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Talkback: Plants for bees

Inula hookeri is a great one for bumblebees and I find bees of all sorts love forget-me-nots. If, like me, you want a good harvest of beans you have to consider they need pollination which means lots of food plants. I respect so-called weeds for what they are - plants superbly adapted to our climate - which puts a different light on them in the garden. Lots of them have great uses for salads or tisanes and should not be disparaged. Try looking at your weeds with a magnifying glass and see them in a different perspective. A garden should not be just plants but insects and birds and mammals galore.


  • Green Alkanet. I have this plant in various places around my garden, in the sun, in the shade, just about everywhere. I allow this plant to flourish because the bees like this plant, particularly the Common Carder bee. I have bought two wild plants this Spring, Field Scabious and Wild Marjoram, for the bees and the butterflies. My local garden centre had a good selection of wild plants for sale a few weeks ago, and I went to this garden centre a week ago and noticed nearly all their wild plant are gone, which is good because it means there are people who are now appreciating the wild as well as the cultivated.
  • i have double flowered dahlias and they love them but hate every thing
  • You can see what plants the bees are working on by the colour of the pollen on their legs - watch carefully at to see the pollen coming in - mainly yellow at the moment but Horse Chestnut is just coming into flower and that is a deep red colour.
  • Pulmanaria? Lungwort
  • Thanks for the info on Bees,I always try to make my little patch friendly to all!
  • You might think about some early or late flowering plants to reduce the risk of starvation over the winter or in the early Spring. There are a number of non native trees which are helpful, and among shrubs we suggest Mahonia and Sweet Box - both easy to grow and forgiving of shade. I'd also recommend Crocuses and Hellebores to help out early on, and Sedum for late forage before the Ivy flowers.
  • You are right Habitataid, I have the Mahonia and I have seen bees on the flowers of this plant in November!
  • I'm sure I read somwhere about 10 years ago that bees love blue & purple plants - that it's the colour they see best. So over the years have developed a garden mainly planted with those colours.

    Don't know whether or not it's true, but I have a 20ft tall Sussex flint wall which in May is covered with purple campanula which the bees love - though there were noticeably less last year than in other years. Hopefully this year will be better?
  • Some great plant suggestions - mahonia is very popular with winter buff-tailed bumblebee colonies in London. I've opted for winter-flowering clematis 'Freckles' in my tiny garden though. I'm aiming to have something in flower every day of the year for the bees (and for me!). It's a challenge in my shady garden, but I'm hoping sedums, verbena bonariensis, asters and ivy will provide nectar in autumn, while snowdrops, heathers and crocus will come in after the clematis has gone over. Kate
  • I've found that oregano is a magnet for bees the plants are always smothered during summer
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