Bouquets for Birds and Butterflies
At the beginning of this summer, the new subterranean drip irrigation system was installed on my property. It features tubing with holes at either twelve or twenty-four inches apart. When it runs (from my well) it leaves circles of dampness polka-dotting the soil surface. I had purchased two packets of wildflower seed, one with a selection of plants to attract bees, and the other for butterflies. Mixing them together, I figured that they wouldn’t fare well scattered, at least this year. My daughter and I pressed seed into many of the wet spots and hoped the rabbits wouldn’t notice.
What happened was a delightful surprise, as only a garden can provide. In many locations around the yard grew mixed bouquets of wildflowers.
If we had separated selected seed and planned the planting, nothing so beautiful would have come of it. Although many species either didn’t emerge or were eaten, the most common survivors were zinnias, cosmos and borage.
I was amazed and thrilled; I had purchased a borage plant and then fed it to the rabbits (at least, that is what they thought). Here now are borage plants all over the yard, their royal blue, cucumber-flavored flowers dipping modestly behind the flaunting cosmos.
In fact, I now have several very hearty sweet basil plants that put the carefully cultivated plants in my raised veggie beds to shame. There is also dill and cilantro growing well even this late in the season.
There are some plants in the bouquets that haven’t reached maturity yet, so there may still be some surprises. The only flower that emerged that I didn’t recognize and had to look up was camellia balsam (Impatiens balsamina). Two stalks of it, one pink and one red, give these ‘arrangements’ a vertical line.
Although not all of these wildflowers are native to San Diego, or even California, they provide food for birds, bees and are host plants for butterflies, providing the caterpillars food, a place to form their chrysalises, and nectar for the mature butterfly. Bees like small flowers with little drops of nectar too small to drown in, with a nice landing pad of a petal close by. Everything in the carrot family works well. Here are some suggested flowers to plant:
Mexican lupine, Mexican sunflower, borage, calendula, camellia balsam, scabiosa, cornflower, milkweed, parsley, crimson clover, aster, coreopsis, cosmos, prairie gayfeather, purple coneflower, sweet sultan, sneezeweed, sweet William, bishops flower, black-eyed Susan, dill, snapdragon, yarrow, bergamot, cleome, verbena, and butterfly bush.
Cosmos, sunflowers, borage, coriander, Siberian wallflower, dill, coreopsis, poppies, gaillardia, zinnia, sweet basil, purple prairie clover, globe gillia, catnip, lemon mint, black-eyed Susan, goldenrod, lavender hyssop, bergamot, yarrow, mint, California buckwheat.
Be sure to plant flowers that bees love away from paths and walkways if you or your family want to avoid contact with the bees.