Flowers for bees and butterflies

Flowers for bees and butterflies

Most wild animals and insects need our help and gardens are an important refuge for them. Unlike fields and hedges, we can pack a huge variety of different flowers in our gardens that offer a wide range of different flowers over many months.

Planning your garden for bees and butterflies is easy and rewarding. Bumblebees and honeybees tend to prefer different flowers and bumblebees usually start to appear earlier in the season when the big queens search for nectar from early flowers including winter heathers, crocus, hellebores and pulmonarias.

As the season progresses they still tend to prefer large, tubular flowers and will methodically visit foxgloves, penstemons and weigela. But they are not averse to feeding on more open blooms, the types that attract all pollinators. These include all flowers that have an open ‘daisy’ shape including rudbeckias, Echinacea, dahlias, cosmos and marigolds. Try to avoid double-flowered sorts because these make it difficult for the bees to get to the nectar and pollen. The starry flowers of alliums, arranged in spherical heads, are also popular.

Honey bees like all these but I have found that they can be picky. Two annuals that always attract them are limnanthes (poached egg plant) and mignonette.

The blue-flowered borage is easily grown from seed and bees love it too. Other herbs are good too, including thyme, lavender, rosemary and marjoram.

When planting for butterflies, all the above are good, especially if the flowers are pink or purple, along with buddleias and verbena. Make sure you leave a bit of the garden wild, with a few weeds and long grass because you need to provide some food for the caterpillars or you won’t get any butterflies!

Embrace your inner gardener with Geoff’s enlightening advice and ideas.

Post written by our resident gardening guru Geoff Stebbings from www.thebikinggardener.com

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