Three cheers for the Michaelmas daisy. At a time when most flowers are fading fast, this season is blessed with an abundance of blossom that adds a further colourful dimension to the vibrant mix of autumnal tints we so enjoy.
Surprisingly perhaps, the plant, which is related to the sea aster, is not native to Britain but nevertheless a welcome alien, now naturalised, having its origins in North America and introduced centuries ago as an attractive garden plant.
The name stems from the fact that it is normally seen at its best around the feast of St.Michael on 29th September. There are several strains, all of which offer insects copious supplies of nectar and pollen needed for successful hibernation.
My garden is ablaze with clumps of Michaelmas daisies and its great to see so many honeybees (pictured) bumblebees, hoverflies and occasional butterflies taking full advantage before winter sets in.
Another wonderful autumnal source of nectar is the ivy. The rather drab, greenish globular flower heads attract flies, butterflies, wasps and hornets, all extremely scarce this year and they help the plant by pollinating it as they feed.
The holly blue butterfly lays its eggs on unopened flower buds in late summer and later on, the powdery blue-black berries are much sought after by birds.