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

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016 visit

botanic garden

Part of the Botanic Garden

This week I headed down to Sloane Square with my mum for this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The weather was a bit crap – overcast and pretty chilly for a late May day – but given the crowds I was actually quite pleased not to be in the glare of a hot sun!

First off we headed for the show gardens, and although at times given the volume of people it was hard to stop and ponder the planting, I really enjoyed the flowing, naturalistic planting schemes that seemed to prevail in the vast majority of the gardens. Wildflowers have definitely made a comeback, with ragged robin a popular choice, and it seemed most gardens were going for purples, whites and a variance on rusty orange or rusty pink.

I suppose just like fashion, preferences for planting are subject to trends. But I like this recent trend. Pollinating flowers like alliums and salvias were in evidence everywhere, as was a certain type of almost milk chocolate-coloured California Iris.

I think my favourite garden had to be the Botanic garden – not for its main feature, a glass house, but for one side of the garden that was planted up in a style that nodded to permaculture, with salvias, lupins, wild carrot, hyssop, beetroot, rhubarb, blackcurrant, gooseberry, french beans, nasturtiums, and all manner of fruit and veg crammed in together to create a bustling, thriving growing space. It definitely gave me lots of ideas for my own patch of the good life.

A close up from the Greening Grey Britain garden

A close up from the Greening Grey Britain garden

The Greening Grey Britain garden was also an inspiration, with some almost prairie-like planting with swathes of plants that are perfect for pollinators, wildflowers including ragged robin and aquilegia (another popular feature in many gardens this year), grasses, and some gorgeous rusty metal bird seed cups that I haven’t been able to locate anywhere! I love the idea of ‘Greening Grey Britain‘, an RHS scheme launched last year in a bid to overcome the paving over of front gardens, driveways and what could be thriving spaces for flora and fauna to reduce flooding, combat localised temperature rises and even subsidence. Want to make a contribution and bring colour and vitality back to the streets of Britain? Then visit the RHS site to make your promise.

So lots of ideas and inspiration, and armed with three new packets of seed (two types of pollinator-friendly Astrantia, and some white ragged robin), I’ve come away determined to make the Smallest Smallholding a living, breathing and productive oasis in my part of suburbia.

Natural planting schemes were everywhere!

Naturalistic planting schemes were everywhere!

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!


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?

California poppy

Oh, hang on, there’s more…

Verbena bonariensis
Some sort of climbing rose
Chocolate vine…

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