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Talkback: Native versus non-native plants

I try and grow a lot of flowers for bees, and this year I have grown forget me nots and egg plant. I hate seeing front gardens that have bee...

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We're running a simple survey to find out which are the most popular wildlife friendly plants in gardens.  If you want to take part, visit our facebook page Wildlife Gardening Club and download the doc.  Hopefully we'll be able to compile a 'top ten'

Green Magpie

Sometime the plants you don't think of as flowers are very valuable to bees. Ivy is particularly important for honey bees, as it flowers in the late autumn when there are few others sources of nectar for them to build up stores for the winter. So if you have any wild corner where you can let ivy romp away, that will help the bees.

Honey bees are also fond of some of the small-leaved evergreens such as cotoneaster and lonicera hedges, where the flowers are almost invisibly small to our eyes. I'm not sure if these are native, but they are good for bees.

Oh, and they simply love oil-seed rape, and get masses of nectar from it. Is there a competition for the least popular wildlife-friendly plant?


Laura Corin

We inherited an enormous lime tree that hums with bees in summer.  I know that there are some limes that, though attractive to bees, are actually poisonous to them.  I don't think that this one is though - we don't get comatose bees lying around underneath it.  Apart from this, our biggest honey bee attractor is cotoneaster horizontalis.  When neither of these is out we barely see honey bees, but seem to have large and happy bumble bees of different kinds.  We are surrounded on all sides by sprayed farmland and our nearest managed bee hives are about a mile away.


Last October I had 4 different types of bee plus hoverflies and a tortoiseshell butterfly on one single sedum spectabile plant.  The bees also love echinops ritro.

This past week our garden has been used, for the first time, by the rare bumblebee Bombus ruderatus. It has colonised the meadows in the nearby gardens at Great Dixter. In our garden it is feeding on purple toadflax Linaria purpurea, a species that found us and which I normally pull up. I am going to have to learn to encourage it in my alpine garden!



I've been gardening for wildlife for a few years and as well as creating a mini wildflower meadow in my garden I also buy non-native plants that are beneficial to insects, if it's beneficial any plant will do.  This year I've planted Pulmonaria's for the earliest nectar source for Bees and I've found that the open flowered Dahlia's are a magnet for them. It's only just coming into flower (everything here is so late) but I am very impressed with my newly planted Buddleia 'Buzz', the dwarf variety. It's the perfect size for any garden, I'm looking forward to seeing how successful it is in attracting butterflies. Will definitely be taking cuttings I think!!

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