Tomorrow marks the International Day for Biological Diversity to raise awareness of global biodiversity issues. Biodiversity is important because the more species-rich an environment, the more healthy and productive it will be.
There are many components to permaculture, such as recycling waste, using water and energy sustainably and maximising genetic diversity. But where do flowers fit in?
Emma O’Neill, Head Gardener at Garden Organic, the national charity for the organic grower, is a huge believer in the importance of flowers in all gardens. As a part of Candide's Festival of Flowers
, Emma explains what permaculture gardening is and the role flowers play; with mention of the key flowers to include if you're looking to start your own!
What is a permaculture garden?
There are many descriptions of permaculture; the dictionary definition is ‘the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.' However, permaculture is no longer just used in agricultural settings but gardens all over the world. It is a holistic approach to gardening based on how things work in nature, emphasising production and harmony.
What plants can you find in a permaculture garden?
Often one of the key components of permaculture is that plants are chosen to be multi-functional, for example, medicinal, edible, ground cover, windbreak, shade cover, to name a few. Emphasis is on choosing the right plant for the right place, and once the plant is in the garden, it should be low maintenance, preferably perennial, and able to pretty much look after itself.
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Although predominantly produce based, flowers still have an important role to play. The following are some examples of flowering plants that are widely used in permaculture gardens:
1. Comfrey - a superstar in the garden. It has deep tap roots that help to break up the soil and bring valuable nutrients up to the surface. It acts as a compost activator to speed up the decomposition process; the leaves can also be used as mulch, can be made into a high potash liquid plant feed, and have medicinal properties. In addition to this, pollinators adore it.
2. Achillea millefolium, or yarrow as it is commonly known, has attractive flowers loved by pollinators and beneficial insects. It is useful as a tough drought tolerant plant and has numerous medicinal properties.
3. Hemerocallis fulva (daylily) is beneficial as it’s tolerant of a wide variety of soil conditions. It is attractive to bees and butterflies, and many parts of the plant are edible. They also grow densely, making them great for weed suppression.
4. Borage is adept at drawing nutrients from the soil due to its long taproots and is an accelerator in your compost heap, heating up the heap as it decomposes. The flowers are widely used in salads, and to top it off, bees love it.
5. Nasturtiums are great as a groundcover plant helping to suppress weeds and are regularly used as a sacrificial plant to attract aphids away from your precious vegetables. They are also visited by pollinators and have edible flowers.
6. Echinacea are well known for having medicinal properties and are an absolute bee and butterfly magnet! To top off their uses, they are beautifully architectural in the winter and provide a much-needed food source to birds during the cold season.
These are just a small selection of flowers with multiple uses in a permaculture situation – why not give some a try and experiment with your favourites.
Create a garden bursting with wildlife by shopping the collection:
The Wildlife Garden Collection
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