Garden notes no 37 beeday at St John’s, Waterloo, july 15th

It was a lovely coincidence of insects – not just bees – and flowers on a sunny day before the burning record breaking heat.

hoverfly on lily ‘White Heaven’

The pollen seems extravagantly thrown about. I think it’s a hoverfly, not a bee. The lily is fragrant but not strikingly so, and is easy to grow. If you click on the picture it zooms in – does that work for you? – and you can see another, tiny insect just to the right of the fly, almost buried under an avalanche of pollen.

Here’s the lily in a accidental meeting with a sympathetic hollyhock, and in the background a buddleia called ‘Silver Anniversary’, I think. The buddleia doesn’t grow beyond about five feet, and has whitish-grey flowers throughout the year; its foliage is its main attraction.

hollyhock and bumble bee

I only know that there are five or six commonly seen species of bumble bees in our gardens, and that there are other bees that look like flies, and that there are hoverflies that look like bees or wasps, and that the more you look the more you see.

Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’

This is a famous variety of helenium in an unusual – what would you call it? – coppery, orangey pink. This was the day it first opened and was perfect. No insect graced it at that moment, though they often do. Heleniums are reasonably tolerant of dry soil, or tolerant of reasonably dry soil, but we have been watering this year. As with asters and other late flowering herbaceous plants you can pinch them out – cut off the top few inches – in May or early June to make them sturdier, less inclined to lean and fall over, and then they will flower a little later. They develop in the space of a few years into good sized clumps which can easily be divided in the winter.

honey bee on Echinops ritro

Echinops or globe flowers are drought tolerant and great for bees. The biggest problem with them is that they are sometimes crippled and mutilated by aphids in spring. But I’m learning to see aphids as indicators of continued new-born insect vigour. They make vital food for the new born nestlings of some birds. A soft paste almost like breast milk until they graduate to solids. And aphids very rarely destroy a plant. They have complex life cycles and will migrate to a different host plant. Then the echinops recover.

honey bees on an eryngium

Eryngiums are one of the very best flowers for dry places, and bees love them.

honey bee on myrtle

You can find out more about myrtle and eryngiums in my Garden Notes. http://garden notes no 26 Garden notes number nine, Eryngium giganteum, honesty again, slugs garden notes no 26, myrtle Myrtle is also loved by bees and likes hot, dry weather, though this year I noticed that the flowers didn’t last as long as usual and at St John’s, probably owing to a nearby London plane sucking water out of the soil, some of the leaves on the myrtle were prematurely turning yellow.

bumble bee on lavender

Note that all these native insects are enjoying alien immigrants

honey bee on cardoon

The cardoon is a spectacular – up to eight feet tall – close relative of the artichoke. Bees have to work hard to get at it

But they like a challenge.

Inula hookeri

This inula does not like dry weather. We’ve watered them a few times. Can’t bear to give them up, they’re so beautiful.

Allium angulosum

A great find from a few years ago. An easy, late flowering allium. Plant them in late autumn, they’re lke a small spring onion, not really a bulb. Good in pots or in any ordinary, poor soil, they gradually increase to a nice clump and flower well after nearly all the other alliums.

mysterious moth

What is this moth doing out in the heat of the day? (on another allium.) So many insects and flowers are very hairy when you see them close-up.

Teucrium chamaedrys

Aka wall germander this a very tough and easy little mediterranean shrub. All it needs is a good trim in early spring.

Just one more, I couldn’t forget the thyme. I’m afraid I don’t know what kind this is, there are so many:

So much in such a small space, in the heart of London, hanging on!

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