Friday, 1 September 2017

Late summer nectar

As we move nearer to autumn insects are working ever harder to put on fat for the winter, so pollen (for protein) and nectar (for energy) take on extra importance. Some plants, widely regarded as weeds, are very important to insects. Oxford Ragwort, Senecio squalidus, is an example and featured in one of my blogs a few days ago when I wrote of a visit to St Giles churchyard in Northampton. However, I do not allow it in my garden.
Oxford Ragwort in St Giles churchyard, Northampton. 30 August, 2017
What I do have is Perforate St John's Wort, Hypericum perforatum. When I identified a couple of plants in our front garden a couple of months ago my first instinct was to pull them out. Now I'm glad they were spared for they are attracting hordes of insects. The flowers are just like a miniature version of Rose of Sharon, Hypericum calycinum. But this latter plant, large and impressive though its flowers are, is a sterile hybrid, can spread aggressively and is classed by the Royal Horticultural Society as a 'thug'. I'll pull out the Perforate St John's Wort but am confident that it will leave a few seedlings behind.
Hypericum perforatum is a welcome weed in our front garden.
Stefen Hill, Daventry. 1 September, 2017
When nectar-yielding plants are discussed the Dahlias, Dahlia x hortensis, are often dismissed. There is good reason for this because the majority of gardeners seem to prefer 'double' flowers but I made the decision to only grow single varieties.
Single Dahlias attract a host of insects. Stefen Hill, Daventry.
1 September, 2017
This has paid off because they have attracted honey bees, bumble bees and butterflies; in short they have been a big success.
A hoverfly, probably Syrphus ribesii, visits a Dahlia in our back garden.
 1 September, 2017
Our foxgloves, in this case a white form of Digitalis purpurea, received the 'Chelsea chop' a few weeks ago and have flowered anew, attracting largely bumble bees. Once inside the flower tube they will buzz loudly, giving the impression that they are angry and trapped. In fact this activity, known as 'buzz pollination' is designed to encourage some anthers to release their pollen, which can then be gathered by the bee.
Foxgloves are still in flower in our back garden.
Stefen Hill, Daventry. 1 September, 2017
The final plant to be mentioned is Verbena bonariensis. This is a superb bee plant and is currently attracting more insects than any other species. We have a native verbena, Verbena officinalis, known as Vervain, but it is rare in Northamptonshire and I have never seen it in our county.
One of the best. Vervena bonariensis in our back garden.
1 September, 2017
Verbena bonariensis, sometimes called Argentinian Vervain ('bonariensis' refers to Buenos Aires) is the species more likely to be seen in a wild situation as it is a frequent garden escape. Ours is currently in flower and should remain so for another two or three weeks.
Next up will be Sedum spectabile, due to flower shortly.

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