Growing a bee friendly garden from seed
Bees love shrubs and trees. They zoom amongst lavender stalks, land lightly on apple blossom and drink nectar from pussy willow. But to really give your bees a treat and encourage them to stay in your garden all year round, here are some top tips for growing some of the most beautiful bee friendly plants from seed.
- Choose single flowers rather than double – although the more blousy blooms are beautiful, the single flowers hold more nectar and allow easier access for bees.
- Choose seeds that flower at different times of the year to ensure a succession of nectar through the seasons.
For spring time flowering, plant marigolds or calendula (this is Indian Prince) in situ during autumn. They will come up and flower in late spring of the following year, providing early sustenance for insects. Foxgloves are also a favourite and have elegant spires in May. They are best sown direct in spring for flowering the following year.
For Summer, cosmos comes in all shades of pink and pure white and stands a stately 1m tall. It sways gently in the breeze and flowers continuously from July until October. It is as invaluable for summer colour as it is for its rich nectar. Sow in pots on a sunny windowsill in late April then plant out in May. Borage, with its azure blue star shaped flowers is also a beauty and is useful to add to summer Pimm’s!
For Autumn colour, you can’t beat a single dahlia. They come in all colours, often have stunning dark purple foliage and flower until the first frosts. In sunny Suffolk, I never lift dahlias over winter, but leave them in the ground with a thick layer of mulch. Buy tubers and plant direct or try ‘Bishops Children’ seeds, which flower the first year and grow tubers of their own. Sow in late April on a sunny windowsill, planting out when all danger of frosts has gone, and plants are a good few inches tall.
- Remember to leave a shallow dish filled with pebbles and moss and clean water somewhere shaded to make sure the bees have somewhere to land and have a drink. Here on the East coast it can be dry and hot, so making sure that bees have enough water is essential.
- There are seven different types of garden bee, so keep an eye on if you spot different varieties coming into your garden as the year goes on.
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