THE MODERN MINT BLOG
When choosing bee friendly plants the key ideas to look out for are:
1) Grow plants that are nectar rich and full of pollen. (So stay clear of overbred double flowers…)
2) Provide a number of flower shapes – flat disks and tubular flowers are great.
3) Plant in blocks – bees, being oh so efficient, want to fly to one spot and pick up as much nectar as possible. Don’t ask them to work hard, group your flowers together.
We interviewed nursery woman Rosybee about the top 5 plants for bees. She said,
“… borage, phacelia and echium are all fab and I would probably put in my top 10 – which I will not finalise until I have more empirical evidence. Interestingly those 3 are all from the same plant family and all have the trick of renewing their nectar throughout the day where most plants are dry by lunch-time.”
Think big as well when choosing bee friendly plants – trees are a fantastic way to provide nectar and pollen in abundance! Lime, sweet chestnut and sycamore should be on your list if you have the room (we know that putting in a sycamore will leave you with lots of little seedlings around the garden, but they die out when they don’t get enough moisture… so those of you who live near Modern Mint in Essex shouldn’t have a problem!)
Last of all, try and provide enough shelter so bees can travel (no wind tunnels), steer clear of pesticides (there are alternative ways of thinking) and plant so that something is flowering all year round – Mahonia early in the year will be a fine food source, as will Ivy later in the year.
Plants for Bees:
(A lot of these are in Dan Pearson’s ‘Must-Have Plants’…)
Do check out these books on beekeeping too – you may find with a bit more information you are a natural…
Phillyrea is one of my favourite plants for topiary. I have been using it for quite a few years as a specimen shrub, mostly due to the fact it clips well and has a tough habit – all good characteristics for a topiary plant. It also has a reputation for being an excellent nectar source for bees… Read more about Phillyrea here. Mentioning this to Malcolm Thicke, a market garden historian and writer, he sent me a some photos of topiary and phillyrea mentioned by John Worlidge in Systema Horticulturae from 1682…. incredible! He also mentioned to me that in …
Kites and Strings is a podcast about creativity, hosted by US-based Stephen Ploum and Catherine Chinnock. Back in March they asked me to come onto their podcast and talk about topiary, my past writing plays, the stand-up I did and how creativity can fit into your life. The Kites and Strings podcast was great fun and Stephen and Catherine are fantastic hosts. Listening back today I am surprised by some of the ideas I talked about (somehow I even started to describe a future where I run a ‘School of Creativity’ by the sea…. where did that come from?!) but it …
Robinia is often forgotten – by me, actually! – when thinking of plants for topiary. But when I work on it I do love it, brittle and soft as the wood is if you climb into it. But that danger of snapping a branch with a heavy step and falling out of the tree aside, I love it for the dappled light it allows into the garden space. Robinia Near The Sea Below is a Robinia I have gently clipped over the last few years, down near Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. The tree was large when I arrived, although it is …