Gardens are extremely important for bees and other pollinators, and vice versa.
Bees need flowers for sustenance, and flowers need bees for pollination. But it’s important the flowers you grow provide the food bees need. You can also help the wildlife in your garden by creating dead wood habitats, or build a pond for wildlife.
If you want to embark on making your garden as wildlife-friendly as possible, watch this video series with Monty Don on creating a wildlife garden.
Great flowers start with pollination, and for that you need bees. Find out how to get the busiest garden insects to work for you, in our feature.
Most double flowers are of little use, as they’re too elaborate. Some are bred without male and female parts, while others have so many petals that bees can’t get to the nectar and pollen. So, single dahlias and other single blooms are popular with many bees, while doubles are usually ignored.
Bees can see the purple more clearly than any other colour, so grow lots of purple plants, such as lavender, alliums, buddleja and catmint. That said, flowers of other colours will still attract bees, so don’t go pulling them all up! You can prolong the flowering of many plants by deadheading them.
Tubular-shaped flowers such as foxgloves, honeysuckle, penstemons and snapdragons are the favourite feeding places of long-tongued bees such as the garden bumblebee, Bombus hortorum.
Flowers for all seasons
It’s vital you provide flowers throughout the year. Bees are most active from March to September, but overwintering queens and workers may emerge on warm days in winter, too. It’s also a good idea to have at least two nectar- or pollen-rich plants in flower at any one time during this period. The nectar feeds the adult bee, while the pollen is collected to feed the young. You can never have too many!
Try the following to attract more bees into your garden:
Bluebell, bugle, crab apple, daffodil, flowering cherry and currant, forget-me-nots, hawthorn, pulmonaria, rhododendron, rosemary, thrift and viburnum.
Aquilegia, astilbe, campanula, comfrey, delphinium, everlasting sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius), fennel, foxglove, hardy geranium, potentilla, snapdragon, stachys, teasel, thyme, verbascum.
Angelica, aster, buddleja, cardoon, cornflower, dahlia (single-flowered), eryngium, fuchsia, globe thistle, heather, ivy, lavender, penstemon, scabious, sedum, Verbena bonariensis.
Kate Bradbury says
The perennial wallflower, Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ flowers pretty much every day of the year, particularly in milder regions. It’s a great nectar plant and a good choice for a small, bee-friendly garden.