Head Gardener Neil Miller shares his Tips for Bee Friendly Plants

July 11 2023 | Garden

Herbaceous perennials : save the bees

It’s July and the herbaceous borders are calling out to us in a chorus of celebration from the tall coneflowers, the exuberant day lilies and open-faced achilleas, to come and linger awhile and enjoy the buzz of the bees as they busily collect their nectar.

Like all gardeners, we know the importance of our pollinators and how our survival depends upon our bee-friends.

Sadly, according to the World Wildlife Fund, the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world and the loss of our wild spaces means that bees do not have the nature they need to thrive.

What more can we do to prevent further depletion of bee numbers?

We need to start locally and look at our back gardens and begin to include more bee-friendly plants that flower from March to October.

The Long Border, by the Hever Festival Theatre, at Hever Castle & Gardens in July is a paradise for the bees. You can guarantee hearing the lazy buzz before you round the corner to see these incredible pollinators enjoying the digitalis, the blue hardy geraniums, nepeta and the alchemilla mollis.

The bees at Hever love the open flowers of the asters and you can usually find a bloated honey-bee filling its sacks on the top of a tall pink echinacea.

It’s vital that we plant bee-happy specimens. Chicory and echinops are fantastic perennials, as are echium and hypericum for attracting and sustaining your bee garden population.

Since the Second World War we have lost 97% of our wild meadows. If there’s an area of your garden that you can let ‘go wild’ you are literally chipping away at this sad statistic.

Rarer bumblebee species like the Carder Bee family need roughly 20 square kilometres of wild habitat to support their population, and at the moment it looks like their stomping ground is being eaten away by humans at an incredible rate as we build out.

To boost rarer numbers, ensure you leave wild corners, and why not plant some coneflowers or cornflowers among their wilder cousins?

Planting herbs like wild garlic or corn mint are not just good for us, they’re good for our UK bee population too, so make space for these fragrant beauties.

It’s not just perennials that support our bee population – our trees and shrubs provide essential habitats too. Both the crab apple and edible apple trees are great for bees, who in turn help the tree produce fruit.

Honeysuckle is a great climber whose scented flowers provide nectar to attract the longer-tongued bumblebee. And Ivy plants, like our Boston variety that reddens in the autumn, is a fantastic habitat for the Ivy bee.

If you want to find out more, the BBC created a series of podcasts on the top of bees – just go to BBC Sounds and look for the ‘Let it grow’ series.

And finally, if you find a tired bee in your garden, did you know you can revive it with some sugar? If you mix a little granulated sugar with a little water and drip it onto the flower the bee is resting on, this will revive the bee.

Bee friendly plants: