Feed the bees this summer – 5 flowers to plant for a bee-friendly garden
Research highlights honeybee hotspots in summer when bee food supply is most stretched
Honeybees are wonders of nature. You may see them buzzing happily from flower to flower at this time of year — but that’s just one pollination pitstop, as honeybees can cover an impressive three miles in one trip foraging for sticky nectar! Their hard work doesn’t stop there; a strong colony of around 60,000 bees will travel the equivalent distance from earth to the moon every day!1
In turn, honeybees are responsible for pollinating a third of the fruit and vegetables we consume. They produce delicious honey for us to enjoy too, as the UK’s favourite honey brand Rowse knows only too well! In fact, different flowers produce very distinct flavours, some light and citrussy, others rich and earthy — but all utterly delicious! In their lifetime, 12 honeybees will produce a teaspoon of yummy honey for us to drizzle, spread and ultimately enjoy. Their collective impact on the environment and food production shouldn’t be underestimated.
Sadly however, the UK’s remarkable honeybees have been in long term decline. So, Rowse is passionately spearheading positive change for the bees through Hives for Lives, a program of vital initiatives that protects the bees and improves livelihoods through beekeeping.
The good news is, we can all play a vital role in protecting and saving this incredible species, from the comfort of our very own gardens. Planting certain seasonal flowers is kind to the bees and you’ll enjoy a ‘bee-autiful’ garden as a result! Watching your flora bloom and bees delighting in pollination is a highly rewarding experience — especially when our buzzing friends’ food is in short supply over summer.
Here are five bee-friendly flowers to plant that are perfect for this time of year and will create a buzzing haven for these vital pollinators:
The scent of lavender is as lovely as its pretty purple flowers. This plant can live for years, flourishing best when planted in a sunny spot, especially through June and July. With many flowers and a high nectar content, our buzzing friends are bound to make a beeline. This plant is popular with other pollinators too; bumblebees spend 1 – 1.14 seconds per lavender flower, while honeybees delight in its pollen for 3.5 seconds.
Top tip — from ‘bee’ to you: Lavender can also aid sleep, with its distinct scent believed to help invoke feelings of calm.
Where to buy it: The Lavender Garden is a specialist lavender nursery.
Borage is an annual plant which grows very quickly from seed. This plant also re-seeds itself, so can easily be grown the next year simply by allowing the seedlings to grow, or they can be transplanted. Borage is a hotspot for honeybees because its flowers replenish nectar often. Therefore, our buzzing friends can frequently and reliably return to feed. For this reason, borage attracts other insects like butterflies too.
Top tip — from ‘bee’ to you: The beautiful blue flowers that bloom on borage are the perfect addition to a summery cocktail or mocktail. Young borage leaves also add texture to fresh salads.
Where to buy it: RHS Plants is a go-to for gardeners, with bountiful borage available.
Marjoram has pretty pinky white flowers which look lovely in the garden. It is great for alluring a whole host of nature’s little visitors, from honeybees to bumblebees, butterflies and hoverflies. It blooms in summer when the bee food supply is most stretched and is also easy to grow.
Top tip — from ‘bee’ to you: Marjoram belongs to the same family as oregano, so is delicious on a pizza, with roasted meats or in soups — a little goes a long way as far as flavour’s concerned! Marjoram tea is also popular, made using dried herbs, hot water and of course, honey.
Where to buy it: Victoriana Nursery Gardens are highly knowledgeable about fruit, vegetables and herbs.
4. Helianthus (Sunflowers)
Helianthus — otherwise known as sunflowers — bloom for several months throughout the year, starting in August. This terrific, towering plant makes a real statement in the garden and will certainly catch a honeybee’s attention! Its vibrant yellow petals also attract bumblebees, butterflies and hoverflies to the hundreds of tiny tubular flowers in the middle of the flower. This centre is brimming with nectar, which is the main source of carbohydrates for our buzzing friends, as well as fluffy protein-packed pollen that collects on their bodies.
Sunflowers are also considered to be ‘low-infection’ flowers; their pollen has medicinal and protective effects on bees, helping to improve bee colony health.
Top tip — from ‘bee’ to you: Sunflowers are easy to grow and impressively reach up to two metres tall! Why not challenge your family to a fun competition, to see who can grow the tallest sunflower?
Where to buy it: Crocus offers seeds and plants in varying colours.
Fleabane belongs to the daisy family. This delicate British wildflower can be planted in grass or flower beds. Fleabane produces a mass of lovely white flowers that may be tinged by lilac or yellow, with a sunny centre that entices honeybees, bumble bees, flies and butterflies. A perennial plant that flourishes from late spring to autumn, fleabane is an oasis for honeybees at cooler times of the year when flowers are sparser.
Top tip — from ‘bee’ to you: This low-maintenance plant is ideal for filling bare spots beneath shrubs and trees, or along path edges.
Where to buy it: Landlife Wildflowers have 10 to 40 fleabane pots available to ensure you have a blooming supply.
This beautiful bunch of flowers can rejuvenate your garden but, importantly, protect the honeybee population at their busiest time of year. Planting flowers takes time and patience, so an advised first step is to let your lawn grow a little longer. Plantlife’s Every Flower Counts survey showed that this simple change can generate enough nectar for ten times more bees and other pollinators. Even a little patch can increase nectar sources.
Gardening is such a fulfilling activity; but knowing you’ve created a honeybee haven to help keep the world’s biggest workforce happy and healthy, and our fruit and veg pollinated, will make it even sweeter!
- The British Beekeepers Association, 2020. How far does a bee fly & how does it navigate? https://www.bbka.org.uk/how-far-does-a-bee-fly-how-does-it-navigate