One of the great things about hardy annuals is that you often only have to buy them once: they then self seed profusely so you are never without them. Last year I grew a patch of the wonderful annual Limnanthes douglasii among the veg and in September masses of seedlings appeared after the old plants were removed. Limnanthes has large seeds and the seedlings did not spread far but they were in the way and most were dug in but I moved about 20 clumps of seedlings to a new home. This was an area under an apple tree that is not much use for veg and I want to allow it to become a semi-natural area with self-seeding plants to create a tapestry of colour.
Limnanthes is often called the poached-egg plant because the flowers are usually yellow with a white edge. There are pure yellow and pure white forms but these don’t really appeal to me. But the ordinary form certainly appeals to insects and most gardeners probably sow this easy annual because it attracts bees and beneficial insects such as hoverflies.
Limnanthes is a moisture-loving annual from California and Oregon and is named after the Scottish plant hunter David Douglas. It can be sown in spring or in autumn when plants will survive an average winter and bloom with great vigour in late spring like other hardy annuals. The plants start as neat rosettes of ferny leaves but the flower stems extend as they start to bloom and plants can reach about 20cm high and 40cm across.
I have noticed that bumble bees do not seem too bothered by the flowers but honey bees love them. In fact I have not seen any honey bees this year except on the limnanthes – and the giant echiums of course.