The bee orchids are flowering

bee orchid
The bee orchids in the I.Pot have been flowering for 2 1/2 weeks now with perhaps another week or so more to go, which is pretty good I reckon for such an interesting flower.

bee orchids

They are a lot smaller than you’d expect if all you see are the marvellous enlarged photos on the internet, but still. I’ve been rather pleased with the way the silver hair-grass has flowered around them – like a grass version of gypsophila, whilst ironically the fairy flax which virtually is a miniature gypsophila hasn’t been much to write home about; perhaps I should have given it a more central spot in the pot where it would have grown bigger.

Fairy Flax

It could have taken the place of the harebell, a large thriving plant over the winter that died when there was a huge influx of aphids in the spring, though I didn’t pay enough attention to see if the two were connected. I’d intended to do something about the aphids when they were rather aggressively multiplying on the bee orchids, but typically never got round to it. Not that it mattered as something (an aphid parasite?) turned up and finished them off; well it must have done because they are not there now.


The thrift didn’t flower as much as I’d hoped for which I blame the unexpectedly nutrient-rich compost; native wildflowers seem to flower more just the wrong side of hungry.

The locally rare common cudweed is doing its thing, but being rather on the subtle side in that you need to know what the flowers look like to know it’s flowered and not just produced a few more grey leaves.

grass vetchling

The grass vetchling has done surprisingly well too, especially as I never planted or sowed it. I think it turned up as seed in the soil that surrounded the roots of the Origanum laevigatum I dug up from another garden…a plant which has since sadly died – a shame because I was looking forward to it flowering. Anyway, the vetchling has amazing intense pink flowers that seem to last a day before turning turquoise over night (lower one in photo) as they die off before turning beige as they get older. Who knew?…well me obviously but only because it’s growing in the I.Pot and I see it everyday when I leave the flat.

Quaking grass

The quaking-grass flowers are as charming as I’d expected but only a couple this year… in my head there was more when I planted up. The meadow oat-grass, which had the fabulous glaucus leaves earlier in the year, has flowered for England…they are all slightly too tall but make spear-like uprights against the general nebulousness of the rest of the grasses. I suspect they would be stouter had the pot been in more sun (it gets sun only after about 5pm) and if it was not against a wall.


The common stork’s-bill has definitely been the “Big Mistake” of the pot. Earlier in the year its basal leaves were massive and thuggish (it’s all relative…I’m talking in terms of the I.Pot here, it would be barely noticeable in a real garden) and then the flower stems have sprawled all over the place. The flowers are pretty, the seed heads architectural, but it has unbalanced things. I almost wish I’d taken it out when it was annoying me in spring but I’d promised myself I would leave the plants alone once I’d put them in to see what happened – so it got a reprieve. Oddly enough when this plant grew at the wildflower nursery in a weathered slag road it was a tiny little thing barely any size at all. Presumably it is one of those wildflowers that has the capacity to take advantage of extra nutrients to grow much bigger; a lot of the smaller wildflowers can’t and they get swamped in real life.


So, of the 27 species of plant I put in there, 11 have died, 8 new species have germinated from the soil that was lifted around the roots of other plants, and one plant wasn’t what I thought it was, but that’s another story.

Verdict so far: having a star plant to focus on, and look forward to flowering, has really lifted the whole pot. Also, a bit surprised so many plants have died.

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2 Responses to The bee orchids are flowering

  1. Julieanne says:

    Fascinating. I’m still amazed you can get so many species growing in such a small pot, even if some have died. I love Bee Orchids. How did you get hold of some?

    I once found Bee Orchids flowering in Oxford, next to Oxfam House, on a tiny piece of land between a footpath and a slip road, with the Cowley overpass above it. They hardly got any light, they did get lots of car pollution, yet they flowered their socks off. Wonderful plants. And so jolly.

    • Martin says:

      The bee orchids were taken from a gravel garden that I looked after. They had arrived naturally – not sure where from – and spread well so I wasn’t damaging a natural population. I just thought it would be interesting to observe their growth at close quarters.
      Bee Orchids can often be found growing in regularly mown grass in towns & by roads…they usually get mown before they can flower, but they still keep growing there so obviously not bothered by pollution.

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