Bees, naturally. I saw my first bumble bee 10 days ago in the nursery garden, about the time we were potting on plants. It got me thinking about plants for bees and how it’s easy to take it for granted that flowers will set seed. Of course, if there were no bees ….. well, pollination would be confined to the wind pollinated plants e.g. most grasses, the ant pollinated plants e.g. cyclamen and those pollinated by humming birds. We haven’t got any native humming birds here at Harrell’s, as you might guess, so there would be quite a poor harvest of seed and of the fruit and veg. we like to grow for our own tables.
An excellent bee plant is Trifolium – or clover- the scourge of every dedicated lawn-grower. We don’t grow the low form, Trifolium repens, but the two taller ones, Trifolium ochroleucom and Trifolium rubens. The first is a creamy white and flowers in late May through to June; the second is a reddy-pink and flowers from June to early July. Both make a clump about 24-30 inches tall.
When we take them to plant sales, I’ve been known to remove clinging bees from their flowers before I can load them into my car!
Another plant that I have found to be very bee-friendly is the Salvia family. The shrubby, mostly hardy, microphylla type are extremely long-flowering, staring in early June and finishing in the first hard frost, which last year, gave me (and the bees) nearly six months worth of flowers!
They will need a favourable spot in your garden, sunny, well-drained and/or sheltered. Mine live in a raised bed against my house wall – south-facing; and another lot live in gravel-enriched(!) soil on the south-facing side of my greenhouse, where I have dug their root ball slightly under the greenhouse walls to keep them drier.
At the nursery our Salvia live on the Berm and have survived there for the last three years with a cloche over the ones I know need a dry winter – Salvia guaranatica for one.
Finally, another buzz started in my garden last Wednesday – my male frogs singing (bass or baritone) to lure the lady frogs to mate. Spawn count at the time of going to press? 8