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07/08/2014 at 12:07

Hi All,

First post so go easy.  I got my house four years ago and since then have been transforming the back garden from an overgrown (huge ugly spiky shrubs) into something attractive looking with plenty of flowers. I started with a few sets of of the mail order perennial collections to get things going, which have been great to get things up and running. But I soon realised I only wanted flowers that attracted bees (and eventually) butterflies.

These are the ones I'm finding are great but I'd be keen to get other suggestions from people who have noticed ones that they've found really good too. What I'm looking for is compact (area wise, height isn't an issue), long flowering season (or early/late source of food), not 'floppy'/need staking (e.g. Chrysanthemum max - what a nightmare).

Armeria Maritima 'Thrift' - small grass like clumps good for front of border, with chive like flowers.

Foxglove - Love these as they take up no space at the back and bees can't get enough of them!

Delphinium - I grew 'Pacific Giants' which are fairly big, but the flowers lasted ages and you could cut off dead limbs to create more space. Any smaller, more upright varieties?

Allium Sphaerocephalon - I think I bought these bulbs a couple of years ago from a 'Poundland' type shop, and forgot about them until they came up in June and at times had 2/3 bees on each one. Also the onion smell is rather nice (to me)!

Echinops Ritro 'Globe Thistle' - First year growth from tubers, so jury still out but I love the flowers and am hoping the bees will too next year.

Eringium 'Sea Holly' - Experiment as I like the flowers, but it's still tiny, anyone know if these are good?

Devils Bit Scabious - Grew from seed, large leaves now but no flowers yet. Supposed to be brilliant.

Sunflower (large multi headed one?) - Pretty for back of border. Think it's perennial.

Lavender - My plant is weak after being shaded by daft flowers for too long, but I've seen they can be good.

 

 

Ones I've tried but didn't get on with for various reasons unless anyone can recommend other varieties:

Solidago Goldenrod - Just attracts flies?

Chrysanthemum Max - Attracts flies, sprawls everywhere like a fat drunk in a pub.

Red Hot Poker - Huge, bees didn't seem too fussed

Hollyhock - Kept getting rust, flowered in 2nd year but bees seemed to struggle with the garish flowers, is there a single flowered one?

Aquilegia - Took up too much space, although bees did like them.

Cosmos - grew from seed, but a bit too bulky for the benefit they provide.

Sorry for the long first post, but if anyone can recommend other varieties they know of I'd be very interested, or just any comments in general.  What I'm basically after is the most bee friendly flowers in the least space possible.

 

 

07/08/2014 at 12:27

First, yes, there are single-flowered hollyhocks, but you will have the same problem with rust - if you're in an area prone to it, it's very difficult to get rid of it in hollyhocks.

One plant missing from your list is scabious - look at small garden varieties if you can't fit the taller wild plant. Bees are extremely fond of them.

Another is antirrhinums, particularly the varieties where the bee has to climb into the "trap".

As a general hint, double versions of flowers are often less attractive to bees because it's difficult to reach the heart for the insect.

07/08/2014 at 12:31

Hi FoxBat, welcome to the forum

Interesting first post and one of my favourite subjects.

Flowers I have found the bees like are

Pulmonaria - Blue Ensign is earliest in my garden - early bees

Orpine - not floppy like cultivated sedums - summer to late summer but favoured by many bees

Verbena Bonariensis - stands up on its own if in the middle or back of border- long season - butterflies and bees

Salvias like rose queen- poss too lumbering for you? - long flowering - bees

Lythrum dropmore purple - a honey bee favourite. Flops after rain but rights itself after.

Liatris - used but not smothered in bees

Dahlias, the single type - don't require staking - bees

Veronica - christa is my most compact that requires no staking - bees

Snapdragons - bumble types only

Sidalcea are a slightly tidier form of mallow - all bees

aconitum napellus - bees love it, tall but one early stake will suffice

Other good alliums I've found are globe master and purple sensation.

07/08/2014 at 12:40
Alina W wrote (see)

First, yes, there are single-flowered hollyhocks, but you will have the same problem with rust - if you're in an area prone to it, it's very difficult to get rid of it in hollyhocks.

One plant missing from your list is scabious - look at small garden varieties if you can't fit the taller wild plant. Bees are extremely fond of them.

Another is antirrhinums, particularly the varieties where the bee has to climb into the "trap".

As a general hint, double versions of flowers are often less attractive to bees because it's difficult to reach the heart for the insect.

Thanks Alina,

I'm based 'up noorth' so I'm guessing they won't like the extra damp (though it's been good this year)

I've got some Devils's Bit Scabious, the leaves are low to the ground quite fleshy, each plant is about 6/8" diamater at the moment, I'm not sure what flowers if any will show this year.

I'll look into Antirrhinums, many thanks. 

07/08/2014 at 12:53

You have lavender on your list but how about other herbs?

my fennel is in full bloom and full of insects, Rosemary never seems to stop flowering, thymes, origano, sage(salvias) all are excellent for insects.

07/08/2014 at 13:25

Ajuga are low growing tough plants, flower in the Spring and the bees like them. Won't be long before it's Spring bulb planting time, crocus are good for early emerging bees

07/08/2014 at 14:07

mint and thyme.

Lyn
07/08/2014 at 15:14

As well as the above, my best bee plants so far, Borage, Cerinthe, open dahlia, buddlia. All my garden is geared up for Bees, I have never seen so many.

07/08/2014 at 15:45
Would you consider valerian or phacelia? They do seed freely tho so you have to keep an eye on them

You will attract more things if you have something for the young to eat, any chance you would consider a few nettles out of the way somewhere?
07/08/2014 at 15:54

..my best 3 at the moment would be..

Lavender angustifolia.... big plants these but swarming in bumble bees.... full sun position...

Verbena bonariensis..already mentioned... all sorts of butterflies on these... tall.. don't take up much room or need staking where I've got them...

Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve'... lots of butterflies on these too... just watching them now incidentally...all fluttering around... lovely...

Lyn
07/08/2014 at 16:54

I have just taken my Bowles Mauve cuttings ready for next year. They can get leggy after a while.

07/08/2014 at 16:56

Cheers Victoria Sponge, exactly what I was after. 

Verbena/Salvia/Veronica I did order this year actually, but I was expecting plug plants and got bits of root, that didn't grow. They're supposed to send a replacement this season so fingers crossed.

I'll investigate the others you mentioned and put them in my spreadsheet for next years planting, so many thanks once again.

07/08/2014 at 17:06

@Bamboogie

I've put Borage in, very big 'awkward' plant, but a smaller type of bee (lighter coloured) seems to love them. We have Chives (quite mature), Rosemary (smells but no flowers), Thyme which seems to do better in a pot as the previous two died when I put them out. Also Oreganum (from seed). Now just need to work out how to use them in cooking!

@bekkie hughes 

I'd consider anything! I'm a bit geeky so any suggestions I'm putting in a Spreadsheet, with things like height/width etc. So I can work out if they'd be suitable. I'm favouring things that don't take up much room as I wasted a lot of space this year with 'goudy' plants that are now in the compost bin after flowering.

 

@Salino

Many thanks I'll look into these too, particularly Erysimum.

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions so far, if it's any use to anyone, one of the 'tools' I use in deciding on what to plant is:

http://beekind.bumblebeeconservation.org/finder

It lets you quickly filter by name/colour/flowering month(s)/type, and gives each flower a score as to nectar value. I've found there are some missing I think should be on, and the scores can be subjective but it's been quite useful as a reference.

07/08/2014 at 17:11

Let's not forget the moths. Night scented stock - it does flop so you can grow it in deep pots.

09/08/2014 at 09:08

I have a small garden, too, in which I plant to attract bees, butterflies and other insects such as hoverflies. I definitely agree with some of the suggestions already mentioned.

Lacy phacelia for example, is wonderful for attracting bees but it will get quite large and dominate the space it's in. Although other flowers will grow through it.

If you've got space a climbing nasturtium is another plant that bees adore. I also have some non-climbing varieties in baskets.

Some butterflies love the marigolds (French petite) that I plant every year. Peacock butterflies and some of the smaller brown butterflies love them. I also plant Tagetes for the same reason.

Pot marigolds (Calendulaofficinalis) attract butterflies and bees to the garden.

As has been mentioned, snapdragons are great for bees.

For early to mid-summer the Aquilegia (alpina) I have attracts huge numbers of bees and is a beautiful blue colour.

I also have a small Escallonia (pruned regularly to fit the small space) that produces wonderful small white flowers all through summer that the smaller bees love.

09/08/2014 at 09:11

I forgot to add that I grow lots of sunflowers, which all the bees love.

09/08/2014 at 09:22

Don't forget to go vertical - I've got Cotoneaster - you can have it against a wall  or fence so it takes very little room. Mine are smothered with bees and then you have the berries for birds later on. I also have some dwarf ones  in large 'window boxes' on top of one of the fences. If you have a wall or fence you could have some troughs on it full of herbs as Bamboogie suggests - thyme will grow particularly well in that situation -  and I've also got nasturtiums in pots (and the boxes) which the bees are enjoying. They're dead easy   

10/08/2014 at 10:41

Agastache, common name Anise Hyssop is always covered in bees, summer to late autumn. Also Echinacea and Rudbeckia. Butterflies love them too. 

10/08/2014 at 14:28

I haven't seen coreopsis mentioned, mine are covered in bees and other insects.

11/08/2014 at 13:52

Cheers for all the suggestions so far folks, it's given me lots of ideas.

Sunflowers - Yes we put in some dwarf multi-headed ones, good job too as the rest of the garden is looking a bit past it's best now, but these are still going very strong.

Coreopsis. - I have a variety (sunburst?) but I found it to be too droopy and just smothered everything around it.

Echinaceas/Rudbeckia - Agreed though I've found these very difficult to grow from seed, a few are growing now and one of the Echinacea produced a single  beautiful blue/purple flower so hopefully I'll have a better showing with these next year.

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