Created by Jack Phillpotts
Today I’m going to touch on a companion plant that has served me (specifically my Chilli Plants) well, Limnanthes douglasii commonly known as the “Poached Egg Plant”.
I first came across this American native annual as a packet of free seeds and my cavalier attitude began with a “why not sow this?”. Truthfully, I have never had the greatest luck with ornamental plants so I wasn’t expecting much, but after a short time I noticed the prolific foliage spilling over the edges of the neglected pot. I was happy but still ignorant to the benefits this plant would bring me. I transplanted the specimens from the cells into the hard clay soil of my garden and against all odds, these plants thrived and provided a lively cover on the dry hard soil.
These petite, bright flowers gave me yet another pleasant surprise when I noticed the army they had conscripted, although these soldiers weren’t bearing arms and flags, they weren’t an infantry, they were an air force adorned with fantastic black and yellow uniforms and a laser like focus that allowed them to stay airborne in the exact same spot, one could call it a hover. These heroes are not as loudly hailed as the bees and the butterflies but they are equally important with approximately 280 species in Britain, I am referring to none other than the hoverflies.
So why am I so excited about the Limnanthes, or as I call it, the Hoverfly Magnet?
Chillies, we all know them and love them, they pack a pungent punch and produce some unique fruits, I became quite passionate about growing them last year with three varieties being grown (Apache, Paper Lantern and Orange Habanero), one thing I noticed was that there was a group of hoverflies that shared my passion and each chilli plant was frequented by multiple hoverflies at any one time.
There I was with my Chillies and my Poached Egg plants both being frequented by hoverflies, I did even more research into the Limnanthes and not only is it a good attractor for hoverflies but it will entice many of our other six legged friends to the garden, It will also tolerate poor soils and even the confines of a pot, this added portability means that you can sow and grow this plant and place it near the plants that you think could do with hoverfly affection. I know for a fact that multiple pots of Limnanthes will find themselves at home in between my potted chillies this year.
Why are hoverflies so important to the garden?
First and foremost, the delight of seeing a hoverfly and getting those recollections of warm summers, but most importantly is the positive effect they have on plants, hoverflies in their adult form will feed on the nectar and pollen and will be a massively useful pollinator for your flowering plants. The larval forms are on another level with the larval forms of some species feeding on aphids and thrips whilst other species may feast on decaying plant matter, this combo is perfect for all of the gardeners fighting the ongoing battles with pests and diseases.
Try Limnanthes, it's worth a shot.