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Earlier this year, we scattered a packet of seeds in the middle of the pollinator patch. The contents of the packet weren’t listed and all we knew was that they were bee friendly. We had to walk over the bed many times during the course of planting and weeding and I wasn’t confident that any of the seeds would manange to grow before they got trampled underfoot!
Well, how wrong can you be!
First came the love-in –the-mist (Nigella damascena) followed by a beautiful yellow marigold (Calendula Officinalis) and then Fiddleneck (Phacelia Tanacetifolia). When it comes to attracting bees, plants don’t come much better than Phacelia. It’s highly rated by Dave Goulson, founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT).
Phacelia is an annual herb that is in the same family as borage and viper’s bugloss, which are also excellent for pollinators. It grows to about 100cms and each stem gradually unfurls (like ferns) to expose the small, blue, bell-shaped flowers. The uncoiled branches look like the scroll on a violin, hence the common name of Fiddleneck. Other common names include lacy phacelia and blue or purple tansy. The German name for it is Bienenfreund, which translated means the bees’ friend.
Phacelia is native to the south western states of the USA and northern Mexico and is is commonly found growing in the deserts of California. It is used commercially as a bee plant to help pollinate crops and as a green manure.
I’d never heard of this plant until a couple of years ago when I sent for a pollinator friendly packet of seeds from Friends of the Earth and now of course I see it everywhere. They’ve had a large patch of it at Hillier’s Gardens, growing in a couple of beds just alongside Jermyn’s House……you may have spotted it?
Unfortunately it does look a bit scruffy when it’s dying back, but more than makes up for that when it’s in flower. So let’s celebrate the funny, fuzzy, bee-friendly phacelia and hope it seeds for another season in the pollinator patch!