When I sit down with clients to discuss their garden design, I always ask them if they would like a wildlife friendly garden, as there are so many ways to encourage beneficial wildlife into a garden, using both design features and choice of plants. Almost everyone is keen to encourage bees and butterflies, with a growing awareness of the decline in bee numbers and the need to provide vital sources of nectar and pollen for them.
Many species of bee are in decline because of chemical usage, with products containing neonicotinoids among the worst culprits, and there have been calls for a ban on the substance as consciousness grows that the human race depends on bees to pollinate our food crops.
Gardens can be wonderful havens for these tiny but vital creatures and how encouraging it is to know that we can all do our bit to protect them and support them – you don’t have to keep hives, just keep a couple of things in mind.
A general rule of thumb is that open, single flowers are more likely to be food sources than frilly, double -petalled flowers – if you love densely packed petals, it doesn’t mean you need to restrict your flower choices if you want to make bees welcome in the garden, just maybe provide a couple of other alternatives for them as well. Any daisy-shaped flowers are good – so leucanthemums, rudbeckias and echinaceas will be much appreciated to name just a few. In my garden, the nepeta or catmint is particularly popular – even when the cats have had a trippy party there are still loads of flowers for the bees!
Simple bug hotels made from bits of bamboo or bee ‘bricks’ with holes, provide places for solitary bees to nest, while rose leaves provide upholstery for the leaf-cutter bee – it cuts out a round cent-sized section which it carries off to line it’s nest – without doing the rose plant any harm at all. Perhaps most fascinating of all is the wool carder bee, which scrapes ‘wool’ from fuzzy leaved plants like stachys to line its nest. I’ve only just learned about this little creature, and as I’ve a stachys or lamb’s ears just outside my back door, I’ll be keeping an eye out for him this summer!
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