Purple for a buzzing wildlife garden

I’ve just read that bees can see the colour purple more clearly than any other colour. This makes me happy because I’ve definitely noticed a theme in the garden borders lately…

allium purple sensation

french lavender

purple aquilegia

I’m happy to report that the garden has been buzzing with the sound of bumbles, honey bees and solitary bees this month. Long may it continue.

Bumble bee enjoying a geranium

Rain and Sunshine

Earlier this week we had a thunderstorm of pretty epic proportions. In fact, I have no shame in admitting that I almost crapped myself a couple of times, thanks to some ear-splitting booms and claps that rolled out of the skies.

Downpours in Bedfordshire

It wasn’t just a show of sound and light though; after a long build up in which the bump and I slowly melted under a fairly oppressive cloud of intense humidity, the heavens opened. The downpours were long and penetrating – just what the veg patches needed – and the Smallest Smallholding has, as expected, gone into overdrive and everything is growing at a rate of knots.

Raspberries, calabrese, parsnips, peas and more in the long patch

Raspberries, calabrese, parsnips, peas and more in the long patch

My onions and perennial wallflowers were the only plant life that took a beating from the storm, whilst everything else has thrived with a heady combination of hot days and squally showers. Another benefit of this mix of sunshine and rain is that the soil is virtually fluffy, so weeds (even the mile-long tap roots of thuggish alkinet) are so easy to pull. This, together with my no dig approach, has meant that keeping on top of the veg patches has been so easy.

Bumble bee enjoying a geranium

So it’s the first week of June and the veg is romping away, the roses are blooming and the Smallest Smallholding is just so full. This time of year is so invigorating. Armies of honey bees and fat bumblebees are jigging and rubbing themselves with tangible glee all over our geraniums, lavender, foxgloves, toadflax and alliums. The fledged blackbirds are out in force, and the hedgehogs are resolutely on slug duty at night. I’m having a battle of wills with an undisclosed feathered or furry critter who keeps pulling out my strawberry plants (two miserable looking plants have survived) and it’s all a bit wild and out of control… and when I stand back and look… there’s still so, so much to do.

But do you know what? It’s totally OK. It’s keeping me busy, occupied, and dare I say it… happy.

Podding peas

And in three weeks I shall be on maternity leave. Yes, we have a list of things as long as my arm to do in the house before my due date, including some significant renovations and decorating, but I can’t keep my mind off my vegetable patches, my borders, my plans for everything.

I should be worried, I should be brimming with anxiety and how the hell I’m going to cope with the weeks and months ahead. The state of the house should have me wringing my hands and raging. But somehow, my garden is taking that energy and channelling it into something positive. Something I can build on in the future, and something I can make good with.

Early pea flowers

More flowers, please

Thistle flower

I’ve always been a keen veg grower (not always with the best results), and generally prefer to read or watch programmes about growing and eating fruit and veggies. But that’s not to say that I’m not interested in flowers, because I am. I love an abundance of colour, texture and scent in the garden, but my enjoyment of it seems to much more heightened when I know that my flowers are a food source for the many pollinators that live in my garden, or pass through.

Morning light

I almost always choose flowers based on whether they’re beneficial to pollinators, with the exception of the scrambling Spanish Flag that I grew (and loved) last year. That’s not to say it was completely useless for insects and wildlife; many spiders and little critters lived in it during the summer and autumn, so providing housing is the next best option!

Bee

But this year I want more flowers in the Smallest Smallholding. Generally I prefer perennials like lavender, echinacea, rosemary, heleniums and erysimum because I just think they’re better value for money, more efficient and a little bit more sustainable. But I thought that if I opt for non-F1 annuals I can always seed collect and re-sow as I do with (bi-ennial) honesty, aquilegias, hollyhocks, poppies and foxgloves (and there just seems no stopping the borage regardless).

echinacea in autumn

The sad truth is that, like many, I’m on a budget so although I would gladly snap up a catalogues’ worth of seeds and seedlings, I’ve got to reign myself in and be sensible about how to get my borders bursting this year.

So what’s on the list?

Calendula
California poppy
Phacelia
Scabious
Astrantia

Oh, hang on, there’s more…

Verbena bonariensis
Chives
Some sort of climbing rose
Chocolate vine…

… Oh let’s be honest. I am not going to be able to control myself this year.