Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Sowing Seeds for Wildlife and the Trouble with Hummingbirds

Seed catalogues should come with a health warning for wallets. A packet of seeds costs very little, but how often do we disappear into the magical world of glossy plant photos and find ourselves in a parallel universe where we have endless time to garden and limitless growing space? Even if our gardening lives were perfect, we would probably still be faced with a space/time dilemma if every flower, fruit and vegetable we desired leapt from the page and onto the credit card. Consequently, this time of year, which is normally associated with excess in the eating and drinking department, is a time for exercising restraint as a gardener. I am not fond of exercising - be it in a gym or restraint on the plant front - so as a reward for my sporadic gym attendance, I allow myself a little light indulgence in the form of two packets of I've-never-tried-these-before seeds per year.

Seeds purchased in one year cannot qualify as newbies the following year, so if they are any good, they are automatically transferred to the regular seed purchase list, thereby allowing space for two more packets of newbies. A problem arises if all the newbies turn out to be goodies. A decade of two successful new must-haves annually equates to twenty new seed packets in ten years (my maths genius knows no bounds). Add these seeds to those which have become essentials over the previous years of your gardening life and you have a whole load of seed packets (I am not even going to risk guessing your age, but please feel free to do your own calculation). 

Pollinator magnet Eschscholzia californica
Of course, if a plant is a consummate self-seeder, all is good and well. We buy it once and enjoy it forever. Cerinthe major falls into this category and if you have never grown it, I really recommend that you add it to your wishlist if your conditions suit. I posted about it here

Pollinator magnet Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens'
A plant which has seeded itself into the buy-once-enjoy-forever category in recent years is pollinator magnet extraordinaire, Echium vulgare ‘Blue Bedder’. Bright blue flowers emerge from pink buds and turn magenta as they fade. These breathtakingly beautiful flowers adorn bristly stems from June until at least October (by at least, I mean that they are still in flower in December this year). 

Pollinator magnet Echium vulgare 'Blue Bedder'
A dry, sunny spot suits 'Blue Bedder' perfectly. It copes near the coast, looks wonderful in a cottage garden style planting and is happy in a container. It is at home mingling with grasses and contrasts well with the soft foliage and sulphur yellow flowers of Alchemilla mollis. Sow it indoors in February and March or direct from March to May, after which, hopefully, you will not have to buy it again. It self-seeds in my garden, but not so much that I have to compost excess plants.

Echium vulgare - or viper's bugloss - is classed as a noxious weed in certain areas of the world. Here in the UK some farmers don’t like it as it can seed into fields where it puts its roots down deeply. ‘Blue Bedder’ is an annual viper's bugloss which at 45cm, is more compact and bushy than the viper's bugloss we see growing in gravel pits and along roadsides. It is hugely attractive to bees, butterflies and moths and I have read that it is a hummingbird magnet. If only we had hummingbirds in the UK... not that you would see a great photo of one if we did. I have an extensive collection of photographs of plants which a hummingbird has just left. The best I have ever managed is this. Look closely, it is there, although it might very well be a sparrow for all the detail you can see. Pitiful, isn’t it?

I am linking this post to Wildlife Wednesday which is hosted by Tina at . Do please take a trip over there to marvel at the wonderful wildlife in gardens around the planet. I guarantee that this hummingbird photo will be the worst one you will see in the whole meme *hangs head in shame.