Walking in the garden early this morning I was amazed by just how many bees there were already busy working away in the garden. As always they were attracted to the single flowers and it didnt seem to matter whether these plants were shrubs, perennials, natives or exotics; if they were flowering and had the right kind of flowers they seemed popular.
With my camera (which is used to taking photos of much slower moving plants!), it is very difficult to get good close up pictures of the bees in action as it were on the flowers. Indeed its even more difficult to get the bees to look the right way for the camera!! But the plants that drew my attention this morning were quite literally buzzing with activity.
Take for example the flowers of Viburnum cylindrum (above) which are amazingly intricate when seen close to and are produced on wonderful evergreen bushes that are quite beautiful in their own right quite apart from their value to our friendly pollinators.
Bees are rather on my mind at the moment with the upcoming event dedicated to bees held in the gardens by our associated charity the Knoll Gardens Foundation on saturday 16th August (see info poster at end of this blog). I did not realise for example, that there are about 250 species of bees of which only one species is the honeybee; the great majority actually being solitary bees. This just one of the many interesting snippets of information I have picked up recently. I have little doubt that I will learn more such useful facts on the day such is the line up of experts and interested parties we have attending the event.
As a general rule it is the single flowers that are most attractive and this is simply because these flowers have nectar that is available to visiting insects. Take for example the fabulous cinnamon barked mrtyle, Luma apiculata (above), that has stunning bark, dark green leaves and generously produced flowers that are seldom unattended by bees, butterflies, hover flies and any number of other insects.
So to create a real buzz in the garden it is very important to use plants that have single flowers and ideally to choose a selection of those that are in flower for as many weeks of the year as practical. Which is where many of the early flowering woody plants can be so valuable as sources of food for rather early risers. Mahonias such as Mahonia lomarifolia above, flower very early in the year and can provide food for any early season insects that might need it.
Once summer arrives there is an even greater choice of first class plants and especially those fast growing perennials such as Echinops sphaerocephalus above, that are beautiful to both the gardener and the bees. Beauty and utility combined!
Eupatoriums especially Eupatorium lindleyanum and E. Atropurpureum with their flat heads of small single flowers seem never to be without a gang of ardent followers. The butterfly below is feeding on a veritable field of eupatorium flowers. While the bee in the next picture down is finding something good on Agastache Blackadder.
Persicarias are absolutely wonderful garden plants as they provide weed supressing mounds of foliage that is topped all summer by masses of thin, poker like flowers in different shades of pink through to red. They need very little looking after and are beloved by bees and insects in general. They get close to being a perfect garden plant!
Persicaria Fat Domino (below) is one of the newer cultivars and is always covered with bees while Persicaria Rosea, seen here in our Dragon Walk with Geranium Rozanne and Hydrangea quercifolia, is one of the older forms and no less desirable or useful.
There are so many plants that are great for the gardener as well as for our bees and other insects that it is difficult to choose which to use. But when choosing just remember that wildlife friendliness and flowering time are equally important factors as flower colour, shape and form.