Phoargh! Nice Understory…

We’re establishing a kind of mixed orchard area at our new house. I say “kind of” because I’ve slipped a few other things in there, about which more anon, but also because we’re developing a really interesting understory. I’m baffled by folk who plant trees and don’t do anything about the ground around them, which can often be barren. We hear quite a lot from people wanting wildflower meadows in traditional orchard schemes, which is a bit tricky, and we thought we would do something different to match our informal design and interesting plant choices. I started our understory planting last winter when I popped in some Rosa rugosa, together with various berries and currants, and now it’s the time of year to move on to bulbs.
I’m in the middle of planting 3,000; Bluebells (English, of course), Wild daffodils, Wood Anemones, Crocus, winter aconite, Common Snowdrops, Ramsons, Fritillaries – some of my favourite things. They’re going to be perfect as the canopy develops, and I hope there’ll naturalize freely like they’re supposed to because I’m not planting another 3,000! These bulbs have a number of fabulous qualities:
1. They’re beautiful flowers.
2. They often flower at helpful times of year, not just from an aesthetic point of view but also for…
3. …wildlife. Bees crave early season pollen for their developing brood from early flowering plants like winter aconites and crocuses, for example.
4. They generally do well in the shade, where not much else might thrive.
After these have gone in I’m getting some Meadow Cranesbill going in a sunny spot, plus native Foxgloves of course. These are great bumblebee plants; many of our bumblebee species’ natural habitat is, after all, woodland edge, where they thrive.
I’ve got Nepalese and Szechuan pepper plants coming from Otter Farm, and there’s a lot more to go in, but all in good time. We need to let the trees get going and the site develop.