Bees keep our gardens flourishing with their pollinating efforts but their role in human life is more crucial than that.
The nation’s favourite gardener Monty Don, in his book 'Down To Earth', explains that 80 per cent of the Western diet is dependent upon pollination by bees. Without them, starvation beckons and that’s one of the reasons why he believes gardeners should ‘nurture and conserve’ the British bee population.
Friends of the Earth warn that 35 species of UK bees face the threat of extinction and all our species face ‘serious threats’ with intense farming methods and pesticides being the main factors in their decline.
As gardeners, we can help bees by growing plants they like. In the process, we get the satisfaction and positive mental rewards of nurturing plants and beneficial insect life, plus a more vibrant, sensory-appealing and productive garden.
Here are 10 suggestions to make your garden more bee-friendly.
Echinacea purpurea is a long-flowering perennial that offers sustained interested for pollinators with its light pink flowers. It can cope in most soils and likes full sun.
Helenium ‘Waltraut’ will bring intense orange to your hot border with its daisy-style flowers. Looks great planted in drifts, putting on a show that bees love from August to September.
To bring vibrant yellow to your late-summer border and plenty of bees, Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ is a solid performer from August to October.
Nectar-rich Persicara bistorta ‘Superba’ produces spikes of soft pink flowers that suit a border. It’s a perennial that thrives in full sun or partial shade and copes with most soils.
A perennial favourite in Thrive’s gardens is Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’, which flowers for months and produces elegant purple spikes which pull in bees, butterflies and moths.
Verbena bonariensis is a magnet for bees with its heads of small purple flowers on tall stems that grow 1.5m plus. Likes sunny spots that are well-drained.
The fragrance and form of lavender make it a popular choice for many gardeners and bees benefit from its long flowering season. English lavender has been shown to be better at attracting pollinators than its French counterpart but hardy hybrids like L. x intermedia ‘Olympia’ are even better again.
Buddleja Davidii is known as the butterfly bush but bees love it too. This deciduous shrub produces masses of conical-shaped flowers that come in a variety of colours from summer to autumn.
Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’ offers bell-shaped flowers in a rich mix of mauve and lilac. It’s clump-forming and flowers for six months and whereas snails and slugs avoid it, bees can’t get enough of it.
The blue-purple flowers of borage will have the honey and bumble bees buzzing in your garden. This hardy annual herb suits most well-drained soils and is prolific at supplying pollen and nectar.