My main emphasis is on bee-friendly plants, so herbaceous perennials interspersed with annuals. This means the garden looks pretty bleak over winter but is worth it for the show during the growing season which here in the Sussex is long and bountiful. I find perennials such hard workers and they just do their thing, year after year and a bit of timely dividing every other year keeps them healthy and allows me to spread the lurve - either in my own garden or by selling or giving away portions of good performers to other gardeners. And I can sow the seeds. Honestly, what's not to like?
In the spring, the look is all about cottage garden, as I have lupins galore (they seem to love my clay) and a lot of random Veronica; honesty; hardy geraniums and alliums, irises and the glorious verdant herbiness of the awakening summer plants. I live in a cottage: I have a garden so I am so pleased I have the chance to indulge this method of planting - a tumble and jumble of colour and greens and an exuberance which is so welcome after the winter.
The insects love all these too. Not only my bees but hoverflies, bumblebees of all kinds, solitary bees and early butterflies. The wildlife adds a dimension to gardening - a sense of purpose I suppose for me as it rubber-stamps that I'm doing a good and valuable job. Our gardens are such important spaces for pollinators, amphibians, small mammals, reptiles and birds since their 'wilder' habitats have been encroached upon: we really should feel obliged to accommodate their needs as much as possible. It's not exactly a chore...
Summer approaches and the garden subtly changes as the spires of Verbascum, Verbena bonariensis and Nepeta, Foxtail lily, Digitalis cilata and Leucanthemum reach their maximum height, joined by the audible buzz and hum from the insects. I've added some grasses this year to provide some movement and a different texture and I'm really pleased with the results. I've had great success with annuals from Higgledy Garden - I'm not very good with them normally but the blue of the cornflower looks wonderful and a happy accident that it clashes so brilliantly with an orange Achillea that I'd forgotten was lurking underneath. Ammi majus is another new one for me this year and have given an airy element to the border which is useful when the plants are so crammed in!
I'm looking forward to August as the asters and Echinacea start to flower, the grasses signal the coolness of an autumn breeze and the apples begin to ripen. But just now, I'm happy to sit in the shade of those apple trees and watch the summer garden perform.