Tuesday, 15 September 2015

If Bees and Butterflies Gardened

1980s fashion is making a comeback. Incredible though it might seem, one of my daughters has proudly claimed ownership of some of my old clothes! 
30-year-old 501s no less, or should I say pre-loved vintage jeans? Suddenly I feel in tune with today’s teens, which is a welcome change, because usually I am at odds with them due to my lack of Kardashian general knowledge and a prehistoric preference for gardening blogs over make-up vlogs.


Sometimes I find my tastes at odds with pollinators too. I may bill and coo over a spectacular bloom, but the pollinators might have other ideas, lavishing all their attention on a gentler, quieter flower. These plants are easy to overlook, especially if they bloom all summer and continue into autumn with little intervention from the gardener. One such long flowering perennial is Scabiosa columbaria subsp. ochroleuca. For the past fourteen weeks, bees and butterflies have been lavishing their attention upon its flowers. Fourteen weeks! And it will continue to flower its socks off well into October.


It is a dainty plant which prefers sun and well-drained soil. Masses of delicate primrose flowers are held aloft grey-green filigree foliage by wiry stems which sway gently in the summer breeze, yet shrug off autumn storms and torrential rain. It isn’t huge; it reaches just 50-60 cm tall (20-24"); and it may be quiet, but it is tough.


I left this scabious unwatered in dry weather this year and it thrived irrespective of my lack of care. I have a number of these plants in a demanding area of our garden: the carpark. It is unfenced, so deer and rabbits can come and go as they please. They cause damage to other plants, but they have never touched this scabious.


I grow it amidst a sea of Stipa tenuissima because the border gets buffeted by fairly lively wind. Since there is little point in fighting the weather, I have celebrated its excesses with grasses and scabious. Scabiosa columbaria subsp. ochroleuca is a pretty little thing. I love looking at it every time I park my car; yet it is the flurry of pollinators around the flowers which truly drew my attention to it and helped me to appreciate the huge contribution this quiet little plant makes to the garden. If bees and butterflies could garden, they would surely grow this plant. 

I am linking with May Dream Gardens to celebrate Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Why not head over there and see what else is flowering today on this wonderfully diverse planet? 
http://www.maydreamsgardens.com/

68 comments:

  1. Your Scabiosa is lovely, I like it partly bloomed out with the small unopened flowers in the center and little opened flowers on the edges. I'm growing one that stays very short but would like some taller ones for cutting. The butterflies and bees do love flowers that a gardener might not appreciate, but it's nice that they like your Scabiosa.

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    1. It is beautiful with the small buds in the centre. To be honest, if my attention hadn't been drawn to it by pollinators, I would never have examined it so closely!

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  2. The scabious sounds like an ideal garden plant to me. I can image it with the stipa and verbena bonariensis or rigida added to the mix.

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    1. Hi Sarah, Do you know of a seed supplier for S. ochroleuca ?

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    2. Hi Brian, J Parker sell plants http://www.jparkers.co.uk/5-scabiosa-ochroleuca-1000878C or I can collect some seed and send it to you.

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  3. It's gorgeous, I'm always on the lookout for things that attract pollinators. I love that it didn't need watering in the dry weather as well.

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    1. They are remarkably resilient. I kept them in pots for months (maybe even a year) before I got round to planting them out, and they recovered magnificently from the neglect once they were planted in the border. I didn't lose a single one of them.

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  4. That sounds like a remarkably useful plant and it is pretty. We watched a mother and baby deer for about half an hour yesterday evening, happily munching their way through the garden (thankfully the weedy bit..) so I do need some of this scabious!

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    1. I love seeing deer, but they caused pretty catastrophic damage to our newly planted orchard before we put up a fence. I have been very cautious about what I plant in the unfenced parts of the garden. I certainly plan to extend the Scabious planting, because the deer seem so disinterested in it.

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  5. Wonderful!
    Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!
    Lea

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  6. Wow, that's an amazing Scabious. I've grown several annual scabious this year (as annuals- they are actually short lived perennials) and I am delighted with them. Here's the link because I can't seem to comment via my Wordpress ID. http://countrygardenuk.com/2015/09/15/september-stars/

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    1. Scabious are gorgeous garden plants - the Scabious photos on your blog are beautiful.

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  7. That is so lovely. And the photo with the butterfly is beautiful!

    I was just telling my daughter recently that I should have kept my clothes from my teen years. She would have loved some of my stuff!

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    1. Thank you!
      The thing which niggles me most about my old clothes, is that I kept them for me to wear when they came back into fashion, but time has taken its toll on my waistline, so I have no choice but to give the clothes to my kids!

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  8. Your Scabiosa is wonderful and the fact that is attracts pollinators is such a plus.Happy Bloom Day!

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    1. I am finding more and more that plants which don't attract pollinators have started to disappoint me. It is as if I miss the "buzz".

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  9. I like your scabiosa! I throught it was much taller. I have seen several in my surrounding about 1 meter high. But this might be a different variety. I have the stipa already...... So I think I want one too. Groetjes, Hetty

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    1. I have seen taller, leggier ones, but not so high. Perhaps the ones you see are Cephalaria gigantea - the giant scabious? They can reach 1.5/2.5 metres tall.

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  10. 12 weeks, very impressive! And isn't it a bit surreal when trends of our youth come back and worn by the next generation? :)

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    1. It is! Although the returns of some trends are more welcome than others!

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  11. Scabiosa is a wonderful plant and the pollinators do love it. Your butterfly shot is certainly evidence of this.

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    1. I will be very shocked if we get to next summer and I haven't extended the selection of Scabiosa on offer in our garden.

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  12. Your scabiosa is lovely. We can learn a lot from the bees. xo Laura

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  13. It's lovely, I have a purple one but not a white. My comfrey has been smothered in bees this year, I always feel guilty when cutting it back x

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    1. Ah yes - comfrey is so popular. I understand your guilt. Even if I accidentally break a flowering stem, I feel guilty. I am going to start a cutting garden - what are the chances that my vases will remain empty?

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  14. Thank you, that went straight on the list, it should be perfect in my front garden! Did you grow it from seed? I have three wonderful Cephalaria gigantea, so something with similar flowers echoing those giants in the understory would be perfect.

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    1. Cephalaria are glorious plants! I didn't grow the Scabious from seed - I got them as tiny plants from a nursery. I have collected seed this year to see if I can increase their numbers. Want some?

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  15. That pale yellow sabiosa must be perfect with the grasses.

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  16. Sometimes it's the quiet ones that surprise you - true for flowers and people. I have grown the 'Butterfly Blue' Scabiosa, though it has faded away. What on earth is a vlog?

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    1. A vlog is a video blog. I think we're safer with Scabious!

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  17. I want it!! I just googled it and it's hard to find here. :( What a fabulous plant!

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    1. It is a fab plant. I hope you manage to get your hands on some!

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  18. I was a little horrified when I saw leg-warmers in the store, I must admit! The plant looks fabulous, though. I haven't seen that type of scabiosa before. This year I've been pleasantly surprised at a catmint that I have. By now most of the blooms have faded (though it's been going for weeks), and still all the bees are buzzing around it. It's a plant you hear before you see from all the buzzing.

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    1. I like that! A plant you hear before you see. Absolutely! Catmint is fab. I cut back faded blooms of Nepeta 'Walker's Low' in mid-summer and get a second flush of flowers. I couldn't be without catmint in the garden - it is such a marvellous bee magnet!

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    2. PS I reckon a lovely pair of neon leg warmers might be just the thing for a middle-aged gardener in winter - I think I might invest in a pair (that'll shock the kids!)

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  19. These beauties do struggle here in my garden but good to read they enjoy your conditions Sarah.

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  20. A lovely post! I also grow this Scabious. It does tend to take over a bit here though - loves my well-drained soil and the summer heat! :)

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    1. I would be delighted with a little gentle scabious thuggery. Sadly, we're not blessed with the most well-drained of soils, so I guess this scabious might behave pretty well.

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  21. Scabious is so under rated ! It has such a long flowering season and is a real bee & butterfly magnet. I love the airy quality of its habit and its lightness in the border.

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  22. You have a beautiful garden!

    Thanks for sharing this post and giving me the idea to also participate!

    I just started a new blog last week about gardening and crafting. You are always welcome visit if you want.

    Greetings, Sofie
    http://sofies-succulent-beads.blogspot.be/2015/09/garden-bloggers-bloom-day-september-2015.html

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    1. Welcome to the blogosphere, Sofie. I look forward to reading your posts.

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  23. That's a plant that I need! I know what you mean with our daughters, my one really shouts as me when my eyebrows are not 'on fleek'!

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    1. Eyebrows not on fleek? Blimey, you're brave!

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  24. I like the flowers! And the butterfly too...

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  25. They're great plants for attracting bees. I bought one a couple of years ago but lost it through winter. I've got a different variety in the front garden which seems to do well.

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    1. They are fantastic bee magnets. I'm glad that you've found a variety which does well for you.

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  26. I'm always amazed how much bees adore tiny insignificant (to our eyes) flowers.

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    1. Me too. Watching bees working a weedy lawn is an education!

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  27. Lovely photos . We built a butterfly and hummer garden this year and planted all their favorites and bee balm in it to and they have been busy in it but it is now coming to an end and the wild flowers are out in the fields and so they are enjoying them now . Thanks for sharing , Have a good day !

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    1. It's fortunate that the wild flowers are there. Oh to have cause to plant a hummer garden!

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  28. My niece is just about to become a student this weekend and it's a bit odd to see her wearing similar clothes to those I wore as a student (mumble mumble) years ago.

    I like the look of that Scabiosa - I have just the spot where that will go...

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    1. I saw some of those 1980s New Romantic floppy ankle boots in a shop last week. Who would have thought that they'd make a return?

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  29. You certainly get your money's worth...as do the pollinators! I think it's a marvelous little plant too.
    My daughter suddenly took a shine to my old clothes too calling them vintage...I felt a thousand years old!xxx

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    1. Haha! And when my kids start talking about events in my lifetime as history, I feel ancient!

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  30. I'm for any flower that attracts pollinators and blooms profusely. Throw in the fact that it's gorgeous and it's going on my list. Funny thing is, the last climate we lived in these gorgeous babies wouldn't do well because they were too wet. Well we certainly don't have that problem here now.

    With all of the water restrictions filtering down on our area we need to gradually fill in the blanks with plants that are tough and happy to do without a lot of water instead of the lush beauties that are fussy and thirsty.

    It's going on my list for sure, thanks!

    Jen

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  31. I agree with you -- if they could garden, they were definitely going to put in flowers which never win any prizes in any show (perhaps except the sunflowers). I've also planted scabiosa this summer but mine are purple.

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    1. The purple ones are gorgeous too. I struggled with purple ones in my old garden, but happily they seem very at home here. Here's hoping they don't have to face a cold, wet winter, or else they might look a little less happy.

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  32. I had a couple of these plants in my tiny flower bed this year but they were quickly swamped by a huge adjacent rhubarb plant. The rhubarb will be moved this winter in favour of more flowers! I had to smile at your teen taking your old jeans - my son is now studying music production at uni and fell with great glee on a recently discovered stack of my 70's albums (ooops, sorry - vinyl)!

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    1. Oh it's certainly no match for rhubarb! I felt compelled to take my kids into a record shop in London to introduce them to the concept of flicking through a stack of albums. Fancy growing up and never experiencing that!

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  33. Hi Sarah, some amazing butterfly shots! I'm paying particular attention to the wildlife that I hope is returning to our garden as I gradually plant it up. All the habitats, new food sources, new micro-environments where before there was a vast desert of grass. I hope someday soon I'll be able to take pictures of butterflies in my garden, as you have in yours.

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    1. That day will come sooner than you think, Sunil. Put the plants in; the pollinators will come. I am so pleased that you are focussing on wildlife. It makes such a difference, not only to our wilder friends, but to our enjoyment of our gardens. I look forward to seeing your photos next year.

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