In episode number 9 of Master My Garden podcast. I will discuss best plants to attract bees and pollinators. I spoke with Anne Hutton who is a beekeeper and an avid gardener. It was a great episode and we spoke about Anne’s garden, which is an urban garden. Her main focus is to have a permaculture garden as much as possible which is really interesting. We spoke at length about Bee’s and Beekeeping which is of particular interest to me and something I look forward to getting started at in the future.
We also discussed the benefits of growing for food for ourselves. Along with how that in turn tends to lead to providing food for the Bee’s and other pollinators. If you want to listen to the episode you can subscribe on all podcast platforms Apple podcasts Stitcher, Google Podcast, Spotify, etc. Or click on the link at the bottom of this blog post to listen now.
One of the most commonly asked questions and one that I wanted to answer in this blog is. What are the best flowers to attract Bees into my garden or what plants should I plant to provide food for the Bee’s? Anne’s first thoughts were to think of the Bee’s. However not to rule out any the other pollinators which all play and important role in the cycle. Anne gave some very good advice and suggestions about how us as gardeners can support and attract Bees and pollinators.
Anne recommended that we should provide food sources at all times of the year especially when natural food sources are scarce. This means trying to provide flowers in all seasons and not neglecting the early months of the year. This is when Bees begin to come out for the first food of the year. The other time of the year which unexpectedly has less food sources than we might think is “The June gap or the Hungry gap” as it is commonly known.
This is a time of year when a lot of the natural spring flowers such as dandelions and hawthorns have stopped flowering and the summer ones have not yet started. Hence the “Hungry gap” for the Bees. So in order for us to ensure the Bees don’t go hungry, we need to try to ensure that we are intentionally planting plants and shrubs that flower during this period.
An additional point that Anne made, which often gardeners don’t consider is that a flowering tree can provide much more food than several smaller plants, which people traditionally think of as good pollinators. So trees would be a good option to plant for food provided you have the space to do it. Other options are bulbs, herbs, weeds (maybe you can have an unkept area which can provide a natural food source), perennials, flowering shrubs etc.
Anne herself grows specifically for food in her own garden. This enables her to provide food for the Bees all year round as fruit bushes, vegetables, sun flowers and specifically herbs are all excellent food sources. Keeping all this in mind I have provided a list of suggestions for planting, to give you year round flowering. This list will include bulbs, herbs, trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.
By no means the complete list because so many blooms provide food for Bees and pollinators but a few points to note when choosing would be: Large open flowers or multiple flower heads are the best as they are easier to access, double flower heads are not so good as the Bees can’t access them easily. Have a look through the list do some research and find the ones that will work for you and your garden.
|Plant Name||Flowering Period||Plant Type|
|Vibirnum Tinus||Winter||Shrub white flower|
|Mahonia||Winter-Early spring||Shrub yellow flower|
|Erica Carnea Heather||Winter-Early spring||Heather/Heath mixed colour flowers white, pink, red.|
|Lonicera Fragratissima||Winter-Early spring||Shrub white flower|
|Hellebores||Winter-Early spring||Evergreen perennial mixed flower colour|
|Snowdrops||Winter-Early spring||Bulb white Flower|
|Bluebells||Winter-Early spring||Bulb blue flower|
|Crocus||Early-mid Spring||Bulb mixed flower colour|
|Willow||Early-mid Spring||Tree flowers in catkins in spring|
|Aubrieta||Mid-late spring||Rockery creeper mixed colour flowers white, pink, purple.|
|Cherry Blossom||Mid-late spring||Tree mixed colour flower white,pink, purple.|
|Hawthorn||Late spring-early summer||Tree/hedge white flower|
|Thyme,Lavander, Comfrey||Summer||Herbs mixed colours blue, pink & purple|
|Buddleja Lilac||Summer||Shrub pink/purple flower|
|Dahalia’s||Summer||Perennial mixed flower colour|
|Phlox||Summer||Perennial & annuals mixed flower colour|
|Sweet Pea||Summer||Perennial & annuals mixed flower colour|
|Cosmos||Summer||Perennial & annuals mixed flower colour|
|Sycamore||Summer||Large tree yellow/green flower|
|Calluna Vulgaris ling heather||Autumn||Heather|
To conclude on the best plants to attract bees and pollinators. Anne shared with me her favourite example describing how growing for food for themselves has led to providing food for the Bees and other pollinators.
They sow sunflower seeds which grow into beautiful flowers…. These flowers provide food for Bees and pollinators all summer long (as you can see from the picture provided by Anne) it has 3 different types of Bees happily gathering pollen.
When the flowering is finished Anne will gather some of the seeds from the flower head, for use in her own kitchen. She will then leave the remaining seeds on the flower heads for the birds and other insects to feast on. All of the fallen seeds will be eaten and really enjoyed by her hens…..
A perfect example of Anns philosophy of “Grow for food and the beauty will come”
If you would like to listen to the episode hit play on the link below.
Until the next time, Happy Gardening. John