Below I have compiled a list of suitable flowers for allotments and vegetable plots. All of them I have grown for several years now and are easy to grow, nice to look at and good for pollinators. I have also included some advice for sowing and anything else I thought would be interesting to know about the plants.
Corncockle ( Agrostemma githago): This is a native wildflower but very rare in the wild. The seeds can be sown where they are to flower in March or April and will flower from June/July onwards. The flowers will attract mostly hoverflies and some bees and look beautiful when waving on slender stems in a light breeze. All parts of the plant are poisonous including the seeds but as long as you don`t eat the plant (or the seeds) you should be alright. Corncockle, as a former arable weed, needs a sunny position and fertile well-drained soil to grow well.
The flowers attract bees and hoverflies and are either bright orange or white.
|Arctotis fastuosa is an unusual but very attractive plant|
Borage (Borago officinalis): Borage is a very attractive plant for honeybees and bumblebees and has beautiful flowers which can be blue, white or pink. It is also very easy to grow. Sow the big seeds in April directly into the soil outside. Choose the location carefully; borage is quite a big and gangly plant and can smother neighbouring plants. It will also readily self-seed. Therefore it is best so sow the plants in a little wildlife area or unused corner of your plot. Borage will need a sunny position and a fertile soil, otherwise it will not do very well.
The leaves have a cucumber flavour and can be eaten when young (older leaves are quite prickly). The flowers are a nice addition in salads, soups and sandwiches.
|Borage has very attractive flowers|
Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis): Pot marigold is a classic allotment and vegetable patch flower. You can grow the shorter varieties in between your vegetables to provide a splash of colour from July right until the first frosts in autumn. Sow the seeds where they are to flower in April and you can enjoy the first flowers at the end of June. The plant will readily self-seed but do not get annoying as they are easily hoed off.
Avoid double-flowered pot marigold as bees will not visit these flowers. Stick with single-flowered varieties and the bees will happily come to your plot.
|Cosmos bipinnatus with a bumblebee visiting|
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus): Every allotment should have at least one sunflower as they are such impressive plants and the huge flowers are really attractive for bees and bumblebees. You can sow the big seeds straight into the soil outside in April or start them indoors in pots in March. Sunflowers need full sun and a fertile soil and as more you feed and water as taller your sunflowers will grow (if you have chosen to grow a tall variety such as `Russian Giant`).
Poached-egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii): A really nice plant to cover the ground and protect the soil. It likes a sunny position and moist soil but will grow in any ordinary garden soil if it is not too dry. Poached-egg plant is low-growing and a good choice to cover the soil around fruit bushes. It can be sown in March and flowers quite early in late May/June. Early hoverflies like the flowers and by planting poached-egg plant you can lure them to your plot.
The plant readily self-seeds and if you have sown it once you don`t have to sow it again.
|Limnanthes douglasii sown together with Osteospermum|
|Madia elegans planted together with Cosmos and Physostegia|
Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana): This is a perennial plant so it is best you buy a young plant instead of sowing the seeds. Obedient plant is native to North America and likes fertile moist soil in sun or part-shade. Physostegia flowers from August to September and the pink tubular flowers are loved by bumblebees. There is something special about this plant as well: you can move the flowers in any direction without braking them off, once moved the flowers will stay in the new position without springing back in their original position. This is quite addictive and you will soon find yourself moving the flowers of this plant around the flower stalk every time you visit your plot.
Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta): In contrast to perennial Rudbeckia`s commonly planted in gardens this is an annual plant which flowers in August and September if sown in April. Black-eyed susan is best sown indoors and grown on individually in pots until it is safe to plant it outside (after the last frosts in late April/May). It needs a sunny position and fertile soil and will quickly establish if the soil is not too dry. Bees and bumblebees like the flowers but I have also seen butterflies visiting.
There are varieties with pure yellow flowers and varieties with a mix of yellow and dark red flowers. I normally grow a mix of both and it is a good plant to provide pollen and nectar late in the season. You can grow the shorter varieties of black-eyed susan in between your vegetables or if you like the taller varieties more grow them together with other taller plants such as borage and cosmos.
|Black-eyed susan is a magnet for bees and bumblebees|
I hope I could give you some inspiration about what flowers to grow this year. Maybe you will even try one of the more unusual plants I mentioned. Once you have done the hard work of sowing and planting sit back and relax and enjoy your flower spectacle and all the pollinators you will attract to your plot.