Colourful flowers for as much of the year as possible is what I am aiming for in our new garden. Different shades of green are all well and good but you can’t beat a bit of colour. The bees would agree with me, being attracted to blue, purple, white and yellow flowers. Our blog, making a bee friendly garden has some great information about how to buy bee friendly plants and what to consider when planning your garden as bees benefit from more than just flowers.
I found choosing which plants to have in our garden a bit daunting. But by researching bee friendly flowers and considering when they come into bloom really helped. A mooch around my Mum’s garden, saying, ‘I like that, what is it?’ helped too! I took notes and dropped subtle hints about transferring some of them to my own garden. We will have to wait and see if some hellebore appear later in the year! Swapping and trading plants with neighbours is a great way to boost the range of plants in your garden. But just make sure they haven’t used any of the pesticides you are doing your best to avoid.
So here are my top ten plants for attracting bees and supporting bees throughout the year.
1. Spring bulbs. Even the very early snowdrop is great for the bees so get some bulbs planted this autumn ready for next year. We often see huge bumble bees inside the trumpet of a daffodil. Firstly having a good feed and then a little snooze before they buzz off to the next flower.
2. Willow is a great option for water logged gardens or damp areas as they draw up a lot of water. They are also early flowering so provide the bees with one of their first sources of food when they come out of hibernation.
3. Hellebore. This is a great plant which flowers early in the year making a good source of spring nectar. You can find this in a number of different shades.
4. Lavender. One of my absolute favourites because of the deep purple colour and the amazing smell. Not only will it attract bees but it can be used as a companion plant to deter pests when planted as a border around the vegetable patch.
5. Thyme. Grow more thyme than you need for your cooking and let some of it flower as it provides a much needed source of food for bees in the period known as the June Gap. You can read more about this in our previous blog here.
6. Borage. I collected so many borage seeds last year, it became a bit of an obsession! So this year we will have borage everywhere! The beautiful blue flowers are great decorations for cakes and drinks and you can add the young leaves to a salad. Growing lots of them means that the bees (who love them too) will have plenty. The flowers are a great source of nectar all summer.
7. Sunflowers. Start the ‘who can grow the tallest sunflower’ or ‘the sunflower with the most heads’ now! You’ll have fun and the bees will thank you for it! So will the birds as when the seed head dries out, the small garden birds will feast on the seeds! Don’t forget to collect a few though so you can grow more from the winning plant next year.
8. Perennial cornflower. Perennials are a great source of nectar and pollen for bees and the cornflower is another June flowering plant so will help the bees bridge the June Gap.
9. Cosmos. I fell in love with these last year and am planning to grow them this year. The colourful flowers will bloom from June all the way through to autumn and are great for the short tongued bees!
10. Aster. This a great flower to help bees build up their winter reserves as it flowers from August through to October. Its also another great flower for those short tongued bees!