Be good to the bees: Stocking up on nectar-rich plants will help the bee population flourish – and that’s good for your garden

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 00:00, 11 May 2012 | UPDATED: 22:30, 11 May 2012

The soporific hum of a bee, flitting from flower to flower, is one of the familiar sounds of summer.

As they buzz around the garden, bees are actually hard at work, and much of it is to our benefit; they are responsible for pollinating 90 per cent of the world’s commercial crops. Without them, food would be scarcer and far more expensive.

The decline in bees across the globe has been a cause of concern for years. While scientists struggle to pin down the cause, one thing is certain: gardeners can play their part in supporting them. By planting nectar-rich plants, we can help increase the numbers of honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees, as well as attract more butterflies.

Bee-friendly: Foxglove, left and Viper's Bugloss
Bee-friendly: Foxglove, left and Viper's Bugloss

Bee-friendly: Foxglove, left and Viper’s Bugloss

Attracting bees doesn’t have to mean ripping out the lawn to plant a wildflower meadow, or filling the garden with nettles. You won’t have to look far – go to any garden centre and you’ll find masses of nectar-rich plants for sale.

The best plants for bees tend to be old-fashioned cottage varieties, so if your granny grew it, chances are the bees will love it. Look out for perennials like delphiniums, foxgloves, hollyhock, campanula, scabious, astrantia, lavender, achillea, mallow and daisies. Place them in full sun and don’t be stingy with your planting – a block of three or more plants is better for the bees than spacing them out singly.

Bedding plants like busy Lizzies, petunias, geraniums and begonias may look colourful but provide little or no nourishment for bees. If you’re looking to fill your containers, why not try planting some of the annuals and biennials that bees love instead, such as snapdragons, aquilegia, nicotiana, calendula, cosmos, wallflowers, evening primroses and the lovely smoky blue cerinthe, all widely available at the moment.

One of the very best plants for bees is blue Echium vulgare, or viper’s bugloss, which is hard to find in garden centres but is easily grown from seed.

Late summer is a critical time for bees, when food is often short. Fortunately there are masses of colourful late-summer plants they’ll happily feed on. Phlox, salvia, monarda, rudbeckia, zinnia, penstemon, sedum and Verbena bonariensis all provide plenty of nectar and pollen for them.

My top bee-friendly plant for late summer and autumn is the globe thistle, echinops, which has spiky leaves and metallic-blue flowers. Dahlias are also a great source of food, the single or semi-double varieties providing more nutrition than the very ruffled ones.

For more ideas, read Plants And Planting Plans For A Bee Garden, Maureen Little (Spring Hill, £14.99) or visit www.bumblebee

Source: Daily Mail Online

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