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The Gardener's Year
Plan for plenty of nectar and pollen-giving flowering plants and trees from spring through to autumn to give the bee population a helping hand says Lucia Latenstein. Throw away the weed killers and insecticides for a start
Bees are under great pressure from insecticides and monoculture as I wrote in August. They need large fields with wildflowers, so there is something for them to collect the pollen and nectar from throughout spring, summer and autumn. Spring flowering plants are important. During the winter bees have eaten their stock and in early spring they are hungry. If you want to help the bees, now is the time to plant and sow spring flowering bulbs and wildflowers seeds in a sunny border.
Spring flowering bulbs
The first sign of spring comes with the snowdrops and crocus, followed by anemone, scilla, daffodil, grape hyacinth, hyacinth and botanical tulips. If you plant a mixture of these you’ve covered early spring. And in June the alliums start to flower. Most of the flowering bulbs are dipped in insecticides. Be sure you get untreated (organic*) bulbs. Plant the bulbs in groups rather than in twos and threes, under trees or shrubs for a carpet of colour on grey days.
In the book ‘Keeping Bees & Making Honey’ (Amazon) in the chapter ‘Gardening for Bees’, Alison Benjamin gives excellent advice: 'One of the best and easiest things you can do to make your garden more bee friendly is to throw away the weed killers that maintain those immaculate-looking lawns'. Wildflowers provide lots of pollen and nectar for bees. Buy a wildflower seed mixture (organic) and create your own wildflower field. Or sow them in containers on your balcony or roof terrace. Don't discount weeds - dandelions and forget-me-nots are a rich source of food.
Not all flowers are of use to honey bees however. I have many dahlias in my garden. The big ‘decorative’ ones are not interesting for bees. They need simple flowers so they can easily reach the pollen and nectar. The same applies for roses: the simpler the better. Because of the harsh climate in Burgundy here is a selection of perennials attractive for bees, that thrive in heavy clay limestone and are suitable for our hot summers and cold winters: yarrow, agastache, aster, coreopsis, purple coneflower, globe thistle, horned spurge, cranesbill, geum, helenium, bergamot, garden catmint, red bistort, perennial phlox, sage, goldenrod and germander.
*Organic = not treated with systemic insecticides (which can harm bees) and/or pesticides.
Bulb and perennial market
We are hosting our annual bulb and perennial market in September at ‘Le Pontot’ in Fontenille. There we will sell botanical bulbs, botanical wild flower seeds and the perennials mentioned above. Open from 10.00 - 18.00 See website for the assortment.