Future experiments: flowers and insects

Last autumn I started planting up one end of my allotment to create a new freestyle design. It had no pre-prepared plan, I just started planting up spares of plants I had grown from seed or cuttings and adding new plants I’ve been interested in growing. The aim is to have some colour through most of the year but primarily from mid to late summer. Below are some of the early signs of promise from flowers in mid-summer. It will take a couple of years to fill out properly but you can get an idea of what I’m seeing in terms of colour and shape.

Structure is becoming apparent, what shapes can you see?

A surprise has been how many insects it has been attracting all year, the taller perennials bringing in insects not attracted to lower flowers elsewhere.

Sanguisorba hakusanensis is one of a number of new plants I am trialling to see how robust they are. At the moment I’m not sure this species will fend for itself well. But its flower buds are interesting.

This Verbena hastata ‘Pink Spires’ is one of a number of spares I grew from seed over a year ago in spring 2018 for our garden. These can be vigorous plants that self seed heavily. As you can see, bees love them.

Another surprise this year has been the extraordinary beauty of Rudbeckia hirta ‘Sahara’ in a mix of spice shades. An easy plant from seed I am astonished at how much it is flowering so quickly.

It is reported that the mix of seeds, which come in a range of colours and flower forms, includes some that can prove to be hardy perennials. We shall see.

Not so much a disappointment but I am surprised at how slow my grass seedlings and divisions have been to get going. I have planted five different species of grass, a number I know will eventually become huge like Miscanthus sinensis while others are smaller, Deschampsia cespitosa. These are some of my favourite hardy grasses.

In addition to the R. hirta seedlings I am also trialling two Rudbeckia fulgida, R. fulgida var. deamii and R. fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’. The latter I have planted many times but I want to compare next to each other.

I’m trialling a number of Helenium cultivars too though so far I’m only finding how weak many of them are.

Many things are grown from seed from elsewhere on the allotment or below, a division of achillea from my other designed bed. All attracting tiny bees, wasps and hoverflies.

The below Allium sphaerocephalon are bulbs grown in our garden at home.

And so, I will use this year to study each plant, how they fair, multiply and settle in. As well as of course their colours. Then in winter I will plan some moves to be carried out in spring when more semblance of a design might appear from the increased stock.

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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