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On the menu for... May 2017

Every May I look at our garden and note that I could do better. Invariably this is underlined in red felt-tip pen following a visit to The RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Despite my misgivings about my own plot, there is plenty on offer for pollinators. Fresh flowers are opening daily and long-term spring bloomers such as Pulmonaria ‘Diana Clare’ and Aubrieta are still going strong. No one could ever accuse them of being members of the blink-and-they’re-gone brigade.

It is the moment for Wisteria to strut its stuff. I am incapable of passing this glorious thug without stopping, staring and breathing in great nostril-loads of its wonderful fragrance.

Fritillaria imperialis ‘William Rex’

Ceanothus griseus var. horizontalis ‘Yankee Point’

Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst in Snow’ 

In our garden Wisteria is making a fine job of masking the smell of Fritillaria imperialis ‘William Rex’. Bees are attracted to the blooms of this statuesque fritillary and it makes an eye-catching addition to the border so I gladly forgive the stench.

Ceanothus griseus var. horizontalis ‘Yankee Point’ is a hub of bee activity at the moment, while Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst in Snow’ wins the prize for the hardy perennial bee magnet of the week. Some gardeners steer clear of Centaurea montana because of its reputation for self-sowing, but I have never had a problem with plants self-seeding. I only wish they would! 

Camassia quamash

Allium schoenoprasum

I remember the moment when I fell in love with Camassia. It was on a visit to Highgrove where swathes of them grew in a naturalistic style. I have planted a few Camassia quamash in our garden, but not enough. Needless to say, the autumn bulb order list is now underway.

Despite feeling that I should have a more floriferous, exciting garden at this time of year, there are heartening signs that the lull won’t last forever. Roses are beginning to bloom, lupin flowers are thrusting through the foliage and delphiniums have shrugged off a late frost and look set to be splendid very soon. Ornamental alliums are unfurling tantalisingly slowly, although there is no rush as the bees are busy on Allium schoenoprasum - good old chives. The flowers are edible and make a pretty addition to salad, but I won’t harvest any. Far better to leave them for the bees.

I am always interested to learn about the plants attracting pollinators in other gardeners’ gardens. Please let me know if you have a plant that you think I should grow.

I will link this post with Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, hosted by Why not pop over there and see what is flowering in gardens around the world?

Posted by Sarah Shoesmith

Sarah Shoesmith is a garden writer who blogs at .
She may be contacted via or @gardeningshoe1 on Twitter

8 Comments To "On the menu for... May 2017"

debsgarden On 23.05.2017
The oriental wisterias are very invasive here, but fortunately we have a couple of lovely natives which are vigorous but not terribly invasive. There is almost nothing prettier than a wisteria covered wall or trellis! Camassia quamash is a news flower to me. I love the color! Reply to this comment
Lisa On 18.05.2017
Your plants look great Sarah! The bees in my garden love alliums too. I find at least three bees on one allium bloom. Pollinators also seem to love catmint from what I experienced. Best wishes, Lisa Reply to this comment
Rose On 18.05.2017
Oh, how I wish I could grow Centaurea! I've bought several small plants including 'Amethyst in the Snow,' and none of them have survived. I have seen them in other gardens in our zone 5b area, so it must just be me. Camassia has become one of my favorites, too. Reply to this comment
Jo Turner On 16.05.2017
Enjoyed your post Sarah....Some wonderful Camassia quamash blooms...Also interested to note your mention of C. griseum. Encountered it for the first time last year, and was astonished at its potential width...6 feet if I recall! Haven't had an opportunity to use yet, but it sounds like a great nectar-rich evergreen groundcover for sure. Wonderful time of year in the garden, isn't it ... Thanks for sharing : ) Reply to this comment
Green Fingered Blogger On 16.05.2017
Ceanothus "Lemon & Lime" is the most popular with the bees at the moment, but they also love Ajuga reptans, and very soon our Pyracantha will be blooming which usually is absolutely humming with all sorts of pollinators! Reply to this comment
Kris P On 16.05.2017
I love Camassia too - regrettably, it does not love coastal Southern California. I am trying a couple of varieties of Centaurea, one of which looks a lot like the one you photographed, and I look forward to seeing them bloom here. Happy GBBD! Reply to this comment
Cathy Rollinson On 16.05.2017
You're right about the scent of wisteria - it's heavenly! I'm interested that bees visit the unpleasant-smelling flowers of Fritillaria imperialis, as I've always understood that flowers with nasty smells attract flies to pollinate them, whereas bees prefer nice scents. Reply to this comment
Lea's Menagerie On 15.05.2017
I love seeing the bees! Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! Reply to this comment
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