Here at Common Farm Flowers in Somerset, our ethos is clear: look after the invertebrates, and the rest of the food chain will look after itself. It may look as though we grow flowers to make a living… Well, we do! But we choose to make a living growing flowers because that way, so long as we grow flowers with an eye to the invertebrates who will profit from the flowers we sow, then our whole environment will be enriched.
And having been invited to write a post for The Gardening with Disabilities Trust I wonder if I can encourage you to do the same.
Whether you garden a large space or a small pot, you can always sow a seed with the environment in mind and there are lots of ways you can do it.
1 make sure the compost you use is peat free: peat based composts are created using peat cut from fast disappearing peat bogs which, undisturbed, act as huge carbon sequestering sinks. There are lots of alternatives to using peat based composts. Always ask for peat free when visiting the garden centre or ordering online as the more the customers ask the more suppliers will know that the demand is there for peat free compost.
2 make sure that the flowers you sow are bee and pollinator friendly and haven’t been dipped in herbicide or fungicide. You can usually tell seed which has been treated with poison because it’ll will be an unnatural colour – a strange green, or unnatural looking yellow. It should say on the seed packet when seed has been treated. Always check. Equally varieties which are advertised as ‘pollen free,’ or ‘hayfever friendly,’ will be no good for your environment. They may not make you sneeze, but they will not give anything to your local invertebrate population who may go hungry as a result.
3 sow varieties which are easy for your flying friends to feed from, so flat face flowers, not so heavy with petals that only those air born creatures with incredibly long proboscis can access the pollen or nectar. A flat faced flower, with easy landing stages (petals,) and wide areas of pollen for collecting will please your flying friends no end, as well as pleasing you. You could choose an easy mix of repeat flowering annuals to sow in a pot or a bed, and both your vases and your invertebrates will be full.
Five faves: Ammi majus for lace
Cosmos for a daisy shape
Chinese forget me not – the bees LOVE them
Sweet peas for scent
And last but not least nigella because the birds too will be happy if you let them set seed for the birds to eat as the seed scatters.
Georgie Newbery is a flower farmer and florist based between Bruton and Wincanton in Somerset. Join her online or at the farm for one of her popular workshops, or follow her on youtube for lots more gardening tips and tricks.