Every year I am bewildered when I see garden centres and supermarkets selling ‘painted’ heathers in a variety of garish colours.
Between Christmas and New Year I always like to wander round the garden to see what is in flower in the middle of winter. This year, as well as the usual winter flowering plants that I would expect to see, there were some unexpected surprises like lavender and roses, that shouldn’t be flowering in December!
Thalictrum delavayi is just starting to flower and caught my eye today, along with the spider’s web suspended between the buds. Thalictrum, commonly known as Meadow rue, is such a delicate looking plant, with leaves like maidenhair fern, but it not only survives on our heavy clay soil, but positively thrives! It flowers all summer long and when foliage dies back, I cut it right down to the ground. It regrows the following Spring – with possibly a new seedling or two nearby.
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.
Eryngium giganteum, also known as Giant Sea Holly, is a dramatic addition to the flower border. Its flower heads are surrounded by a rosette of very spiny silvery-grey bracts, which seem to glow in the evening light. As with most grey foliage plants, it likes a sunny situation. Once in flower, the bees go mad for it! It is a short-lived perennial but a good self-seeder.
This variety is named after an Edwardian plantswoman and gardener Miss Ellen Willmott, who allegedly used to sprinkle the seeds of this, her favourite plant, in other people’s gardens!
This flower looks good in dried flower arrangements.
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!
Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your self-sown aquilegia plants.