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This blogg post is prompted by my OCGD peer Svend Rumbold of Rumbold Ayers and his blog posting about Bees.

I am often asked about  wildlife friendly, bee friendly, butterfly friendly plantings and  gardens and this week a customer (design) set me the task of designing a garden with space for a beehive and a chicken coop alongside an ornamental garden and some productive vegetable beds in 1/4 acre or so.

Allium, litterally buzzing with hungry bees

So we’ve all heard about the bee decline  and that no one really knows why, could be disease (Varroa destructor) could be stress (moving them about to pollinate all over the place), could be monoculture growing environments , could be pesticides and pollution. And we could all wring our hands, tear our hair and wail or we could do something to facilitate the local environment to support the ‘feral’ bees that are surviving and there are many bees still surviving. This is one time when the individual really can make a difference.

Did you know that in Britain there are around 10 million back gardens even taking into account the 2 million lost in the last decade or so to ‘garden grabber’ developers/home owners who sell off their outside space (previously denoted brown field sites) to cram in as many executive homes as they can get through planning, thankfully recent legislation has put a stop to this practice.

Colchicum with bee covered in pollen

So what do you grow, how do you attempt to make your patch a haven from February through to October and possibly even provide some winter shelter too!

Springy choices, Anemone (I know, not springy!), Chinodoxa forbesii, Narcissus Tete a Tete, Berginia Beethoven, Anthemis, Pulmonaria, Eranthis, Helleborus, Apple and Muscari

Bees see blue and yellow best, they see the red spectrum less easily. So yes Blue/Purple spectrum and Yellow flowers are bee friendly. Think Lavender, Aster ‘Little Carlo’, Eranthis hyemalis, Daffodils and so on

Moth friendly things are those that either flower or give off their scent late in the day or at night and are pale/white…this is because if they’re white, they ‘glow’ in the dark making them easier for moths to find! So night scented stocks (Matthiola cornis)  and Nicotiana both fulfil that one

Summery option: Sambucus nigra, Astrantia, Phlomis russelliana, Cenolophium denudatum, Rose, Geranium Rozanne, Allium, Agastache, Achillea

Single flowers not because doubles don’t have the goods (nectar) but it’s much harder work for the bee to get to it, all those petals to fight your way through and so it’s a waste of precious energy extracting the nectar. Think Geranium, Foxglove (Digitalis),

Rosa filipes Kiftesgate

Potentilla, Rosa Filipes Kiftsgate (lots of single flowers all really close together).

And lots of flowers close together so they don’t have to go far to stock up think of it as a Honey Bee supermarket.

Autumnal options: Helenium, Amaranthus, Nepeta, Grasses, Rudbeckia, Liriope muscari, Cleome and Aconite

And a variety of varieties, like us they need more than one source of food things that supply different nutrients throughout the year. I recall having an ‘aha, of course!’ moment when reading about this at The Melissa Garden website.

Of course trees play a huge part early in the season, pussy willow and fruit trees burgeoning with flowers and catkins, tempting the bees to visit their pollen and nectar reserves.

Overwintering options are often put down to ‘insect hotels’ and the like but lately bee keeper think that our wild life isn’s so enamoured of the ‘luxury’ locations prefering dead wood, well established shrubbery and quiet out of the way spots to nest.

One last thing to offer is water a shallow, still, clean water source never goes amiss!

What will you be feeding your wildlife this year?

Cutter bee inspecting the ‘hotel’

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