I mentioned a couple of mails ago that we would be adding a new flowering plant section to our website but as usual I am a bit behind. We have been growing some very nice nursery stock (available now) but we were having some problems finding packaging that would ensure our plants reached you in perfect condition. Packaging and pots are a problem as we are trying to cut down on plastic use. I can report that we haven't managed to solve the problem entirely but we will be using a new bio degradable material in our packs. The new plastic is 'Breakdown PET' which is made from recycled plastic, is recyclable but also biodegrades over 10 years if any material does end up in landfill. There are more environment friendly pot and tray solutions coming on the market next year which will enable us to further improve of nursery packaging and we look forward to making further changes when these products come on stream. Creating Wildlife Friendly Gardens Quickcrop has always been about growing fruit and vegetables in as natural a way as possible so it makes sense for us to continue on the same path when it comes to ornamental plants. We will be stocking a range of annuals, perennials, shrubs, grasses and ferns which will look wonderful in your garden but will also provide pollen, nectar and shelter for a wide range of wildlife. Wildlife friendly planting takes many things into consideration; the varieties of the flowering plants are important but also the time of year that they flower. Plants may be chosen as good nectar or pollen providers but we must also take their shade and sheltering properties into account. Bees and butterflies tend to hog the wildlife limelight but they are only a part of a much wider group affected by loss of habitat; we also need to support the less glamorous creepy crawlies, moths, frogs, birds or whoever else requires a home. Wanted dead or alive Wildlife friendly gardens are not all about bee friendly flowers, there are plenty of other guests we need to invite to the party all with different requirements. Flowering plants are valuable sources of pollen and nectar but how do they benefit the garden ecosystem when their blooms have died away? Many plants are just as useful dead as they are alive (e.g Eryngium giganteum above) as their rigid skeletons survive most of the winter and provide a home for insects sheltering from the cold. Increased winter insect habitats mean more winter insects who in turn become food for blue tits and other birds, and so the cycle continues. Flowers to suit a range of insects I guess it's obvious as we don't have the same type of eyes but insects don't see flowers in the same way we do. Bees see colour in ultraviolet so the colours we painstakingly arrange in a flower border look completely different to their target audience (after all flowers aren't showing off to you and me, they're trying to attract bees and other pollinating insects). The image above is a yellow cucumber flower under ultraviolet light showing just how different it looks and how the important parts are lit up like a beacon. See photographer Craig Burrows fantastic website http://www.cpburrows.com for more of these 'other worldly' images. Blue, purple, white and yellow blooms (to us) are said to be particularly attractive to bees while moths are attracted to white and other pale shades which are easier to see in low light. Flowers that attract moths are usually scented and become more so at night time when nocturnal moths are out and about. Some insects have longer tongues than others (the moth above has rolled his up for neatness) so have evolved with different species of flower for the mutual benefit of both parties. Short tongued insects prefer open, single flowers like aster or geum while long tongued insects appreciate deep throated flowers like wild honeysuckle or petunias. Shade and Shelter When choosing plants for wildlife gardens it's not all about flowers. Choosing plants that create shelter provide cool habitats for frogs and other shade loving garden guests. The soil underneath sheltering plants will be more active with insect life than those in the open. Planting ferns and other plants with a broad canopy creates a shady haven that will be frequented by blackbirds and robins hunting creepy crawlies for their lunch. Perennial Plant Selection We now have a range of perennial flowering plants ready to go which I have put together in our plant picker tool. Plants can be easily chosen by scrolling through the list with information on each variety available by clicking the blue 'i' button beside each plant icon. Our plants are available in packs of 6 or 15 where you can choose any plant from our range to make up your packs. As with the vegetable plants you can simply click 'add' below the picture to include a plant in your selection and 'clear' to remove it. It should be easy to see how the colours work together when you choose the plants as in the image above. Why buy perennials now? Perennials are flowering plants that return every year once planted. Some last longer than others but in general an investment made this year will repay you for years to come. While perennials can be planted in the spring they are also planted in summer to fill any gaps in the garden and to provide late season colour. Perennials are also traditionally planted in the autumn; they won't flower but will build a root system while the soil is still warm from which they will burst into life the following year. All our perennials are available in 9cm pots. The plants may seem relatively small when you get them but you will find they will romp away when planted. 9cm pots are also a much more cost effective way of ordering especially when ordering a number of plants, our 15 pack comes in at only €58.95 making each plant only €3.95. Ferns and Grasses We are also stocking a select range of ferns and grasses to add shape and shade to your planting schemes. We have started off with some old favourites but also have some more varieties coming on which will be ready in 4-6 weeks. I have included links to our new plant selections below including links to our handy hot and cool border packs which include a planting plan, perfect if you aren't sure what plants to pick. We will be adding a lot more to this selection in the coming months so if you are interested in adding colour and life to your garden please check back for updated plant lists. That's it for now, I'll see you next week!