This is Echium vulgare or Viper’s Bugloss, a wildflower I grow in my garden because the bees and other insects just love the gorgeous blue flowers! It flowers for ages and self seeds prolifically – the seedlings are easily recognisable when small, so I thin out any in the wrong place to keep to a manageable level. A great addition to a cottage garden.

Wildflower: Echium vulgare ©Lavender Hedge

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.

Nigella is a popular cottage garden plant, which self-seeds prolifically. They are usually blue, white or pink, but cross-pollination will give you some interesting combinations. With its airy foliage surrounding the flower, you can see why this flower gets the name ‘Love in a Mist’. Don’t dead-head the flowers when they have finished flowering, as the seed heads are beautiful in their own way, plus you will get lots more plants for free next year!

Nigella flower

Aquilegias, also known as Columbine or Granny’s Bonnet are a lovely cottage garden plant which has put on a magnificent display this year.

Aquilegas growing in the border

Aquilegias are hardy perennials which propagates by seed in a big way. They are very promiscuous and cross pollinate with one another and the self-sown plants grow all over the place. Sometimes you can get some absolutely stunning flowers on the next generation as a result, but equally the flowers can be small, bland and uninteresting.

Purple AquilegasFree plants are always welcome, but like to weed out the ones that are in the wrong place, perhaps because they are too close to something else. I move other small plants either in the autumn or early spring, to where I want them to flower.

I never have the heart to pull up the plants when they are in flower, even if they are a bit insignificant, because the bees seem to enjoy them so much. However, whilst they are still flowering I  always go round the garden with a ball of brightly coloured wool and tie a piece onto the stems of all the Aquilegias that I want to keep. That way I can dig up all the less interesting ones once they have stopped flowering, knowing I will be keeping the best.

Have you noticed how the bees cheat to get at the nectar in aquilegias?