With summer in full swing, it’s a great time to see what we can do to extend the flowering season in the garden, to provide valuable nectar for beneficial insects well into autumn. In addition to providing enjoyment on a personal level, adding flowering perennials and shrubs to your border, can play a vital role in supporting our declining bee population.
Bees play an important role in pollination throughout the UK and are responsible for pollinating flowers and crops that provide approximately a third of our food supply. It has been well-documented that their numbers are dramatically reducing due to a number of difficulties including a loss of natural resources and nesting sites, disease and the increased use of insecticides in modern farming.
Bees and flowers are directly dependent on each other – bees use flowers for the food source of nectar and pollen, with flowers needing bees for pollination, therefore selecting the correct plants is important and our gardens can be a valuable resource. So, if you’d like to opt for some bee-friendly plants, here are a few pointers that you might like to consider.
* Choose a variety of simple flower forms rather than cultivated double-flowering varieties, which provide little food for pollinators.
* A sunny sheltered area of the garden is an ideal place to site nectar-rich planting.
* Colour and scent is vital in attracting bees with blues, pinks and purples being favourites.
* Swathes of bee-friendly plants are easier for bees to locate than individual plants, allowing them to focus on one type of plant for the whole day and in turn conserving energy.
* Try to select plants that provide a long flowering period throughout their life cycle from early spring to autumn.
* If you have a smaller garden, consider vertical space. For example, honeysuckle climbing up a trellis can provide a valuable nectar source for bees, together with supplying berries for birds.
* Limit the use of pesticides, especially when plants are in flower as this is likely to harm beneficial insects as well as the ones you don’t want.
Residential gardens cover over one million acres in Britain, so whilst our choice of planting as individuals cannot provide the complete solution, it can certainly have a very positive impact on our native bee population. You can find a few suggestions for bee-friendly planting suggestions below, but keep an eye out for the RHS ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ logo whilst buying plants, or alternatively pop into you local nursery for some personal advice. There is always somebody willing to help at Chestnut – we look forward to seeing you here soon.
Spring flowering Summer flowering Late summer-autumn
Crocus Honeysuckle Sedum
Bluebell Lavender Verbena
Crabapple Foxgloves Echinops
Flowering currant Sweet pea Cornflower
Ajuga Aquilegia Rudbeckia
Pussy willow Catmint Monarda
Rosemary Cosmos Angelica
Pulmonaria Penstemon Aster
Viburnum Buddleja Echinacea
Hellebore Thyme Perovskia