6 August 2010
The lack of rain over the past few months has resulted in many of the best sources of nectar drying up, quite literally, as plants have put their energies into quickly setting seed rather than continue the show and new buds have withered. Such is dry gardening in a dry season but thankfully there are a few species that are reliable sources of nectar late in the season no matter how dry.
The Globe Thistles, Echinops sp. are bee magnets when they come into bloom in late summer. The plants growing here were grown from seed randomly pocketed on a garden visit somewhere so I am unsure of their parentage but they are little different from the rest - 1.5m high, rough, thistly foliage and blue-grey flower heads in perfect globes. There are named varieties in confident clear shades of blue and silver, some tall giants and some of compact growth but in the main the Globe Thistles are all similar with relatively minor differences. They are adapted to grow with minimal summer rainfall and have deep tap roots to reach any remaining moisture down below. The early season growth rapidly produces strong clumps of coarse white-backed grey-green leaves, they aren't the prettiest and can become rather tatty over a long dry summer, but by then the exciting spiky satellite buds are forming so who would care?
The heads are made up of lots of individual flowers and as they open the bees, big and small, gather. First on this flower is a small male White Faced Bee. He's feeding, but also waiting for a hungry female to arrive, ripe and ready for ravaging.
When the bumble's get in on the act there isn't much room for the smaller bees and their randy antics, this trio of circumnavigating workers stamping about have probably spoilt the mood and they have it to themselves.
After flowering and setting seed the heads are disappointingly short lived, there are no winter silhouettes to be had from these. When they fall apart and the leaves become increasingly disgraceful I will simply chop them down. They won't mind at all and neither will I.