Singing the Blues for Bees
There is nothing quite like a garden alive with bees, busy buzzing between the blooms.
Knowing we can make a difference to these important pollinators by merely adding a few plants rich in pollen and nectar, makes it a very easy and satisfying thing to do. Planting with bees in mind, brings a whole new dimension of sights, sounds and general well-being to our gardens.
In the UK, as well as honeybees and solitary bees, we have over 20 types of bumblebee. The best way to attract to bees and other pollinators (including the overlooked hoverflies) into our garden is to supply nectar and pollen for as long as possible throughout the year, beginning with spring bulbs, snowdrops and Hellebores spp. Although many of the plants nature supplies, for example the dandelion, provide copious amounts of nectar and pollen, they are not necessarily the plant we like to cultivate or to take pride of place in the border.
Here are a few that can though for the coming months, and to keep it simple, why not start with
April : Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ a classic for pots and borders, scented and long lasting for many months
Pulmonaria ’Blue Ensign’ good for partial shade, interesting leaves and pretty blue flowers
Ajuga reptans ‘Atropurpurea’ ground cover with ‘chocolate’ leaves and spikes of deep blues
And it’s a good time to sow now for swathes of Summer blue flowers for bees:
Cornflowers : Easy to grow, in a range of blues and look spectacular en-masse;
Borage : Easy to grow, an abundance of bright blue star flowers – possibly the easiest, most cost-effective way to attract bees into your garden. And the flowers add interest to ice-cubes for summer drinks;
Cerinthe Major ‘Purpurascens’ : interesting dark purple and blue flowers with grey green leaves
Eryngium spp : Sculptural and long-lasting in the border, self-seeds and provides seedheads for winter interest and seasonal wreaths. And sow seeds for a native wildflower amongst the borders, perhaps?
Teasel : Statuesque and not only attractive to bees, but goldfinches love the seeds later in the year;
If you are thinking about planting a blue bee-friendly shrub, there are few to match the bee attractiveness of Ceanothus ‘Puget Blue’ AGM, or perennials such as Scabious spp, Catmint (Nepeta spp) and Geranium spp, (bees love Geranium phaeum var ‘Samobor’ in my garden and it flowers for months). Some of the best herbs for bees include Rosemary spp, and Lavandula angustifolia English Lavender, Hidcote Blue and Munstead; all good traditional varieties, and useful in the kitchen, too.
As for garden design, blue give the illusion of space and distance. Blues add depth to borders and, if planted en-masse, can be reminiscent of dreamy, tranquil bluebell woods. And who can resist that.