The last supper

Dining out at Hyde Hall – top autumn eateries for insects are also a feast for the eyes

One of my weekly tasks is to choose six plants in the garden that are looking at their best. A list of these plants, together with photos, is sent to our front of house team so that our visitors know which plants to look out for in the garden.

Elsholtzia stauntoniiThe morning I chose to do this the weather could not have been better as it was warm, sunny and still. As I walked around the garden I soon noticed that there are still plenty of plants that are humming with life, as insects feed on their last offering of nectar.

In the Queen Mother’s Garden the purple-pink tubular flowers of Elsholtzia stauntonii were attracting a range of pollinators including hoverflies, honeybees, bumblebees and wasps. This sub-shrub is easy to grow in a sunny spot and its aromatic leaves turn a handsome red in autumn.

The Queen Mother’s Garden is also home to a border devoted to salvias, which really prove their worth at this time of year. I love the range of flowers with their stunning colours, their differences in form, and many of them provide food for pollinators too. The bright, almost luminous pink flowers of Salvia microphylla ‘Cerro Potosi’ stood out so much that from a distance they appeared to float without stems, while Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’ was certainly living up to its name.

Autumn flowering asterThe Herbaceous Border is like a lavish banquet of autumn perennials - or perhaps more of an ‘all you can eat’ buffet. The salmon-pink flowers of the perennial aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Andenken an Alma Pӧtschke’ (see photo) seemed to be the favourite dish, with the flowers on the brink of being smothered with pollinators. The single, pollinator friendly, magenta-pink flowers of Dahlia ‘Bishop of Canterbury’ were catering to the bumblebees and proving to be a popular dessert.

Nearby in the Farmhouse Garden it was the sound of buzzing that drew my attention to Abelia × grandiflora. On closer inspection I found bumblebees, honeybees and hoverflies all politely taking their turn in supping from the fragrant, soft pink flowers of this evergreen shrub.

Salvia border at Hyde HallPlanting autumn-flowering perennials and shrubs not only gives the pollinators a last supper of the year, but it gives us gardeners a beautiful swan-song of colour to remember and warm our thoughts through the colder months ahead.

Useful links

See our Perfect for Pollinators list

Find out about the RHS's pioneering Plants for Bugs research

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