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There are plenty of bees and other pollinators still about late summer and into the early Autumn, so it’s wise to ensure that your planting and gardening practices provide a steady source of nectar well into the autumn months… not just in spring and early summer.
Nevertheless, it’s not just about the flowers. There are other measures you must take to make sure your garden is a welcoming environment, and not a fatal one for visiting pollinator species.
The drastic reduction in the amount of food (flowers) and safe nesting sites in our landscapes for insects, pollinators and biodiversity in general means that every household has a part to play in creating a mini oasis for these precious creatures.
Pollinator species encompass insects as diverse as native bees, butterflies, tachinid flies and even beetles.
Did you know that there are 101 species of bee and 180 species of hoverfly that occur in Ireland and these comprise the main insect varieties we term pollinators here?
It’s easy to get a visual of all the species you need to protect. Just head to Biodiversity Ireland and take a look at the great visual resource on their website. They have a Species Profile for BEES and other insects like Hoverflies.
You can even check out their video detailing an introduction to Ireland’s 100 wild bee species, and why they’re in trouble.
If you would like to get involved long term in protecting pollinators, take a look at The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan which is filled with research , toolkits, community news and the latest initiatives.
Regardless of what you wish to plant in the autumn, be sure that the plants are free of insecticides or toxic chemicals such as insecticides, fungicides and herbicides.
Generally speaking any flowering plant that yields within a longer growing season is a good way to ensure your bees and pollinator insects don’t starve after binging themselves on the spring crop.
Wallflower species that have a long flowering season that stretch into the colder months are a safe bet. Choose the Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’, which can flower up to nine months in the year.
There are about 90 species to this structurally friendly flowering perennial that will yield flowers. for pollinators from late summer through to the autumn. They are also known as Michaelmas Daisies.
The hint is in the name! This fast spreading perennial and a smaller variation of Asters, will deliver blooms on September 29th, the feast of St. Michael, Archangel. You’ll get a profuse array of flowers that will sprout at the end of Summer right into October.
You can find them in various shades of white, blue, purple and pink. What’s more it is a fast spreading plant that gains ground if you let it grow year on year. This makes for a perfect border plant.
Here is a great blog that details the 12 best varieties of Mechalemas daisies to grow.
Coneflowers, aka Echinacea are another variety from this family of late bloomers.
This is a delightful plant for any gardener that wants a bit of colour late into the Autumn months. It has a very architectural look with a very vibrant purple bloom consisting of globular clusters of tiny bright purple flowers. It will complement any contemporary landscaping or urban garden.
Sedums are succulent species that deliver very architectural leaves which are beautiful in their own right. Nevertheless their mother load of tiny starry white flowers or pink clusters for bigger sedum varieties will emerge late in summer - usually by mid-August and into September.
If you have an urban rock garden, balcony or gravel driveway, this could be an excellent option for some autumn blossoms.
Dahlias are annuals that will take a long time to grow to sufficient height. The stems will need support as the bigger varieties grow for long and to a great height before producing late summer blossoms. But when they do, the results are satisfyingly spectacular.
You will have to plant their tubers in the winter and keep the solid well fed and watered into the summer. Keep them positioned in direct sunshine to guarantee any flowers.
If you keep the soil well fertilized after sprouting, they’ll start blooming late in July and into the month of August, especially with good deadheading.
Dahlias will work well with other colourful late-summer perennials, such as coneflowers and sedums. Their fierce multiple-petalled beauty and vibrant colours will attract pollinators.
A simple practice like deadheading flowering perennial plants and wallflowers will keep the new buds flowers coming more regularly and for much longer in the season.
Deadheading faded flowers tricks the plant into assuming the seeding process has not begun and will also save the plant from expending its energy into seeding. This energy can then be rediverted into flowering again.
Flowers such as roses, dahlias, marigolds, zinnias, and geraniums, will deliver a steady crop for longer with deadheading. Some roses even grow into the winter!
Check this handy article on The Dos and Don'ts of Deadheading Flowers!
If you have a property with more extensive grounds, there is the temptation to cut back on wild grasses or mow down your backyard lawns. Even if the desire to keep things looking tidy is great, why not leave a periphery for wildflowers to thrive on every border.
Places like roadside verges outside your property, field margins, and the incidental farm lanes or driveway edges could be left to thrive naturally with wild flower species.
Mother nature will restore these ‘wild’ areas naturally with seasonal flowers.
If you decide to sow wildflowers yourself please do not sow seed selections that are not native to our Irish habitats. Check for local varieties or better still harvest your own seeds from wild meadows and sow them closer to home.
Autumn is also a good time to make sure you have nectar at the ready early in the spring so don’t forget to start planting multiple bulbs now. Plant flowers such as Snowdrop, Crocus, and Grape Hyacinth.
You could even plant a few fruit trees to create a mini orchard to give early spring flowers year in year.