Along with most folk, I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in my garden this summer – mainly, it has to be said, lying on my sun lounger, eating ice-cream and drowsing off to the hum of bees in the background. Being at eye level with most flowers, I couldn’t help noticing the variety of bees that were around and decided I ought to shift myself and find out more about them.
My starting point was one of the excellent monthly Bee Walks which PLANT undertakes as part of a national project to monitor the health of the bee population in the UK. (Most of us will have heard, I’m sure, about the collapse of bee populations in recent times). The walk helped me identify the different bees; their gender; what role they had. For example, I learnt that not all bees collect pollen and that the pollen will be a different colour depending on which flower the bee has visited. I also learnt which plants/flowers were good for bees. We lost count of the number of bees on the wild flowering bramble and, where clover on verges had been left, this seemed to be a favourite too.
All this made me think about my own garden and I did my own mini-investigation to find what attracts the bees. I love foxgloves and it seems the bees do too. I’m a lazy gardener so this self-seeding, grow-anywhere-kind-of-plant suits us both. Lavender and lupin, both low maintenance plants, attract bees, as does catmint and wild blue geranium. The latter two plants are great as they just keep going all summer with little attention. In the darker corners of my garden, hebe, thistle and comfrey flourish and all these turn out to be bee-friendly. I recall that chive flowers were very popular earlier on in year, as was broom and flowering currant.
So, all in all, thanks to a bit of benign neglect my garden seems to provide some sustenance for bees and where there are bees, there are sure to be lots of other insects too. My buddleia bush is just about to come out and I know that is good for both bees and butterflies. I think it’s a nice feeling to know you’re sharing your garden with bees. They really are the perfect complement to that afternoon snooze on the sun lounger!
(There is a vast array of information on-line and in books about making your garden more bee friendly, and of course, you can always pop along to your community garden to pick the brains of the expects there or use the gardening library)