The Way I See Things



It was a fairly dreary day, in more ways than one, though I did manage to get a few festering tasks off my books, so I suppose I should be glad about that at least. When I checked the garden for inverts this afternoon, I found that they were as unenthusiastic about the day as I was, and I struggled for shots of anything more interesting than honey bees. In the end though, this male Eupeodes obliged; he's probably E. luniger, which is our commonest representative of the genus, but the recording guys won't commit themselves beyond Eupeodes sp.

The plant in front of which he's hovering is Phacelia tanacetifolia, commonly called blue tansy or fiddleneck, which is native to the southern USA and Mexico. I bought it in seed form last year, but only got round to sowing it this spring - well, I say sowing, but being a reluctant and haphazard gardener, I really mean chucking vaguely around the place in the hope that some would take, which as you see, it has. In fact I've recently started to find plants coming up all over the garden, including some in places where I very definitely didn't place seeds, so the reputation it has for being easy to grow seems justified.

Wikipedia says this about Phacelia tanacetifolia: "It is used outside its native range in agriculture as a cover crop, a bee plant, an attractant for other beneficial insects, as a green manure and an ornamental plant. It is planted in vineyards and alongside crop fields, where it is valued for its long, coiling inflorescences of nectar-rich flowers which open in sequence, giving a long flowering period. It is a good insectary plant, attracting pollinators such as bumblebees and honey bees."

I first ran across Phacelia in the walled garden at NT Stourhead, where I was struck by its beauty and by the number of bumblebees it was attracting, and it seemed to me that even though it's non-native, it would be a good addition to an insect-friendly garden. You can buy the seeds in small quantities from suppliers such as the RHS, but I bought a 50g packet from Sow Seeds Ltd, which is much better value and will allow me to do repeat chuckings sowings across the summer. Over the years I've tried several different commercial wild flower seed mixes, but haven't had very much success with any of them, and I think from now on I'll probably choose specific seeds from companies such as Sow Seeds or Chiltern Seeds, and try them out one at a time to see what works for both the garden and the wildlife.

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