Tag Archives: colourful

Who are flowers for?

Who are flowers for?


Flowers are for us to admire – right?


Well absolutely yes they are, but flowers aren’t just for us, many of today’s modern blooms however are created primarily to please the human eye – but are we forgetting who flowers are really for?


What would butterflies think v1
Let’s take you back a few hundreds of millions of years to when flowers began. The plants that survived and thrived were those that evolved the best strategy to reproduce effectively. The emergence of flowers and nectar allowed plants to attract insects and this improved the efficiency of the pollination process and allowed plants to proliferate.


Flowers evolved over millions of years to attract the best pollinating insects or they formed a symbiotic relationship with certain types of insect to develop a really efficient reproductive cycle. It created a win-win situation whereby flowers provided the insect with much needed food and the insects took the pollen and redistributed it.

Now Horticulture has thrown a ‘spanner in the works’


For millions of years this system has worked well and then humans discovered how we could ‘breed’ bigger and better flowers. Careful selection and cross pollinating meant we could create more colourful blooms. We could develop flowers with modified and elaborate petals and stamens and produce blooms in all the colours of the rainbow. Horticulture also developed the ability to create more bountiful crops and fruits.  We also managed to increase the range and variety of many hundreds of species of plants and thereby widen the available larder for many pollinating insects.


However, a whole industry has evolved to create flowering plants whose appeal and use to insects is pretty limited but to us humans they look spectacular!

These plants produce many flowers over long periods of time, often the flowers are bred to be larger and more elaborate and the colour combinations created are really quite astonishing.


Are these really flowers though?


1390282_29761392 overly bred rose

If a bee cannot recognise this as a flower….aren’t we missing the point?


These plants have been cross bred over time to create blooms that could never be created in nature. The stamens and petals are so modified, insects can’t access the nectar or transfer the pollen. The plant cannot reproduce itself. In fact many of these plants are sterile and so cannot reproduce without human interference.


Thus if the flower produced is incapable of performing the function for which it originally evolved – is it really a flower?

Now you may argue that it doesn’t really matter. These plants can’t cross pollinate with other plants and what’s the harm in planting them in the garden.  Flip that thought process round and ask what’s the good of planting them in the garden either.


The problem arises if too many highly developed flowers appear in domestic gardens – bees and butterflies would expend so much energy trying to find food.  They will have less food to store and this reduces their ability to survive the winters.

If we all try to do just a little bit…


Domestic gardens are becoming far more important to native wildlife than ever before. Do you really want to fill your gardens with plants that cannot provide any food for butterflies or bees?


All that is required is a little more thought before you buy any plants. If you go to a garden centre to buy your plants, have a look at the displays.  Do you see any insects flying around (now the Garden Centre could have sprayed the plants), but with that concentration of plants in flower, you would surely expect to see some bees buzzing around.


Flowers image B Roslett

image B Roslett


Bees see in Ultraviolet, so what we admire in a flower is not actually what attracts the bees to it. It is unlikely that commercial plant breeders check the UV look of the flowers in development to see how and whether a bee is attracted to it and it wouldn’t be commercially viable to do so.

It is quite possible therefore, what you see as a spectacular flower is totally unrecognisable to a bee or butterfly.


A simple check on the plant label will normally tell you whether a plant is good for bees.


We all love to fill our houses with beautiful things. However, you wouldn’t buy a kettle that didn’t boil water just because it looked nice. Good design is about form AND function.

So before you buy your plants for the garden, think what benefits this plant can bring to your garden.



Not sure which plants are best for bees?

All our designs use insect friendly flowers as much as possible, why not have a browse?

Cotinus Coggyria

cotinus coggryia royal purple


Cotinus Coggyria; Smoke Bush:

This does sound a bit like an infectious disease of the digestion, but it is actually one of my favourite plants.  As anyone who reads my ramblings will know, I love plants that are not green, this one has plum coloured leaves, and if you can get the sun shining through the leaves, they really take on a sunset glow.


Cotinus Coggyria and sunshine

Cotinus Coggyria and sunshine

It can get big, so you have to be prepared to get the loppers out, otherwise you have lots of bare branches and a few leaves at the ends. I have cut mine almost back to a stump and back it comes ( don’t do this regularly though). Hard pruning really just keeps the nice bits of the plant where you want them, rather than several feet in the air.


In summer it has frothy flower heads that are purply grey, and give this plant it’s common name – smoke bush. It really acts as a great foil for other plants especially silver and grey ones, but you can surround it with so many different colours, mine has a pale pink rose that flowers next to it in late spring one side, a giant silver Cardoon the other and in late autumn a chocolate brown Eupatorium comes up, just before the Cotinus drops its leaves in Winter, so a really really useful plant.


Billy No Mates – The Pot!

billy the pot

OK perhaps I am being a little harsh, but it does look rather lonely. The drive is totally paved, which really only leaves the option of pots, but only one pot does look out of scale. So I think it would improve the whole frontage of the house to have a much larger planter. 


Now the trouble with lots of plants in one pot together is lack of sufficient water for all to thrive, so these plants from the Loud Pinks and Rich Velvets PlantPlot, can cope with less water than others, but you would still need to water this planter really well every couple of days.  


I know they look a little bright in the picture, but the images of the plants were taken on a sunny day and ‘adjusting the light saturation levels etc’ in Photoshop is way beyond my skills!




Anyway, the plants used are strong, warm colours, to compliment the brick walls.


The planter used is also black, two things though, firstly I would repaint the black strip at the base of the house, to help the planter ‘blend in’ and secondly I would also repaint the brick planter black also, as you can see there is now a much better finish.


It’s so easy, and it really does make a positive impact to the house, all you have to do is a little trim at the end of the year and remember to water the planter regularly.

Fabulous Front Gardens

Small Garden Design: What does your garden say about you?  


What do visitors think when they wander up your drive?  Do they think what you would like them to think about you.


I bet you have really thought about the decoration in your home, what colour the walls are what furniture you have, but but the first thing people see when they visit you is what’s outside the front door – so a little thought here can make a big impression.


You may not have a very big front garden, and think that it won’t make much difference – it can and it does. So even if you only have a small space, make it gorgeous – it will make you happy too.


This front garden is really quite small, and because it’s a bungalow, you don’t want massive dark heavy planting as it will smother the building.  So we have gone for two styles here, both use plants sun loving plants and neither of then have anything too tall or prickly!



boring front with FF noticed 2

boring front and prairies



The garden has been ‘created’ by the addition of a few circular beds – so you can wander amongst them. In the winter interest is maintained with coloured stems that will glow bright red in the sunshine (perfect for solar xmas lights!). Bulbs can be added for some early spring colour and then you get happy pinks and reds all summer.



This garden is using your senses, there are lots of lovely plants to run your hands over and all will hum with happy bees and insects. Again, you can plant some pretty bulbs for spring and early autumn colour. All in all a simple easy and not too expensive way to change the message your house sends out.



So go on – let’s stop having boring front lawns!


What would butterflies think v1


Verbena Bonariensis

What makes a good plant – well in my book,


ones that don’t get smothered with bugs,


one that has pretty, natural looking flowers,


one that grows up and doesn’t flop everywhere,


one that self seeds without becoming a pest,


one that I cut down only once a year and forget,


one that insects like to buzz around,


one that smells wonderful (this is the only bit it falls short on),


and one that has a wonderful colour and that works well with loads of other plants…..


You should be sold on it by now!


BEE responsible gardeneers name added


Crocosmias are really good at creating spectacular displays without requiring acres of space.


They have bright fresh green sword like leaves, which means they grow up, not outwards and as they don’t have twiggy bits you won’t scratch yourself if they go all the way down the path. 


In summer you get tropical red, orange or yellow flowers held up above the leaves, so you can see all of them. 


They will spread out sideways so if they creep where you don’t want you pull up the corms (bulbs just on the surface). 


The nicest thing though is they seem to glow in the sun, and so a big ‘drift’ of them is just lovely, if you want a little more colour for more of the year, team them up with Allium bulbs, Gladioli ( there are some lovely ones out there), or plant them with loads of Verbena Bonariensis or Fennel.


All gardens need backbones, something reliable, attractive, dependable and colourful, with a little thought, you can have a better backbone than more usual ones, (conifers, privet, forsythia, laurel). 


I think pittosporums are really good at this, I know wet cold soils can ‘do them in’ but even in colder gardens with a little protection from the weather by way of a wall or windbreak, pittosporums can really perform. 


There are big ones and little ones, grey ones, greeny yellow ones, shiny green ones and my absolute favourite is a shiny purple black one.


This has bright green leaves in spring that turn a deep shiny purple black – it needs a bit of shelter, but its really fab and much less boring than a privet hedge!


Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non scripta)

Bluebells, the British Isles’ vision in spring, I don’t know anyone who does not say ‘oooh how lovely’ when they see a wood with its carpet of blue – well apart from my husband, but I’m sure he thinks it!  They can make wonderful garden plants too, but they do easily spread.


However, English bluebells (hyacinthoides non scripta) are being infiltrated by Spanish ones and we don’t really want those as they are not so pretty. So how do you know the difference. English Bluebells; the flowers all hang to one side and the stems ‘nod’, the flowers are small and dainty and have a lovely scent.


However, Spanish bluebells are here, and they interbreed with ours creating hybrids: The flowers are just about on one side, but the dainty nod has gone along with most of the smell.

hyacintoides hybrid

A Hybrid


Until you meet the Spanish version, flowers standing stiffly to attention and poking out in all directions, and usually no smell at all.


hyacinthoides hispanica

Spanish invader!

English bluebells are protected in the countryside so no picking from the wild, they need all the help they can get to stop being ‘bred away’ by the Spanish ones.

So if you want Bluebells, please only buy Hyacinthoides non scripta and know where they come from. Secondly, if you can, get rid of the spanish invaders and their hybrid offspring from your own gardens if you can, it will help slow down the loss of one of our nation’s best loved plants.


Forget-me-not (Myosotis)

This is an annual plant, I absolutely love it because it has happy flowers; when forget me not flowers and you know the warm sunshine is just around the corner.


The other reason I love it is it seeds everywhere but doesn’t intimidate other plants, it just wriggles in-between them, filling up gaps with little happy blue smiles.


By May they look like they have had a hard night on the town, but all I do is pull them up and throw them in the compost heap.


If some have seeded before you remove them, then more will pop up next year and you smile all over again!

BEE responsible gardeneers name added


Linum Grandiflorum Rubrum

You won’t have heard of this plant, but trust me it falls into the ‘happy flower’ category, and we all need happy!

They are annuals, so think sweet pea like foliage (loosely) treat them a bit like sweet peas, but let them set seed and pop up wherever they choose, I guarantee you will smile at the flowers!

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