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Thursday, 15 May 2014

It's Time to Grow!

Gosh, I started writing this post back in mid-March and now it's mid-May! Oh well, there's still time to get out into the garden and get planting for summer.

While adding pins to the new Fairfield Gardens Pinterest Boards (a legitimate excuse to browse Pinterest during my work day mwah hah hah!) the "Bee Friendly Plants" board made me think about planting my own garden.  I've successfully planted calendula, rosemary and strawberries in the last few years and I've been threatening to plant a fragrant flower garden for ages. With declining bee populations and widespread loss of natural habitats I think that it's really important to do what we can to help provide food and shelter for our bees and other pollinators.  Whether it's a single pot on a windowsill or an entire field of poppies, (to steal a well known catchphrase) every little helps.

So what plants do bees and butterflies like?  Well, there's lots of information to be found online, but the downloadable guides by the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) are great.  There's bucket-loads of information about garden plants (handily listed by season) as well as wildflowers.  There's also a great website, Bee Happy Plants, that sells organic plants and seeds that are all helpful to bees.

I like the idea of using the plants and flowers that I grow for food or to use in various skincare concoctions, so I'm going to choose ones that are edible.  But with a large number of plants to choose from you can make your choices based on whatever speaks to you - whether that's colour or smell or purely on looks.

My garden is not large and, so that the kids can have a space to play in, a lot of it is lawned.  But we managed to keep a small space for the strawberries and there's always room for a few pots.

I already grow rosemary, thyme, sage, bay, mint, lemon balm, oregano, strawberries and dwarf apple trees.  Many of those could do with some attention, so I'll be replanting, re-potting and pruning.  Here are a few plants that I'd like to plant (if space allows!):
  • Calendula (Calendula offinicalis): bright and cheery, easy to grow, easy to care for and if you remove the flower heads periodically it will flower from June right through until the end of September.  The dried flower petals can be used to make infused oils (which has wonderful soothing and anti-inflammatory properties), for cooking with or to make soap and bath items.  They do better in the ground, but don't mind being in pots.

  • Borage (Borago officinalis): I planted this a few years ago and it's like catnip for
    Borage (image source)
    bees (beenip?).  It also needs very little attention and self-seeds freely so could actually be a good candidate for a pot plant, although I've never tried it in a pot.  The young leaves can be eaten is salads or used to flavour drinks like Pimms, ice tea and lemonade.

Lavender (image source)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): I've tried growing lavender from seed a few times, with very average results. Maybe this year I'll invest in some plants instead.  All sorts of bees love lavender and the flowers have a multitude of uses  - from cooking and baking to skincare and healthcare.  And the colour is amazing.  I dream of having fields of lavender one day!

Sunflower (image source)
  • Sunflowers (Helianthus annus): What's not to love about sunflowers?  Cheerful, easy to grow and the flower heads produce loads of tasty (and nourishing) seeds.  This is a great plant to get the kids to grow (if you have them!) as once they get going the plants shoot up quickly.

I did intend to plant a few others, but as time is no longer on my side, I think I'll stick with these few.  It would be great to hear about what you're planting.  Leave me a comment below and tell me about it.

Bye for now!

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