Summer has quietly been and gone without many of us realising that it had ever actually arrived. The weather over the summer has been a rollercoaster ride going from one extreme to another and back again. Almost overnight the September temperatures have dropped and there is a feeling in the air, Autumn is on its way.
Despite all that the weather has thrown at us this year the late summer borders are looking their best and are full of vibrant yellows, oranges and reds. If you have borders in full sun the best plants for late flower colour are Rudbeckia, Helenium, Crocosmia and Sedums. They look even better when intermingled with grasses, in our garden we use stipa tenuissima and deschampsia which turns a lovely golden colour in the autumn.
A lot of the plants that we use in the garden attract a variety of bees and hoverflies. This time of year the garden is literally buzzing, with every available plant covered in insects busy collecting pollen and nectar. I am not a great fan of ivy and it is growing on one of the boundary walls, but at this time of year when it is in flower, the bees cannot get enough of it. It is a great sight to see.
Unfortunately, the volatile summer weather has done no favours for our wildlife. According to the RSBP the wet, cold spring has taken its toll on the number of young birds this year. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but the sustained rain and colder than usual temperatures could have made it more difficult for chicks to survive. It has also been a bad year for bumblebees especially in flooded areas. Many species nest in the ground so their nests are likely to have been destroyed. Whilst the warm, dry spell in parts of the country will have been too late for many bees, it would have been a welcome relief for others. It is also thought to be the worst year for butterflies as they can’t fly in the rain and they need warmth to fly and breed, so little sunshine and lots of rain will disrupt their breeding, putting local populations at risk of dying out.
So what can we do to help? We can ensure that birds get fit for the breeding season by putting out food for them, leaving piles of leaves under shrubs so that the birds can find beetles and insect larvae, and maybe plant a shrub for its berries. Also, plant flowers now to boost food availability for bees and butterflies, or plan ahead and increase food supplies for next year. If you want to help further, you could keep a patch of long grass for meadow brown, speckled wood and ringlet butterflies to breed in next year.
Spring seems to be a long way off, but it will soon be here and now is the time to be planting your daffodils if you have not already done so. They need a long growing season, so the sooner they are in the ground the better the flowers will be come spring. Tulips however can be planted right up to Christmas and will still flower well next year.