The Ecologist


The elegant nectar border.

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An hour in the eco garden: November

by Hazel Sillver

Now is the time to plant things that will provide bees and butterflies with food next year. But fear not, this doesn’t mean your garden has to start looking like a field. Hazel Sillver suggests three planting schemes of biennials and perennials for an elegant nectar border.


Beautiful by day and by moonlight

At the back:

*White chicory (Cichorium intybus f. album)

*White foxglove (Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora)

*Silver monkshood (Aconitum ‘Stainless Steel’) 

In the middle:

*Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)

*Sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis var. albiflora)

*Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum 'Alabaster')

At the front:

*Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina)

*White lavender (Lavandula angustifolia 'Alba')

*Rock rose (Helianthemum 'The Bride')



A calming colour palette that blooms in summer and autumn

At the back:

*Viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare) 

*Purple top (Verbena bonariensis)

*Russian sage (Perovskia 'Blue Spire')

In the middle:

*Globe thistle (Echinops bannaticus 'Taplow Blue')

*Michaelmas daisy (Aster × frikartii 'Mönch' )

*Sea holly (Eryngium bourgatii 'Picos Blue')

At the front:

*Catmint (Nepeta × faassenii)

*Meadow cranesbill (Geranium pratense 'Mrs Kendall Clark')

*Scabious (Scabiosa caucasica 'Clive Greaves')



Warm tones that look good interspersed with ornamental grasses

At the back:

*Purple angelica (‘Vicar’s Mead’ or A.gigas)

*Milky bellflower (Campanula lactiflora 'Loddon Anna')

*Hollyhock (Alcea rosea 'Nigra')

In the middle:

*Chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus)

*Musk mallow (Malva moschata)

*Yarrow (Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen')

At the front:

*Stonecrop (Sedum 'Matrona')

*Marjoram (Origanum laevigatum 'Herrenhausen’ and ‘Kent Beauty’)

*Thyme (Coccineus Group and 'Bressingham')


*Sun - All the planting schemes listed here require a sunny position. 

*Bulk buy - Insects, such as honeybees, like to forage on one type of plant at a time, so save them some energy and plant en masse. If you have a sizeable border, I would recommend buying at least ten of each of the plants above. This will mean less air miles for the bees. 

*Tapestry effect - To make the planting schemes look great, avoid putting the same thing in big groups - for instance, don’t clump all the verbena together and all the catmint together. Instead mix them all up to create a beautiful tapestry effect. 

*One hit wonders – If you don’t have the time, space or inclination to do one of the border schemes above, you could choose to plant a Buddleja instead. Known as the ‘butterfly bush’, just one specimen will provide a vast source of nectar for bees and butterflies. Two of the best are: Buddleja alternifolia (lavender blue, 4mx4m) and B.davidii 'Black Knight' (regal purple, 2mx1.5m). 

Suppliers: Burncoose Nurseries, 01209 860316, Beeches Nursery, 01799 584362, and Bee Happy Plants, 01460 221929. 

To find your nearest supplier, use the RHS Plant Finder and the RHS Nursery Finder.

Hazel Sillver is a freelance journalist and a contributor to the Ecologist Green Living section; email:




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