Sunday, 5 June 2011

Looking after the bees

Let me take you by the hand, and take you on a little tour, not of the streets of London, but of my cottage garden, and ask you when you garden, to keep the bees in mind ...

Heartsease - very tasty flowers

In recent years the numbers of bees bumbling about the countryside have fallen precipitously, and some varieties have even become extinct.

The best use for heavy old metal watering cans

There is all sorts of speculation as to why this might have happened, and research is ongoing, but I feel that the very least we can do is to garden to help the bees.

Busy bee on catmint

They pollinate so many crops, and human beings are so dependent on them (if they did all become extinct, we would soon be following them), that it is pretty much a matter of enlightened self-interest.

Where the bee sucks ... Lonicera periclymenum

So as we walk round my little patch of earth, I will show you one or two plants that the bees seem to love - so they must be good to have in the garden. They are certainly attracted to honeysuckle (do you think they like the name?), which is lovely to grow up walls, along picket fences, or as part of an informal flowering mixed hedge. And the smell in my garden is quite heavenly ... somehow like the very best soap, but a lot less expensive.


Another plant which is always alive with bees is catmint (Nepeta x faassenii) - it has a very long flowering season, is pretty to look at, and a nice addition to this sort of flower arrangement.

And let nature take its course a bit:  I am all for an easy life, and this is one of the things I like about permaculture - it encourages you to work with nature, and not to labour unnecessarily. Bees need flowers from early spring to autumn, so in February and March when flowers are short, I let the pink, purple and white deadnettles have their pretty way on path edges and in corners - insects love them, and you can always tidy them up after they have flowered.

Spot the busy bee


And just to show the virtue of laissez faire in the great outdoors: this is an unprepossessing wall on the north end of the house, close by the boiler outlet (you can see the blue of the oil line behind), with no soil to plant in, and here we have self-sown hollyhocks, feverfew and delphinium which have been allowed to have their own way. A tidy gardener would have weeded (or worse, weedkilled them) out of existence to leave a neat blank wall in all its ugliness.

Whereas Slack Alice somehow never finished the housework, and in the process made a bee very happy ... If you want to find out more about how you can help bees in your own garden, you will find The Bumblebee Conservation Trust here. I would also love to hear what you have been doing in your patch that encourages bee conservation - I am always on the lookout for new ideas.

And this little garden tour is part of the Bloggers' Garden Tour organized by Amy at During Quiet Time - have a look at the other gardens here - and even better still, why not join in and show us the pretties in your patch?

29 comments:

marigold jam said...

Just the sort of garden I like! I will certainly pop over and join in that link to show you our garden not that it is of RHS standards but we do have plenty of wild life in it and as we are bordered by a wood I have a sort of wild boundary too. Must get some cat mint and then maybe Thomas would prefer that to my normal mint sauce mint!

andrea creates said...

it's so pretty! we had lots of honeysuckle in california, i sure miss it here. and if i recall right it seems like we had a lot more little bees around there.
i hadn't heard of catmint before...but i'm going to check into it...

Amy said...

Lovely! Catmint is one of my favorite plants in my kitchen garden. Sadly my cats like it too and curl up in the middle of it!

Nicky said...

I agree that a tidy garden is not necessarily a bee friendly place - at least that is my excuse. Single flowers are the best and the bees seem to love my herbs - thyme, sage, lavender. Buddleia is another favourite for bees and butterflies later on in the season.

lily said...

I planted a wild flower meadow last year, manged to squeeze it into a 2mx2m space, we have a very small garden, but even in such a small area the wildlife abounded.........bees, butterflies and even a frog for some reason (we have no pond, unless you count the water butt)............I sat out there for hours watching the comings and goings.

lily x

The Weaver of Grass said...

Oddly enough, I'll tell you what the bees love most in my garden - cotoneaster horizontalis - such a tiny insignificant little flower and yet when they are out they are absolutely covered in bees (and consequently later in the year in berries).

Arianwen said...

My garden is pretty rambling! with lots of bushes and flowers. Many of which were planted by my grandmother. I have one bush in my garden that humms continually with the bees. They just love it! It is so big now it is almost taking over but I haven't the heart to prune it back.

Menopausalmusing said...

Our garden is generally a mass of flowers (my part of the gardening bargain!). However, I must agree with a previous comment re cotoneaster: next door has a wall over which it spills - not only does it looks extremely pretty, but I found myself going out over and over and over last year just to check whether there was a swarm of bees in it, the noise was just unbelievable!

Lola Nova said...

I often am a-worry with the matter of the bees. In my garden, it seems that many of the flowering herbs are favorites with the bees. Borage seems to attract them and the pretty blue flowers are lovely. Of course 'Bee Balm' is so nice. We have a massive rosemary plant that really needs to be removed but, it attracts so many bees I can't quite get myself to take it out. We also have planted to attract butterflies and birds.

We use no pesticides nor chemical fertilizers. I also find that mixed beds that include veg, flowers, and herbs all together; seem to not only make the bees come along but, makes for a happier garden all around.

And yes, I am definitely a cultivator of the untidy garden :)

Angel Jem said...

Bees must love my garden if they like the uncultivated sort! I have lavender, honeysuckle and buddleia, will they do?

Florence and Mary said...

Without a garden of my own it's so nice to visit other's via blogland!

Victoria xx

Barbara said...

Don't think that people generally know how devastating it would be for the human race if bees became extinct.

Yes will join the garden tour but will have to come back. Have just posted a garden tour anyhow so may be bale to include that.

Yes the dress is on the sidebar under newly married.

Indigo Blue said...

OH, I was jumping up and down with glee when I read your post. For the past few years I have been adding bee friendly plants to our modest little garden. I planted a honeysuckle two years aog and it is growing really well. You have given me some more flowers to look out for as I am working on my own little cottage garden, but without the cottage if you see what I mean. Sadly, I live in a 1970's house! I am off to write odwn some of those plant names. I shall try and post dome of my bee favourites this week.
x

Ruth @ The Butterfly Bush Diaries said...

Lovely, lovely garden! I also have quite a few wild flowers growing in my garden - ragged robin, meadowsage, fox and cubs and teasel. I've also started growing many herbs not only for use in the kitchen but just purely to grow them for the wildlife - borage, lemon balm, various corianders and thymes, hyssop to name a few. Every one is a necessity in order to keep wildlife established in the UK and if it can't be done in our countryside these days we must also try in our gardens otherwise lots of wonderful species will sadly die out.

Callies Cottage said...

Lovely!!!I try to do as much as I can to encourage bees and birds into our garden too....
Happy Gardening!
Warm Wishes,
Callie x

Lisa said...

Next door have an abundance of honeysuckle which has grown all over to our side of the garden and smells divine. They want to cut it back though!
Lisa x

periwinkle said...

We only have a small yard with a tiny patch of earth but I do have a pink Jasmine growing up the wall and the bees absolutely adore it . Sometimes you can see as many as a dozen bees on it and I wouldn't have it any other way x

momof3girls said...

What a lovely garden! The bees here seem to be enjoying our sunflowers. We stand and gaze at them forever. :)

Caroline Lovis said...

After having a stall next to our local beekeepers association I now feel I know all there is to know about keeping bees, so it was uncanny when I tuned into your blog today. Lots of good advice here thanks and your previous post - that dress! It reminds me so much of one of my mums that I used to dress up in, I covet the memory now. Make sure you visit my blog as there's a surprise waiting for you x

Pipany said...

Very beautiful Pomona. I like to encourage the bees too - something so lovely about the sound of them buzzing away.

Barbara said...

Checked your food growing blog and can see the hard work you put into growing your own. We used to have an allottment for years but it became too much eventually and we gave it up. Enjoyed it while it lasted though.

Bluebell said...

Lovely post Pomona, your garden looks wonderful and natural. I am keen on encouraging bees as you might guess. The best bee plants in my garden at the moment are bugle,(which I know spreads everywhere but it is easy to pull out where you don't want it) marjoram and ragged robin which is supposed to like damp ground but self seeds everywhere, including in cracks in paving etc.
I have tried to teach myself to identify some of the bumble bees but find it very tricky!x

Louise said...

Thanks for the tour around your garden, tips and photos. Fortunately the previous owners of our place introduced many bee loving plants and shrubs, and I have continued with the trend. The garden buzzes with bees all year long. When I get a moment I shall set up a list of all bee-loving plants I have on my garden blog. x

Juliab said...

Thanks so much for this post - I am currently weeding a fairly large area which will mainly be turfed over, with a border around. I was feeling very sorry for the bees who seem to love all the weeds that are there. I was hoping to find out which flowers bees like most and plant some. I will be making a note before my next trip to the garden centre. x

Rowan said...

I shall go and get some catmint plants, they are so pretty. I had some years ago but lost it. The bees love the sage (which I always allow to flower because it's so beautiful), thyme and goatsbeard in my garden.

elizabethm said...

Lovely! Sometimes the noise the in my garden is so loud with bees you can hardly hear the birds. Bees in my garden love the hardy geraniums with their simple flowers and at the moment the chives are in bloom and practically bowed down with bees. It is so important that gardeners plant for bees and butterflies.

...Miss...Maddie's... said...

Thank heaven for bees...
Everything looks so lush and I'd love to grow some heartsease.
I see quite a few other readers loved your yellow floral dress too!
Susan x

taylorsoutback said...

Such a sweet post - I never mind having the bees nearby...they love my thyme plants when blossoming and right now are so happy by the bleeding hearts.
I love your garden and thank you for taking us on a walk.

DM said...

Nice post !It is so right to remind us of the bees ! I have a lot of lavender and some honeysuckle too , but at the moment the lime tree is vibrating with all sorts of insects... I noticed it because last year at this period it was almost silent... so something happened last year that didn't this year , and it is a relief ....

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