Bees need flowers all summer long. Millions of them. So we need to plant flowers we know will flower in early spring, right through summer and as late in the fall as possible. The wonderful thing about growing flowers for bees is that it seems that the ones they love the most are the ones that love to grow. And weeds, you will find a lot of weeds in this list. And there are a lot more that you will find in your area. Some of these pictures are taken from stock, so some will be out of season but they are all in my gardens. This is a shot from today though.
BEG the farmers and neighbours around you to cut back a wee bit on their mowing along the roadsides when the dandelions and clovers are in flower. Clover is the biggie. Of course you have to be good too and not knock all those lovely flowers off with your own big fat mower. It may look a bit raggedy for a while but try not to mow your own lawn when it is flowering. Bees can comfortably fly two miles to forage but have been known to go as far as six miles if something tasty comes on the menu. So let people know that you have bees.
Before I start I must say that I sowed a whole lot of bee balm which is a great spreading plant. But I have never seen one bee on these flowers. Not one. Butterflies love it though. The flower itself is more suited to a humming-bird I think. But no bees. Weird.
From some plants the bees get nectar and some they gather pollen. So make sure that your flowers are from heirloom seeds or the pollen will be inert and therefore useless to a bee. This is important.
Pussy Willow. This is the first flower on my property that the bees find. It is a small tree that is fairly dull for the rest of the year, but mine was heaving with bees in the early spring.
Fruit Trees. As many fruit trees as you can cram into your property. Fruit feeds everyone. Now I realise that the picture below is not of a fabulous apple blossom. This is an hydrangea. And no I have never seen a bee on a hydrangea. But it is just so gorgeous and we are having a bit of a flowerfest today so I indulged myself and popped it in anyway. This is from this morning as well.
Forsythia. Very early spring. Comes out at around the same time as pussy willow so is a good staple. Prune after it flowers and it will flower from the new growth next year. You can dig up and tear the roots apart quite rudely to propagate. It is very hardy. This is an early spring shot. You can just see the new meadow beginning to sprout.
Dandelion. If you have these in your lawn then REJOICE. They flower early. The bees love them AND you can pick the little leaves and throw them in your salad. My father believes that dandelion tea, mixed with a little honey and cider vinegar is good for what ails ya’.
Hollyhocks. Another easy care plant. Mine are quite out of control and bright pink (shudder) but they are so popular I am loath to dig them out. As if you can get rid of a hollyhock after it has got itself dug in!
Chives. Just common all garden type chives. No winter can deter them and they flower madly, also of course great in the kitchen. Divide your plants after they flower every year, the bees will love you for it and so will your salads and summer soups.
Poppies. Throw piles of seed out for poppies. Sow in the autumn/fall. They will not transplant but you can grow them in pots if you are clever. Sometimes you will find them in a garden centre. Grab a couple – it will save you time. Once established they love to grow. Remember that they will flower in their second year. And forever after.
Catnip and Catmint. White or Purple. These are brilliant great big weeds. Though remember a weed is only a plant in the wrong place and there is a place for this weed. It attracts thousands of bees and when it goes to seed is full of little yellow finches. This is a protected plant around here. You will see it on the left of the first photo. Not photogenic, but prolific!
Lavender. These flowers were the major bee feeding spot for quite some time. My lavender hedge is right along the garden path leading to the kitchen door so you can imagine how gingerly my visitors would walk up that buzzing path. In areas with very cold winters plant early in the summer. If their root systems are well established they should survive. I grow Munstead.
Salvia. All of them, especially the blue and purple ones And sage, especially Russian Sage so the bees tell me.
Borage is the top seller for bees. These plants are always heaving with bees. And in high summer when the flowers are over, you can yank them out and the seed it has scattered immediately takes off and it will be flowering again before the end of summer. So they start early, end late and are very popular. A very good trait in a bee flower. You will only need to sow these once. And they fall all over and make a proper mess. You can eat the little leaves in salads if you like. And for the cocktail lovers you can freeze the flowers in little blocks of ice! Who knew!
Thistles. I know you have seen this picture before but I do like it. It seems that as bee keepers we need to ensure that some areas of our properties just go to seed and weeds and all that. My gardens at this time of the year are so weedy for this very reason. (laughter) . The thistle is a great forage for the bees. Hopefully you can keep them down the back though. Not even sheep will eat them.
Your vegetable garden zucchini, pumpkins, melons, beans, etc. Your whole vege patch and your bees will have a lovely productive relationship.
Lambs Ears. This plant has the most unappealing flowers on the planet. So I only shot the leaves. But the bees are endlessly crawling all over the flowers. Plus Lambs Gars grows with such a dense pattern that is locks out weeds which is so helpful to the lazy gardener.
Sunflowers of all kinds. This is a small native sunflower. next spring we will bulk plant huge sunflowers for both the bees and the chickens. (We are breaking in another two acres this autumn.) Also Our John wants to sow a quarter acre in Buckwheat which evidently makes the best honey. So I will try to find some seed. I understand that it is not a wheat really. I need to do some more research on this crop.
Coneflower. A staple. once again choose a space where they can spread and just go for it. Fantastic native flower and grows like a weed. All my wild garden visitors love it. Butterflies, birds and bees are all attracted to the coneflower garden.
Anemone. My favorite flower. It comes late in the season and grows like a weed. Loves to spread, very easy to divide. Flowering late is wonderful as most everything else has closed up its petals and just died from the heat and dry. The Anemone is a tough little number. As you can see it is not quite flowering here yet. But soon it will be humming.
So that is most of the flowers I have for bees. Have fun. Now it is time for me to get back outside and get on with the fencing. We are building the internal fences in the new meadow. Actually this is my job as it is much lighter work that the others. But I am not very good with wire. Or straight lines for that matter. Though it looks like it might be a little cooler day today.
We will visit Queenie tomorrow. And make pesto. I will leave you with my lovely anemone.