Our project has received a generous donation of seeds from Christos Papachristou, of Ecotopos landscape consultancy. The seeds are mainly herbaceous perennials plus a few annuals, all of which come with particular wildlife benefits.
The many packets of seed, confusingly in recycled packets.
Achillea filipendulina ‘Cloth of Gold’ – attractive to butterflies but be warned, it is a prolific self-seeder and will take over given half a chance. Deadhead spent flowers to prevent seed development and avoid numerous seedlings the next spring.
Aquilegia vulgaris, columbine – beautiful flowers that are good food source for bees and other beneficial insects.
Centaurea scabiosa, greater knapweed – butterflies are unable to resist this plant’s charms.
Cucurbita pepo, courgette – as well as being delicious to humans, bees will visit the large trumpet-shaped blooms. In fact bee pollination is essential; no bees, no courgettes.
Echinacea purpurea, purple coneflower – nectar and pollen for the insects; seeds for the birds.
Echium vulgare, viper’s bugloss – a wildflower par excellence, attractive to bees, moths, butterflies and other beneficial insects.
The distinctive nodding bonnets of Aquilegia vulgaris.
Eremurus spp., foxtail lily – tall spikes covered in scented flowers that are beloved of honey bees. I must admit I have had little success with growing these from bulbs, only one out of five flowered in my garden – perhaps growing them from seed will produce better results?
Hypericum perforatum, St. John’s wort – a good food source for both honey and bumble bees.
Knautia arvensis, field scabious – an excellent all rounder with pretty lilac-blue flowers that serve bees, butterflies, moths and hoverflies.
Linaria purpurea, purple toadflax – often seen hanging out in old walls and other difficult situations, it is a long-flowering species, sometimes going from May through to October, and is attractive to bees, hoverflies and moths.
Malva moschata, musk mallow, a pretty and drought tolerant perennial that hosts both bees and butterflies.
Phacelia tanacetifolia – an annual plant with plenty to offer honey bees, bumble bees, hoverflies and moths. Bee keepers sow fields with this plant to aid their honey yields.
Prunella vulgaris, self-heal – the common name refers to this plant’s medicinal properties. Forming a creeping carpet, and often seen growing in meadows, the small long-lasting purple flowers are a favourite of bumble and honey bees.
Sanguisorba officinalis, greater burnet – a large burnet with distinctive red flowers held aloft on tall stems; it is visited by both bees and butterflies.
The large yellow flowers of courgettes are like beacons to bees and other pollinators.
Salvia sclarea, clary sage – a biennial or short-lived perennial that is attractive to bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.
Scabiosa columbaria subsp. ochroleuca, pale yellow scabious – creamy pincushion yellow flowers that are especially attractive to hoverflies, which appear to prefer white and yellow blooms.
Silene marítima, sea campion – as its name suggests, this low-growing semi-evergreen plant is a coastal specialist, growing on cliff tops, making it well adapted to wind exposure and free-draining soils. The small white flowers are notable for attracting bees.
Growing plants from seed has both advantages and disadvantages. Seeds are usually cheap and, if germination goes well, it will lead to a large number of plants, which is exactly what the DINA rooftop garden needs. On the flip side, germination is not as easy as chucking seeds in some compost, standing back and watching them sprout. Over the years I have met with mixed successes. The worst failures can probably be blamed on trying to sow seeds in-situ in my garden where the veteran ash tree casts just a bit too much shade meaning that the soil never quite gets warm enough for germination to occur. More recently I have been sowing in trays in my greenhouse and the results have been more promising, although only a small proportion of the seeds have produced seedlings. Given the large quantity of seeds donated by Christos, there is a chance to sow half now and half next spring. In theory this will increase the chance of success – watch this space for updates.