As summer draws on, the air humming with insect activity as butterflies, moths and others drift through the garden environment, one challenge for gardeners is to provide supplies of nectar and pollen as mainstays of the ecological pyramid.
So for the wildlife gardener, it is vital to think about flowers and moreover, the successions of flowers in various parts of the garden for as long as the seasons and weather allow.
To achieve this effectively requires careful planning and layout and furthermore, the clever use of opportunistic flowers including ones of the late season.
In late winter and early spring we begin with early flowering bulbs and shrubs in particular, then as the seasons progress, it get easier and easier until the peak in midsummer. The trick at this time is to place plants and flowers strategically to get maximum benefit from the sun at all times of the day.
If for example, your buddleia only gets sunshine in the morning then you only get butterflies at that time too. So you need to spread the attractants around the place and around the clock. This same idea can be used to spread the flowering period of key flowers so some bloom early and others relatively late; the intention being to stretch the seasons out.
However, as the time presses on, you need to think about flowers that will keep going until the first frosts take out the blooms, and of course the insects too. By then, the job is done. One excellent and cheap option is the humble but potentially spectacular nasturtium which can thrive in half-shade through to full sun. They come in all sorts of colours and forms from compact miniatures to gigantic, sprawling and climbing varieties.
The flowers are great favourites of pollinating insects such as bumblebees and hoverflies, and the leaves are popular with insects, especially the caterpillars of ‘white’ butterflies. Generally however you can probably spare a few leaves and the great tits and blue tits will help control numbers!
Even better though, you can also add nasturtium leaves and flowers to salads or as a garnish to cooking.