We ❤ Bees
We’re finally getting some long-awaited summer sun, and if you’re anything like us, you’re getting straight out into the garden!
While you might not be the biggest fan of creepy crawlies and all things buzzy, we hope you share our particular soft spot for the humble bumble bee (and it’s other little cousins).
What’s happening to the bees?
Since 2007 there’s been a noticeable, rapid decline in bee numbers.
Climate change, pesticides used in farming, disease, and depleted hedgerows have all contributed to this drop, and there are fears the honey bee could be extinct in 10 years, if nothing is done.
Why should we care?
Bees are prolific pollinators — they spend their lives flying from flower to flower for nectar, spreading pollen along the way. They’re an essential part of our agricultural industry, as it’s their busy work that makes sure our crops produce the fruit and veg we love to eat.
What can we do?
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or yard, there’s still time, this year, to boost your flowerbeds with some bee favourites. You need to focus on plants that are rich in nectar and pollen, with flowers that provide easy access for passing pollinators.
Need some ideas?
Here are our Top 10 Beautiful, Bee-friendly Blooms
Buddleja davidii : butterfly bush
A favourite with bees and butterflies, this statement plant is a colourful addition to any garden. They produce a mass of tapering flowers in August, offering easy access and abundant nectar to hungry bees and butterflies.
If you’re quick, there’s still time to plant a buddleia this year — choose a sunny flowerbed or large pot with good drainage and alkaline soil for best results.
Echinopsis seminudus : hedgehog cactus, sea-urchin cactus
These robust stems have large, beautiful flowers in the summer. While the blooms don’t last long, they are full of the pollen and nectar that bees love.
When planted, they need good drainage and shouldn’t be allowed to get too wet. Plant in a sunny spot, and bring into a cold greenhouse for the coldest months of the year, where they should be happy to sit in some soil without extra water until you’re ready to plant them back outside, around March.
Caryopteris x clandonensis : Caryopteris
These aromatic shrubs are covered in clusters of small blue or white flowers in late summer and early autumn, giving your bees an all-you-can-eat buffet as the seasons turn.
They need a sheltered spot in full sun, and will thrive in most types of soil, making them an easy addition to your garden.
Dianthus barbatus — sweet william
A favourite with kids, sweet William seeds can be sown straight into a flower bed or large pot in July, to flower the following summer.
These hardy biennials are covered in bright flowers sure to bring all the bees to your yard! They grow to around 45cm tall, so can be contained if you don’t have a lot of space to play with.
Hesperis matronalis — dame’s violet
Growing to around 90cm, these bushy plants offer up loose clusters of white or purple flowers in late spring and early summer — as the weather starts to warm up and bees start venturing out more and more.
Sow seeds in sun or semi-shade, where the plant is to grow, and cut back after flowering.
Hyssopus officinalis — hyssop
This compact, spreading shrub offers tubular blue flowers in summer and early autumn. Their 2-lipped, tubular shape is popular with bees, as it gives them easy access to the nectar inside.
Plant them in full sun or part shade in a sheltered spot where they can spread up to a metre, giving good ground coverage and statement colour.
Jasminum officinale — common jasmine
These climbing shrubs bear delicate, star-shaped flowers in white, pink, or yellow, and fruit a black berry. They can have an intense fragrance when they flower in summer and autumn, and can climb to a height of 10 to 15 feet, given time and freedom to do so.
Jasmine does best in a sheltered spot with good sunlight and drainage.
Lavandula angustifolia — English lavender
Flowering in June, the English lavender is always a crowd-pleaser, with its evocative fragrance and pleasing colour. A favourite with us humans, a lavender in the garden is also sure to lure pollinating insects in their droves.
Lavender needs a sunny, dry spot in the garden, and can be trimmed to shape, or left to grow. They’re hardy plants that can be left in place through the colder months, adding shades of silver to your winter garden.
One of the earliest spring bulbs, crocus flowers give bumblebee queens a nectar-rich buffet as they wearily come out of hibernation.
Plant crocus bulbs in a spot which gets full winter sun. Crocus corms aren’t fussy about the soil their in, and require minimal maintenance, making them an easy addition to your garden, and a lovely splash of colour in early spring.
Hamamelis — witch hazel
This winter-flowering shrub is a great addition to any garden, and will give your bees a vital food source late into the year.
Witch hazels need free-draining soil and benefit from the addition of some nourishing organic matter. They can be kept to a container and pruned to restrict their size, or fan trained to stand by a wall or fence. Cultivating at home can be difficult, so this may be one to source from your local garden centre.
Look out for your bees as the seasons change
With a bit of thought you can easily make your garden a year-round haven for bees and other pollinators:
- Avoid using pesticides, particularly on open flowers
- Provide nest sites for solitary bees — you can makes these yourself with bits of bamboo cane and herbaceous plant stems, or by drilling 2–8mm holes into a log or fence post
Choose nectar and pollen-rich flowers for the different seasons
- Let a patch of your lawn grow into a summer meadow where insects can thrive
- If you’re tight on space, choose a large pot for a few choice blooms
- Make sure your local bees a regular water supply — a shallow dish of pebbles or marbles covered in water gives them an easy spot to rehydrate in your garden, or on your windowsill
What’s already in your garden, and what could you add for your local bees? Or if you’ve got any guaranteed bee buffets that you think we’ve missed, let us know in the comments!