Seeds to sow

Posted in All posts, March, on

The garden is full of the promise of Spring. Bright aconites blaze along the ground, while the more modest snowdrops and hellebores demurely bow their pretty heads. It’s good to feel as though the quiet, planning months of the winter are behind us, and action lies ahead. 

Our seed box is filling with tempting packets, all lined up and waiting for the right months for sowing to come along. Without a greenhouse, I tend to opt for those that can be sown directly in to the ground.

Among the rapidly growing collection are seeds for three nectar-rich plants that no pollinator-friendly patch should be without.  I can’t wait to have these in flower in the garden...

Phacelia tanacetifolia

Bees love Phacelia, as do a whole host of other beneficial insects such as ladybirds, hoverflies and lacewings.  Its lilac flowers open in sequence along curled stems to provide a feast of nectar over several months.

Phacelia can be used as a green manure, and digging the plants in immediately after flowering will prevent them from self-seeding. I don’t object to plants coming up in unexpected places, and will want to leave the flowers in tact for as long as possible for the insects to enjoy; but our heavy clay soil could do with extra organic matter, so perhaps I’ll be able to find room for some sacrificial Phacelia at the bottom of the garden which can be harvested as a green manure.

Echium vulgare (Viper’s Bugloss)

I tried this last year with only minimal success, in an area at the back of the garden, which stays in shade for most of the day.  The resulting plants were leggy and didn’t produce many flowers.

Viper’s bugloss belongs to the Boraginaceae family, which includes a large number of bee-attracting plants including Borage and Alkanet.  Its ample flow of nectar should attract a whole host of pollinating insects, so this year I will choose a sunny spot for the bugloss and in the shady spot I’ll sow this seed mix instead.

Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens' (Honeywort)

I couldn’t resist a plant that goes by the name of Honeywort, even though I will have to wait until Autumn if I’m to sow it direct.  Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ yields a high nectar content that attracts butterflies and bees.  Another self-seeder, I hope to see it springing up in the borders year on year, with its pretty foliage and purple bells.  And it will look just as lovely inside, as an unusual addition to flower arrangements.  I must remember to try Sarah’s recommended method of searing the cut stems in boiling water for 30 seconds to prolong their life.

What seeds are you planning to sow this year?

Thanks for reading,

Helen D writes about simple pleasures and seasonal observations at The House at Nab End. She is a volunteer BeeWalker for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and her gardening is inspired by her love of the natural world.