One of the pleasures of this time of year - when the sun decides to shine - is sitting outside, admiring your gardening handiwork and watching the multitudes of insects busily visiting all the flowers. You have an excuse to relax for 15 minutes while you do a Big Butterfly Count and submit your results. As you are pottering around deadheading it is also a delight to pay attention to which flowers are the most popular nectar sources.
Some of my plants in containers from last year’s Plant Pots for Pollinators project – Echinacea purpurea ‘Prairie Splendour’, Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’, Leucanthemum superbum ‘Silver Princess’, Lambs Ears Stachys byzantina and Geranium ‘Rozanne’ - were rehomed in the ground together and are thriving alongside the red Blanket Flower Gaillardia ‘Burgunder’ and Rose Campion Lychnis coronaria. They are all in flower at the moment and popular with bees, but other plants nearby have distracted the butterflies. The Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Large and Small Whites were drawn to the towering Verbena bonariensis and the Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown to the Scabious ‘Pink Mist’ underneath. White Valerian Centranthus ruber ‘Alba’ also seems to be a favourite of the Red Admiral along with the Meadow Brown.
The pot of Wild Marjoram Origanum vulgare has been left tucked down on the patio next to the house and has attracted masses of hoverflies as well as butterflies such as the Comma and Gatekeeper.
The container of Pot Marigold Calendula officinalis for this year’s Plant Pots for Pollinators project has been visited by an Essex Skipper, which also fed on the Lavender in the border nearby. The Lavender was, as usual, a favourite of the Large and Small White, whereas the Daisy Bush Olearia haastii next to it hosted the Gatekeeper. This lovely evergreen shrub has white flowers in Jul and August. Another pretty shrub is the pink-flowered Hebe which drew in the Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown.
Once established in the ground for some time, some of these plants are reasonably drought tolerant. Those with silver or grey-green leaves, such as Lambs Ears and Rose Campion, reflect the sun's rays and a coating of fine hairs on the leaves and stems helps to trap moisture around the plant. The Daisy Bush and some Hebe have small, waxy leaves, reducing moisture loss. White Valerian has fleshy stems with blue-green leaves.
If you are going on holiday and the forecast is for hot weather then you will still need to prepare your garden. Any plants in pots should be moved into the shade. Make sure the containers are large enough so they don’t dry out quickly, put dishes under the pots and water the soil thoroughly. Remove weeds to prevent them competing with your plants for water. Additionally, mulch with gravel or organic matter - when the soil is damp - to lock the moisture into the soil and help stop evaporation.
Let us know how your garden is growing this summer and which plants are favourites with the butterflies.
The Secret Gardener