Bees are in trouble. Since the EU-wide ban on harmful neocotinoids – the pesticides widely believed to be the cause of colony collapse disorder – which came into effect last year, there has been growing pressure to find replacements.
But some of these come with health warnings of their own for our vital pollinators. And Brexit of course, could change everything, making the lives of bees even more precarious.
While politicians and vested interests argue the toss, gardeners and garden designers can dig in and do their bit to help bees to thrive.
It’s all in the planting. Purists argue that planting native species is best for biodiversity and wildlife. But many of our native species don’t flower much beyond July. Which is bad news for hungry bees and not great if you want a garden that looks good all year round. Anyway, who wants nettles colonising their precious outdoor space?
When I’m designing a garden I always think about extending the season at both ends with plants that flower long and reliably, or come into their own in late summer and autumn and provide valuable nectar for bees.
Spring flowers that bees love — hellebores, pansies, muscaris – have been held back this year. I revisited a garden I designed last week, and the bees were gorging on the pulmonaria.
At the tail end of summer, sedums, salvias (rigourously deadheaded), echinacea, nepeta are some of the perennials that have both a distinctive form, which we designers covet, and will get your garden buzzing.
And when you choose plants, stick to single flowers, not blowsy doubles. Get the right things in and the bees will follow.
But not if you let them be killed off first.