Planting the Bee Garden

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At last spring has arrived on Southern Vancouver Island and our thoughts turn to what to plant in our gardens this year. Here are some suggestions for flowering plants that both ourselves and the bees will enjoy. When choosing and planting there are some things to keep in mind. Chose plants that will provide a succession of bloom with emphasis on times between the major nectar flows – spring flowering trees such as maple and arbutus and early summer blackberry. Plant in groups of the same flower – individual plants are much less likely to attract bees and the bees waste energy having to fly greater distance between plants. Choose colours most attractive to bees – yellow, blue, mauve and red. White is not very attractive to bees. Deadhead the spent flowers to encourage continuous bloom. Plant single or semi-double flowered forms of species such as dahlias and roses. The many petalled varieties have little or no pollen and nectar. The following list is a beginning!
  • Annuals in approximate order of initial bloom
    • alyssum, wall flowers, batchelors button, gaillardia, single marigolds, phacelia, coreopsis, cosmos, scabious, cleome, single sunflowers
  • Biennials – these grow this year and bloom next year
    • foxglove, hollyhock, vipers bugloss (Echium vulgare). Echium is a great bee plant but if you live in a rural area be careful it doesn’t spread into natural areas.
  • Perennials – most start blooming in their second year from seed
    • hellebores, purple rock cress, alliums (ornamental varieties of the onion family), Centaurea montana, roses, salvia, globe thistle, dahlias, Sedum spetabile “Autumn Joy”, liatris, asters – good fall forage
  • Herbs – these are some of the best plants to have
    • annuals
      • borage, coriander, sweet marjoram, summer savory
    • perennials
      • anise hyssop, catmint, germander, horehound, hyssop, lavender, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, winter savory
  • Fruit and Vegetable
    • blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, plum, apple, pear.  all members of the cabbage family allowed to over winter and flower in spring – great early forage with hardy kale being the easiest to grow, small flowered broad bean, runner beans, cucumber, squash
  • Cover crops
    • crimson clover, vetch
  • Bulbs
    • snowdrops, crocus, grape hyacinth, hyacinth, scilla
  • Native plants
    • willow, common and woolly manzanita, maple, arbutus, Oregon grape, camass, salal, snowberry, fireweed
  • Shrubs and Vines
    • Berberis darwinii, Cotoneaster species, spring blooming heather, Clematis armandii, Lonicera tartarica (the latter two are white but used by bees early in the season!)
  • “Weeds”
    • dandelions – plant some – good early forage!

Selecting bee forage plants is an easy way to support your local pollinator.

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