Many traditional bedding plants have been bred for appearance, often to the detriment of flower structure and function. Consequently, these colourful plants are often of little value to our declining pollinators and wider biodiversity.
There is increasing interest in bedding plants that are bright and cheerful, but also perfect for pollinators. We are conducting several trials to improve knowledge of the suitability of various plants as bumblebee-friendly bedding.
Mignon Series dahlias: discovering bumblebee preferences.
Dahlias with simple, open flowers make excellent bedding plants. Citizen scientists from across the UK are growing and surveying Mignon Series dahlias in 2017, to determine which bumblebees they are popular with and whether bumblebees demonstrate a colour preference within the series.
Chaenostoma (Bacopa): a new RHS Perfect for Pollinators plant?
Chaenostoma (often listed as Bacopa and formerly Sutera) is a popular trailing plant which has shown some potential for attracting bumblebees. We are growing and surveying three colour forms from the Abunda Colossal Series, to determine whether they are worthy of being added to the RHS Perfect for Pollinator list. You can take part by surveying the hanging baskets in the trials field at RHS Wisley in summer 2017.
Bird’s foot trefoil: a bumblebee-friendly container plant?
Bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is a UK native, with bright yellow and orange flowers. We know that it is an important nectar and pollen source for insects. Not only would we like to know more about bumblebee visits, we would like to determine its suitability as a hanging basket and tub plant. You can take part by surveying the hanging baskets in the trials field at RHS Wisley in summer 2017.
Nasturtium: do cultivated varieties vary in their value for bumblebees?
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) is a bright, easy to grow annual that provides bumblebees with nectar and pollen. In summer 2016, we carried out a small field trial to compare seven cultivated varieties of nasturtium, to determine whether they produced different amounts of nectar and pollen, and which were the most visited by bumblebees.
Foliar feeds: can they improve nectar and pollen provision for bees?
Tubs, hanging baskets and window boxes are great ways to introduce additional flowers into gardens. However, growing media contains a limited amount of nutrients, and deficiency can result in stunted growth and poor flowering, potentially limiting the amount and quality of nectar and pollen available to bees. We are conducting a field trial to determine whether foliar feeds increase flowering and nectar and pollen quantity and quality.