I love Bees.
I created a bee-friendly garden with a difference for my final college design assignment, we had to create a show garden or conceptual design, so they have been much on my mind.
The garden this summer was awash with the buzzing of many different types of bees and indeed other pollinators. At certain times of the day with the light just right you could see the air thick with life. It was very gratifying that the planting I have done in the last few years in my garden has created a haven for these vital insects.
As you may be aware bees are having a tough time of it. Their natural habitat is being destroyed at an alarming rate and what is left has become dangerous due to neonicotinoid pesticides and pesticide-dressed seeds are causing bees to be susceptible to the varroa mite which can infest hives and be deadly for bees. Further to that hedgerows have been grubbed out at an alarming rate and wildflower verges are cut back so the corridors that bees relied on to forage are no longer there.
So often we read about the gloomy side of these ecological stories which can leave us feeling helpless. The garden I designed for my assignment was a celebration of the bee particularly the honey bee although this is only one of many. I wanted to highlight their plight but to inspire people that we can do our bit to support the bees and other pollinators. It doesn’t take much to add some plants to your garden that will literally be nectar to these vital pollinators and recreate the wildlife corridors that bees rely so heavily upon.
Think about the whole year not just the obvious summer months. Early spring is a vital time for the queen bee. She needs sources of nectar to take back to the hive to create food for her eggs to start the new swarm. Primroses, early crocuses, hellebores and heathers are fantastic sources of nectar early in the year.
This year I planted many more alliums and when they flowered later in the spring they were awash with bees. These wonderful bulbs come in all sizes and colours. I’ve just planted some smaller yellow ones under the acer that will flower in June, Allium moly jeannine, when my spring species tulips have come and gone. They’re great because they come up, do their beautiful thing, feed the bees and then the seed heads stay looking gorgeous. You can cut them down and dry and spray them for Christmas decorations or leave then to die beautifully in the ground.
My mum loved heathers and had a patch of them in the garden. I don’t think she planted them for the bees but it would have been an added benefit. I planted some last week and hopefully they will give the bees some much needed sustenance at a difficult time of year.
What about foxgloves? The glamorous back of border stalwarts. They like sun, part shade or full shade depending on the variety. If they like you they will seed themselves around and be with you for life. As the summer deepens Verbenas, of all sorts, Achillea millefolium, Salvias are all bee magnets and such gorgeous plants. And then there are lavenders, rosemary and thyme. A lovely rosemary bush near the house in a sunny spot that will attract the bees but that you can cut to season your cooking. What could be better?
It really is so easy to create a part, or all, of your garden that benefits our beleaguered wildlife and into the bargain you get prettiness too. I finally graduate at the end of November after three years at Capel Manor College, Regents Park and I am so looking forward to creating resilient and wildlife-friendly gardens for people but why don’t you add a few more crocuses to your garden (even in a pot that you can look at through the window), you’ve almost still got time this year if you hurry, or next year plant some sweet peas up a cane wigwam and the bees will thank you.