Please read the introductory page in the Real Botany of Desire for the background to why I’m listing the observed insect favourite flowers that bloom during this month, and which seem to be the most popular with the groups of insects which frequent our garden. Very few insect friendly flowers are open in December. The Hamamelis cultivars we grow certainly attract any of the few flies which might be active on milder days. This is H. ‘Robert’ …
If reading the introductory page is a click too far, then briefly, there’s a huge issue with loss of wild flowers as agriculture intensifies and mono-cultures prevail. This impacts on all the insects which rely on flowers as food sources. But all flowers aren’t equal in their appeal to insects, or particular groups of insects, (e.g. Honeybees, Bumblebees, Hover flies, Moths, Butterflies) and many nursery bred plants have been designed to be attractive to our senses, not insects. Some flowers are useful as both pollen and nectar sources (P,N) whereas others just seem to provide one of these insect foodstuffs, and I’ll try to include this information with the images. So this simple record is to help gardeners think about this issue, and maybe plant more flowers to help our very diverse native insect groups. I’ve found that many of the best plants seem to be some of our native wild flowers which can in other respects have real garden merit. Equally there are many plants from the other side of the globe which are preferentially favoured over native flowers at certain times of the year – there is no simple easy guide to their relative appeal. The positive spin offs from incorporating more insect friendly flowers in our gardens apart from the appeal of seeing the insects themselves will be better pollination of our crops, and more varied wildlife in our gardens, since insects are at the bottom of many animal food chains.
It’s certainly not exhaustive, and if you know other flowers which have equal appeal, which aren’t listed here, do please let me know, and I’ll trial them up here as well. This work started a couple of years before my blog began in March 2011, but previous to that I’d produced the UK’s first DVD-ROM guide to Garden Moths ” In A Different Light”. This project attempts to widen that work in a more general way.
Of course in December in a normal year, there are very few insects around other than on the odd rare mild and sunny day. But we still have a few flowers open, and these are the ones which seem to attract what few insects are on the wing.
Finally as I mention elsewhere, the actual number of flowers of a single plant type growing together, and their position in the garden (e.g.sun or shade), can also impact on how favoured the flowers are by your garden’s insect population – probably because sun and warmth can affect nectar and pollen production and release.
… Our first Hamamelis flowers usually open by the end of December, this is H. intermedia ‘Vesna’, and it often seems to have the odd fly around its flowers. And these are sufficient to produce viable seed to be set. I’ve never seen a moth attracted to its flowers though. 27/12/10 …
… Camellia sasanqua ‘Narumigata’. The flowers of the sasanqua Camellias which open late autumn/early winter clearly have some appeal to our flies, even though the plants originate from SE Asia. Again no other insects have been recorded visiting them. 28/12/11 …
… In a mild year there may still be some flowers of the common native Ivy, Hedera helix. If so, they will be a preferred nectar source for any late season moths or flies. One of the best nectar sources to have in a garden for late in the year …
Thanks for reading. And do browse around the rest of the Blog Pages….
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Last updated 23/01/2013
I stumbled upon your blog by accident when googling whether Pieris had any wildlife appeal. What a happy accident it was. I am currently having a massive revamp in my garden and anything that does not attract wildlife is going! I very very nearly dug up my hellebore because I’d never seen any visitors – I certainly won’t be doing now. I’m also going to go through your yearly calendar and make sure each month is providing some benefit. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge
Thanks for the comment. I’m glad that you’ve found it helpful – this sort of feedback makes the idea of this project worthwhile. But after this spring I shall have to update some early season flowers ….I’ve seen bumblebees on snowdrops for the first time ever, as well as the lovely Scilla mischtschenkoana – a great early season flower- for example. I’m still not sure why they attracted them this spring, whereas not before. But one thing which strikes me with every passing year is that the more of a particular type of insect friendly flower you can cram in, then the more valuable they will be.
I’m glad that the Hellebore and Pieris will be spared!
I also came across this lovely website by accident, when googling “do slugs use their slime to abseil down?” and your lovely piece came up. (I have a rather poor photo of our slug coming off the bird table by slime….) Now I find this very useful page on insect friendly plants by the month. Thank you. I have made a note and printed the instructions of how to find you for a visit when we are all allowed off the lead from this pandemic. Not too far for us to come.
Thanks for the comment about abseiling slugs – funnily enough I’m just working through all my previous post, correcting unnoticed errors and updating links, ( a bit of a Herculean task !) for another possible project, and just came across my slug piece, which I remember well, even though it was all those years ago.
The insect friendly flowers pages are also due a bit of an update, since back in the days when I put them together, we only had visiting honeybees – if you look at some of my posts from this year, you’ll see we now have several on site colonies, thanks to 4 swarms moving in this year, so I’ve now got more thoughts on good honeybee plants through the year.
Anyway, as you’ve seen for the foreseeable future, we’re opening by arrangement only, when we’re around, from January to October though I suspect early January is going to be out with Covid.
If you keep an eye on the blog/garden views pages, you’ll get a feel for what’s going on throughout the year,
best wishes and look forward to seeing you, maybe sometime in 2021,