chap was sitting under some foliage trying to look cool!

Frog

This is an easy to grow perennial flower for a sunny aspect, which flowers from early summer to well into the autumn. The clumps of Knautia (pronounced ‘naughtier’) do get large and sprawl about, so give them plenty of room. The crimson pompom flowers are a big hit with bees and butterflies and the seed heads are loved by the birds. It self-seeds prolifically and I often replace the large clumps with younger specimens. It can be affected by powdery mildew, however I simply cut back the stems and allow to re-grow.

Bumble Bee on Knautia macedonica flower

I grow Campanula medium, or Canterbury Bells, from seed and find they are best treated as a biennial flower, although sometimes they can be a short-lived perennial.  The colours range from white, through pale pink to purple. They are easy to grow from seed and in their second year the plants will reach 2-3 feet in height, with masses of flowers on each steam, which the bees absolutely adore. Dead-heading may produce a second flush of flowers, but not as profuse as the initial flowering.

Pale pink Campanula medium

This is a pretty little annual flower which is very easy to grow from seed and is ideal for hanging baskets or shady places. Each flower has five petals, each one with a deep blue spot at the tip – hence the name.  As you can see from this picture the bees love the flowers!

Bumble bee on Nemophila maculata Five Spot

This pretty little beetle is only about 6mm long, with an iridescent body which looks as though it’s been carefully embossed. I found this one on the rosemary bush in my garden, but they also like to eat the leaves and flowers of lavender, sage and thyme. I tolerate this beetle chewing the leaves of the rosemary, but if it becomes a problem then then environmentally friendly way to get rid of them is to pick them off and squash them!

Chrysolina americana

Aquilegias are an easy to grow perennial flower, which the bees love. A popular cottage garden plant, its bonnet shaped flowers give them the common name Granny’s Bonnet. I used to wonder why the aquilegia flower spurs had holes in them and then I discovered that the bees are using a shortcut to get at the nectar, by piercing the spur instead of using the ‘front entrance’ of the flower. Clever little bees!

Bumble Bee on Aquilegia flower

Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your self-sown aquilegia plants.

The name ‘Common blue damselfly’ is not the most flattering name for this beautiful insect, but Enallagma Cyathigera is common in Europe. This small, brightly coloured damselfly is probably the most common of dragonflies and damselflies in Britain. It inhabits a wide range of habitats, from small ponds to rivers.

Enallagma cyathigerum

Lily beetles can decimate your lily plants. Learn to identify the signs of lily beetle attack and how to spot the culprit! This lily beetle had been munching its way through the leaves on my lilies today. I spotted the tatty leaves and went hunting for the little red devil! When disturbed, these beetles often fall off the plants and lie upside down on the soil where they cannot be so easily seen. I also found the eggs it had laid on the underside of the leaves.

Lily Beetle

I went to photograph this beautiful cornflower and when I got close noticed it had an occupant! It was a type of shield bug I think – red on the outside with a gold triangle in the middle.

Shield Bug in Centaurea cyanus