September arrives and with it wasps, bees and butterflies and lots of jobs that need doing, writes Jacky Richardson, of Preston Bissett Nurseries.
The wasps have been feverishly active this year. They have devoured my sweet early apples in their hungry sugar hunt.
We don’t usually notice wasps until they become ravenous teenagers as most of the year I think they are quietly satisfied secretly munching aphids.
Unlike the wasps we do love the bees and butterflies and I think consciously we all try and grow plenty of plants they love.
As I look out into my garden I can see a purple cloud of Verbena bonariensis which stands a tall 6ft, hovering above the border swarming with life and below this a 4ft cloud of the new Verbena bonariensis ‘Lollipop’.
Bees and butterflies relish verbena. Below this I have a white patch of Centranthus alba, a particularly easy plant to grow in sun or partial shade and poor soils. It has a lot of traffic. It’s easy to find as it has a pungent scent insects can use to track it down. Many white flowers are scented and it helps insects navigate towards them when they can’t see them.
Most of our herbs are aromatic such as lavender, mints and marjoram allowing their nectar to be discovered easily and making them useful plants to include where we have vegetables and fruit that must be pollinated in the spring.
Echinacea, rudbeckia, aster, achillea, helenium and eupatorium are some of our most successful late summer cottage garden colour and they all make excellent landing pads particularly for the bees.
Bees can frequently be seen drunk from nectar clinging soporifically to the round cone that makes the centre of an echinacea flower. Other plants have similarly helpful adaptations for pollinators, the tubular flowers of penstemons are perfect bee cafes.
Foxgloves provide similar accommodation and if you enjoy traditional foxgloves you will love the new variety ‘Illumination Pink’.
Butterflies adore buddlejas beyond all else. It does not take much skill but including them in your mixed borders is now so much easier and with some of the new hybrids they no longer have to be 8ft shaggy monstrosities. The new Buddleja Buzz series is compact at 3ft but swathed in flowers.
Sedums, aptly referred to as the butterfly plant, are at the top of the butterflies favourite plant list. These are wonderful plants that can grow successfully forgotten in the roughest bit of ground and flower so abundantly as we move to the latter chapters of the gardening year.
Apart from planting late summer colour our key job now is to look after these plants so they produce plenty of nectar. Deadheading flowers regularly so they continue to flower, mulching with the available array of soil conditioners, manures and chipped bark and watering if necessary.
September will be a busy time for gardeners and while it is still warm but the garden is slowing down there are lots of jobs we like to do in preparation for next spring. We cut the hedges before frost catches any new growth and we patch up the lawn with seeds where holes have appeared. Planting is perhaps top of the September list of jobs, hence the term autumn planting, whilst there is moisture and warmth still in the ground we fill the exposed gaps with plants we will enjoy next year.
On September 21 at 11am we have a visiting plant expert at Preston Bissett Nurseries to talk about the hardy shrubs and trees we could be planting this autumn. He will also be able to advise on plant care and pruning. While we are planting we must not forget our spring bulbs. It’s now we pop in our daffodils, narcissus and hyacinths then we can just sit back for the winter and wait to enjoy all these investments we have made in next year’s garden.