THE MODERN MINT BLOG
How can you help the honeybee?
Here are a few notes for you, on how you can help the honeybee and other pollinators – because if one plant is full of nectar, you might find butterflies and other bugs want to visit too!
Helping The Honeybee – Spring
At the start of the year, think: (organic) bulbs and blossom…
For blossom, make sure you have a hedge around your garden or apiary.
Hawthorns, cherries, crab apples will all give blossom for the bees to enjoy, while one of my favourite topiary plants also provides a brilliant food source for bees…. plant Phillyrea in your garden?
If you have a south-facing garden that gets too dry too quickly then planting a hedge of Rosemary will do the trick – helping the honeybee early in the year with lots of flowers.
Sarcococca works too, on an east-facing border… and you get the benefit of the fragrance.
Helping The Honeybee – June
The June Gap: this is the time when the garden and vegetable patch seem to run out of flowers, as the seasons switch from the bud burst of spring to the bounty of summer.
Make sure you have plenty of foxgloves in the garden (better for bumblebees), as well as ornamental poppies. But the best thing you can do is keep the clover and dandelions in your lawn.
Stay away from the perfectly green green grass of home and let the ‘weeds’ flourish if you want to be helping the honeybee.
(For more on making meadows, start with Making A Wildflower Meadow by Pam Lewis at Sticky Wicket.)
Traditionally, there never was a June Gap – UK meadows would have been in flower at this time, providing lots of forage for the honeybees, but 97% of our meadow habitats have vanished since the second world war, meaning the bees are in need of a food boost during this month. (They tend to survive on the high of oil seed rape, but need a wider variety of food sources for better health.)
Helping The Honeybee – Summer
The Summer Border: Plant in big blocks, so the bees won’t have to travel far to reach another flower. Less energy wasted, productive morning seeking nectar and pollen!
Helenium is a fantastic flower and incredibly valuable to bees because it offers twice as much nectar as other plants in the summer border.
You can see research from Rosi Bee Nurseries to find out more about the best plants for bees – Rosi Bee.
Late Summer Flowers: Brambles around the field edges, as well as those rotten weeds the willow herbs…. they may be a weed that tends to take over, but they are pretty and easy to pull out if they land in your garden.
Just let them flower for a little bit first, so the pollinators can get stuck into the nectar source they provide….
Daisies, sedums, escallonia…. all of these are great for feeding the bees at the end of summer.
How Else Can We Be Helping The Honeybee?
Stop doing things – no pesticides, herbicides or insecticides.
Instead of buying no nectar garden centre annuals to add colour to your garden, try Cosmos instead- an easy plant to grow that, once established, just needs dead-heading through to the first frosts.
Simple flowers work well… don’t buy plants where you can see too much the art of the plant breeder.
Add a pond or provide somewhere with water near to your pollen and nectar rich flowers. Bees need help hydrating too you know….
Make sure you try a few plants in the shade – pulmonaria and hellebore spring to mind – as bumblebees, with their big coats, won’t mind foraging in these colder parts of the garden.
Support organic farming and organic food production. These farms need the bees to help them pollinate their vegetables and fruit, so make sure we have bees to do it. Their is also a growing body of research that indicates bees that pollinate our food make it taste better and it will stay fresher longer. So with the bees help we are reducing food waste.
Steer clear of rhododendron. The leaf tends to steal light from the garden (for me, a massive no-no… give me leaves that reflect the light!) but the honey can drive you ‘mad’. Just Google it….
To Sum Up Helping The Honeybee
Bees talk – if you want to know how well your garden, your land, your country is doing, then if the bees are in good health and happy then you are providing lots of flowers and everything is groovy.
This is not the case of course. Our bees are in decline and the honeybee really does need our help.
Try planting throughout the season, as detailed above, and most definitely do not send the bees into a toxic landscape.
It will make a difference to our ecosystem and the bees and bugs that provide us with our tastiest food.
For more on bees, try this blog post.
Or have a read of this great book by Dave Goulson – Bee Quest.
Brought By Bike is an excellent website I found last month, where businesses offer their services by (of course) bicycle. Modern Mint and my topiary work is now live on the site offering my topiary services, via bike, to the following two postcodes – CM1 CM2 Now I can imagine I will need to borrow a ladder should anyone have a larger shrub, but most town gardens in the Chelmsford area have a need not just for privacy but to let light into the house… so a balance must be struck when shaping hedges and shrubs to cover both needs. …
Transforming Topiary – a video made for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society by Charlotte Molesworth and I, in her garden. We take a dog topiary and work out how to update it, turning it into a bird. Worth a watch I think, and hopefully useful to you! You can see more of my clipping on the topiary page. Or read my Spring 2021 Topiary Provocation here.
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 …