Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bees Love Purple Phacelia and So Do I!

When it comes to wildflowers almost all the attention centers on perennials. They're marvelous investment plants that you can count on to make a good show in your garden year after year, but, you might want to consider adding a few annuals and biennials that are native to your part of the garden world. They're charming plants and add another dimension to the garden~many of the seedlings and first year plant's foliage is quite attractive. (Gardeners, Do Yourself A Big Favor)

 One of my favorite biennials is Purple Phacelia and it's blooming right now.
It has an interesting musky odor when you brush the leaves and flowers
I can't remember when I first met Phacelia  bipinnatifida but, I remember quite clearly the first time I saw it massed on a hillside. I was going to visit a new friend's garden and was driving up her steep drive, as I turned a bend in the drive every where I looked were blooming Purple Phacelia with bees dancing from flower to flower. There's something splendid about natives that mass naturally, and this was dazzling and magical.  I knew immediately that it had to become a part of Clay and Limestone and if at all possible I wanted it to make a big presence in the garden.
One year from seed, second year to flower, then it dies. 
I don't have hillsides of phacelia, that requires much moister soil than I can give it, but, where it's naturally wet the phacelia shines. 
Let's talk about biennials for just a bit.

To have flowers every year you have to get a colony started, so you need seeds, first year plants and flowering plants. I really was lucky to be given several plants in bloom and many first year seedlings. Here's how it works! Those first flowers were visited by Bumble bees and other pollinators and got fertilized, they set seed and then died. The fallen seeds germinated and over wintered; the following spring the original first year seedlings bloomed and their flowers were fertilized, set seed, and then died.  It's not a complicated process, but it's a brilliant cycle that continues to this day.  

I make sure the cycle is not interrupted. Which means that I collect the seeds and sprinkle them where I want new plants, sometimes I move the tiny seedlings, the first year plants and I have even been known to move second year plants in late winter.  They always seem to survive!

I hope that helps! 
Purple Phacelia plays well with other early blooming native plants.
As all gardeners know, some years are better then others and this has been an especially good year for phacelia...It didn't get hot too fast and we didn't have punishing rains. As Goldilocks said, "...just right." It looks delightful right now and many native bees~like the Mason bee in the top photo, honeybees in one below and small unidentified pollinators have been visiting the plants since they opened. 
Phacelia  has pretty good wildlife value! Bees love it! They want the nectar and pollen and there is plenty of food for a variety of other visitors like skippers and small butterflies.

But, really,  Phacelia is all about the bees and that makes this gardener happy.

xoxogail

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.

19 comments:

  1. Very interesting. I've read about a different Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia, a.k.a. Purple Tansy) being used as an autumn cover crop, but can't say I'm familiar with this particular Phacelia you've covered. I do agree it has beautiful flowers though and I love bee-friendly plants. I'll have to investigate further!!

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  2. Autograph albums were a big thing when I was a kid. This makes me think we should modify the classic motto: Never be sharp, never be flat, always *bee* natural.

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  3. It is a beauty, Gail! I sprinkled seeds of it at the North Carolina house where it grows wild in the nearby mountains. Now I know what the foliage looks like to help locate it and protect it. Thanks! xoxoxo
    Frances

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  4. The Phacelia bipinnatifida has not been near as prolific as the P. purshii is here.

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  5. Lovely plant, Gail! I do the same thing with my Hollyhocks. Beautiful shots with the pollinators.

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  6. It is really pretty. Great shot of the phacelia with honeybee.

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  7. Your are absolutely correct the Phacelia bipinnatifida in your garden is really beautfiful. I am going to explore this further.

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  8. Thanks for the id Gail. Coincidentally, I brought a couple of these home two days ago from my friend's house. When I asked what they were she said "Oh just some weed. It comes up every year." I figure it may not survive in my garden but at least it'll be appreciated :)

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  9. Great plant, great pictures. I have never tried this plant, but the mental gears are now turning to figure out a good place for it.

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  10. I have this all over my garden. I call it Waterleaf plant. They must have changed the botanical name. ??

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    1. Lisa, Waterleaf is a cousin of Phacelia. They are in the same family. Both of them are lovely.

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  11. Wish these were native to NY...they are perfect for moist areas of my garden.

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    1. That's too bad~Pennsylvania is a far north as it naturally occurs.

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  12. We have an apiary and yes, the bees do love Phacelia. I tried seeding a rather large area last year but had minimum success as we are really too dry for it's requirements. I love the flower though.

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  13. That's a lot of purples! I love them too next to blues, but somehow they are not as common here as in the temperate or subtropical climates.

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  14. I think phacelia likes more moisture and less night-time heat than I have in my garden. I've tried to grow it, but no luck yet. Same with Bowman's root. Your phacelia is beautiful, and I love how it blends with the columbine and iris.

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  15. I love this wild flower! I live in Huntsville, Al. and have them in numerous places on my property. They have re seeded themselves for the 8 years I've been here. They grow wild here we have never planted them. But thank you for the advice on spreading the seeds! I will be sure to try this this year!

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  16. I love this wild flower! I live in Huntsville, Al. and have them in numerous places on my property. They have re seeded themselves for the 8 years I've been here. They grow wild here we have never planted them. But thank you for the advice on spreading the seeds! I will be sure to try this this year!

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  17. I've been looking for a source for this seed as I'd love to get it going in my woodland garden. I saw it while hiking last spring and couldn't believe how many different bees were visiting it.

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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