Bees’ Needs: Flowers!

Bee on a borage flower
A bee enjoys the last of the borage flowers.

This week has been ‘Bees’ Needs Week’ here in the UK. This is an annual campaign where a number of groups come together to increase awareness of the needs of bees and other pollinators and ways in which we can help them.

Suddenly there seems to be a lot more interest in the role of gardens in helping wild creatures, especially insects and birds, to survive.

(This week, the ‘Gardener’s World’ TV show was all about wild meadow flowers and ways that we can encourage some of the same plants into our own gardens. And the major garden shows – Chelsea and Hampton Court – have an increasing emphasis on planting for wildlife.)

In reality, the desire to help our bees and pollinators has been growing steadily over the last few years but now there is much more information about what gardeners can do. (And, I think, willingness in gardeners to do what they can to help.)

I’ll link to some of the best bee info websites that I’ve found at the bottom of this post.

A bee on a red scabious flower (Knautia macedonica).
Bees love this red scabious (Knautia macedonica).

In our garden here in Suffolk, I’ve tried to plant flowers that would be a good source of pollen and nectar over a long period. For early and late in the year, there is Mahonia and Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, but I really need to plant more early spring bulbs, especially crocuses, and flowers that will last well into autumn.

Among the most successful of the bee plants in the garden here are borage, red scabious, alliums, lavander and catmint.

At the moment there is a big patch of borage plants – they seem huge this year – and, although the flowers are almost over, the bees have been very busy here.

The red scabious  happily seeds itself all around the garden and you can usually find a few bees on its flowers. Verbena bonariensis does the same thing, cropping up all over the place and keeping not just bees, but hoverflies and butterflies happy too.

A beekeeper has caught a swarm of bees in a skep.
L: Checking that the bees are comfortably settled in their temporary home. R: Waiting for latecomers.

One year, I got a bit more than I bargained for when a swarm of bees decided to take up residence in the cherry tree in our front garden. Luckily a nearby beekeeper was happy to take them away to a nice new home. It was impressive to see how deftly he was able to shake them out of the tree into his straw skep. Once the queen and the majority of the swarm were safely settled in the skep, the rest of the bees gradually joined them by crawling in through a gap left for them. Frost fleece came in pretty handy as a way of discouraging escapees!

I hope to increase the number of bee-friendly plants in our garden and to encourage other wildlife too, probably by growing some wild plants in odd corners of the garden. The idea of having a small ‘meadow’ planting area appeals to me and may be a project for next year.

I’ll be writing more about bees and gardens soon. In the meantime, here are some helpful (UK-based) sites if you’d like more information about planting for bees:

  • The Pollinator Garden – site by Marc Carlton. This site has more information than anything else I’ve found so far. Great planting list with details of what kinds of bees the different plants attract. Comprehensive information, including how to build bee hotels, creating garden meadows etc.
  • Save Bees and Pollinators  – The Wildlife Trusts. Information about the importance of pollinators and the threats they face. Links to information about how you can use your own garden to help them.
  • RHS Plants for Pollinators  – Royal Horticultural Society. Has downloadable plant lists for garden plants, wild flowers and ‘plants of the world’.
  • The Bumblebee Conservation Trust – has lots of information about different bumblebee species and their needs. Their ‘Bee Kind’ tool allows you to find out how many bee-friendly plants are in your garden. (It’s massive and goes on for 34 pages but you can also use it to see just the best plants for bees by clicking on ‘Only Show Super Plants’ in the filter bar.)
A bee on Verbena bonariensis
Verbena bonariensis is popular with bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

18 thoughts on “Bees’ Needs: Flowers!

  1. Very nice bee pix! Where I live the wildlife, especially the deer and rabbits, have a great time eating my plants. The challenge for us is to find blooms they will not eat. The bees are usually around too.

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    1. Thank you Syd! I’m usually not fast enough to catch the bees – these must have been very busy! Luckily, we only have to worry about pigeons and slugs eating our plants here. My Mum used to get sheep and cows eating her plants!

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      1. Ah, well, the cow actually started off in a field behind the house – Mum chased it back with a broom! (All part of country life, hehe!)

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  2. Wonderful photos of bees on flowers, Ann! The photo of the bee on the borage is particularly stunning. There is a drive here in the US to get home gardeners to plant for bees and pollinators – there is great joy to be had in welcoming these creatures into our gardens.

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    1. Thank you ! I am glad you like it. 🙂 I think that gardeners are getting much more interested in helping wildlife and a bit more relaxed about allowing wild plants into their gardens. Together we can make a real difference! 🙂

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    1. Thank you Phao! I spent quite a while watching the bees in the borage – they really love it and were making the most of the last flowers.

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    1. Yes, I agree with you Jill. Every bit that gardeners can do will help. The red scabious is great – very easy and produces flowers over a long time. (I’m going to add more blue scabious plants to the garden too. 🙂 )

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing:) In Germany, we have a serious problem with (or rather: without) the bees for they are rapidly vanishing. So every time I see someone (no matter where) raising attention to this very common problem I have hope again that we can save our little friends.

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    1. I think that we need to do everything we can to help bees (and other insects) now, because it could be too late before we know it. We seem to have been going along blindly thinking that we’re not affecting nature with all the things we do – but I hope we can change that. We really need to.

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      1. To survive – strange that we like to assume we could live whilst destroy the place we intend to live in. But I think that we will change – at last.

        Have a lovely day:)

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