5 bee friendly plants I'm growing
Here are five plants currently flowering in my garden that are helping my bees. I hope by sharing them with you it will encourage you to plant some as well. Peak summer is a busy time for bees with so many flowers offering nectar which is important for bees as in the hive it is all about honey making at this time of year. These five plants are a small snap shot of what is flowering at the moment - I will post more bee friendly plants again soon so don’t forget to subscribe.
Most days my flowering sea holly have a number of bees on them. Sea holly or Eryngium offer a good source of nectar. The colour of sea holly also helps attract bees, as they do have a preference for blue coloured flowers. Sea holly comes in a number of shades of blue as well as white and are a rather structural plant adding some height and drama to your garden. Also little pops of colour. Bees when foraging will tend to focus on one particular plant at a time. Sea holly are great as they have multiple flower heads that form the ball shape which means many little pots of nectar for the bees. This is called a composite flower head. You will often find bees on one flower for a long time moving around - this is why. They are collecting as much nectar as they can in one go. Sea holly is a perennial which loves a dry spot as well and will provide beautiful seed heads when the flowers start to turn making it a lovely architectural element to the garden in autumn. It can be grown from seed but I think requires more skill than I have so I mainly plant my as small plants.
Teasel is one I suggest you plant with caution. In my earlier years as a gardener I very excitedly grew teasel from seed and sprinkled them around the garden. Nothing much happened in the first year. The second year I had blooms everywhere. The bees love them so I was happy. Roll round a couple of years later and I have teasels popping up all over the place. Namely in cracks stubborn growing and while I admire their tenacity I do not admire their attempts to quietly take over the garden. A number have been removed as a result and I will aim to do some serious removal of seed heads when the time comes. So yes plant these wonderful bee friendly plants but be warned they are prolific self seeders. They are also like the echinops in that they are in the colour spectrum that bees love (lavender purple), the main flower head is made up of a number of smaller flowers brimming with nectar and if you dare, they provide that beautiful garden interest in autumn when the seed heads form. The birds love them. Easily grown from seed and tend to be happy in most places in the garden.
Yarrow is a favorite of mine. I’ve taken a lot of photos of it and find it endlessly inspiring. You can read more about my thoughts on photographing yarrow in this newsletter post. Yarrow is an easy to grow plant and better yet it is easy to divide in you want more or you spy one you would like from your friend garden. They can grow to be a tall plant so look good in the back of a flower bed adding pops of colour. They can provide a sea of colour if you mass plant them. Mass planting is a great thing to do as it saves time for the bees if the plant they are foraging are in one spot. Like echinops and teasle yarrow is made up of multi flower heads, again providing that much desired nectar at this time of year. The formation of the multi flower is different to echinops as you can see the individual flower heads more clearly. Left to go to seed it is another lovely structural plant that adds some character to your garden in autumn. Also loves a dry spot.
Dahlias are a firm favourite for many gardeners with most loving the multi petal versions. For me my preference is for the single blooms as they are a more bee friendly dahlia. The reason for this is that it is easy access to what the bees are looking for, in this case pollen. Pollen is important to a hive as it is used to make their food and feeds the young baby bees. While important it is not foraged as much as nectar at this time of year. My rule of thumb when looking at dahlia varieties which I wish to add to my garden to help support my bees is to see if I can see the pollen. If I can then the bees will as well. With different breeds of dahlia things like the pollen are lost to petals as the flower is breed for prettiness not necessarily functionality. If you dead head your dahlias regularly you can keep them blooming from summer into autumn providing a good food source for bees as they switch from harvesting nectar in the summer to preparing the hive for winter. You can also save seeds from dahlias and grow them yourself. I tried this this year and had a number come through to plants. The fun bit is that they do not grow true to their parent plant so you do not know what you will get.
Masterwort is slowly starting to fade in the garden. I’ve dead headed what I can to encourage a second blooming, hopefully it will start soon and provide a source food for my bees. It is a composite flower - again that multi flower head that provides many sources of nectar for bees. It grows well in a semi-shaded part of the garden. I love how it fills in gaps in the garden, spreading and intertwining with other plants creating that tapestry look that I so love. It tends to start flowering in late spring so it is a good plant to help a hive build in size and strength as the approaching summer comes. It’s comes in various shades of pink from pale to dark and I believe there is also a white version as well. It is a firm favourite of mine and looks wonderful if you wish to dry the flower heads.
I hope you have enjoyed what I have shared here. Please sign up for my newsletter and if you can a paid subscriptions means I have the financially support to do what I love which is build my garden for my beloved bees and share it with you.