Over the summer of 2016, Blooms for Bees installed a new flower border at Ryton Organic Gardens near Coventry. We wanted to create a flower-filled area that would provide food for bumblebees and other insect pollinators, for as much of the year as possible.
We based our plant choices on existing lists and knowledge, but hope to improve the plant selection as well as flower recommendations for gardeners in the future using the information collected by our app.
The full Blooms for Bees Border plant list is available here. Some of our favourite plants are:
- Lungwort (Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Mrs Moon’) blooms from February and is an important early food source for many bees such as the Common Carder Bee and the solitary species, the Hairy-footed Flower Bee.
- Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) a great UK native plant that sends up tall spikes of bright purple flowers in high summer. Popular with several bumblebee species and leafcutter bees.
- Michaelmas Daisy (Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’) an attractive late flowerer that goes on well into October. Produces pollen and nectar which can be accessed by many insects.
- Perennial Wallflower (Erysimum asperum ‘Bowles’ Mauve’) which is in flower for most of the year, especially through winter.
We decided to arrange the plants in clumps of the same species rather than scatter them, as most bees prefer to forage on a single type of flower at a time. We also avoided using any cultivars with frilly, ‘double’ petalled flowers as the pollen and nectar is often lacking or inaccessible. In the centre of the border there is a raised area, providing a good opportunity to grow Mediterranean herbs such as lavender, rosemary, hyssop and thyme that prefer free draining conditions.
It was also important to grow plants with a range of different flower shapes as there is great variation in tongue length between bumblebee species. We included flowers like foxgloves and betony that long-tongued bees such as the Garden Bumblebee can reach deep inside, whilst marshmallow, Michaelmas daisies and strawberries offer accessible food for short-tongued species like the Red-tailed Bumblebee.
The border was planted a little late in the year for some bumblebee species, but we were able to observe Red-tailed Bumblebees, Common Carder Bees and Buff-tailed Bumblebees along with honeybees, solitary bees and a wide variety of hoverflies. By early autumn the plants were getting well established and we’re looking forward to seeing which bees will visit in 2017.