OK, so we’re getting our new bees in April – a very exciting prospect. As you’ve got to know more about me, you’ll know that I already like seeing native plants in my garden & enjoy seeing bees, butterflies and hummingbirds feeding on them.
I have a couple of areas that have been a little neglected over the last couple of years and this gives me the opportunity to plan and plant a better bee garden. One area in particular that needs attention is the area around where I’m putting in a new water feature for the bees (more about that in a later blog).
There are a few important considerations to think about when planning a bee garden
- Type of plant
- Color of blooms
- Season when plants bloom
- Where to put your plants
Best plants for a Bee Garden
The very best plants to grow in a bee garden are native plants – there’s a recurring theme here, don’t you think!
Native Plants are Best!
Single or composite blooms (daisy, sunflower) are the best for allowing bees to get down to the important nectar. Many modern cultivars are certainly fancier, with brighter colors & showy double blooms. What they have often lost is the ability to produce good supplies of nectar that the bees need. Additionally, double blooms can make it difficult for bees to get down to that nectar.
I’m not telling you to avoid these modern cultivars because they can make your garden look quite spectacular. What I would like you to think about is using natives for the majority of your garden. For example, I have a couple of Lion’s Tail plants (Leonotis leonurus) in my garden – they are native to South Africa but seem to grow quite well here – and they are quite spectacular.
I think we all know that different species see colors differently. The best color blooms in a Bee Garden are yellow, white, blue and purple. Will they visit red blooms? Yes, but their favorites are the cooler colors. Interestingly butterflies and hummers prefer hotter colored blooms: red, pink & orange.
I know I’m talking about planting a Bee Garden, but in reality you are going to be attracting all sorts of pollinators: bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. There’s nothing more wonderful than listening to your garden buzz and whizz. Watching bees and butterflies wander from bloom to bloom & seeing the hummers fly from plant to plant like little jet planes!
Clump, don’t scatter!
Mass plantings are the best for bees rather than scattering a particular species throughout your landscape. When you buy or grow plants for your Bee Garden remember that groupings of odd numbers of plants is visually the most pleasing way to go. If I buy any plants, I’ll always buy 3 as a minimum to plant together.
For a Bee Garden groupings of 5-7 plants of a particular species will give you the mass plantings that bees seem to prefer. I know you may not all have the space to do this, but you can do amazing things in a tiny garden to benefit any pollinators. When I lived in London 30 years ago I had a back yard approx 20′ x 30′, I know it can be done!
Blooms for all seasons!
It’s always been a goal to have flowers in my garden every month of the year! I admit, I’m still not quite there yet, but it’s a worthy goal. When planning a Bee Garden it’s important to remember that our pollinators (not just bees) are going to be most active from Spring through Fall, So you are going to have to ensure that these critters will have access to nectar in Spring, in Summer and in Fall. Do you see the need for a little research? Plan now to make a difference later.
Plant Lists – where to find them.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – online & visit gardens
One of my favorite websites to visit is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at https://www.wildflower.org . Here you can find native plant lists for all states and the different geographical areas of Texas. It also gives you a list of suppliers of plants and seeds, local or national.
If you haven’t visited the LBJ Wildflower Center in Austin, I’d really recommend a trip. Beautiful gardens and arboretum where you can see plants that you may like to add to your personal list for your yard. Their Winter Tree Fest (https://www.wildflower.org/event/winter-tree-fest/) is this Saturday 1/26/18 – I’m planning on attending so I can learn more about looking after my trees.
Texas AgriLife Extension – online & classes
Another favorite source of information Is the booklet “Native and Adapter Landscape Plants” produced by Texas AgriLife Extension / city of Austin. My copy is a few years old now and only cost $2. If it’s still in print you should be able to get a copy through your local Extension office.
This publication easily shows when the plants are in bloom with colors, what wildlife benefits & water usage as well and the usual plant information. Also great photos to help you make your personal plant list.
Online you can find “Earth-wise guide to Landscape Design” which gives you step wise details on making your garden more environmentally friendly.http://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Watershed/growgreen/factsheets/landscaping.pdf
Texas Parks & Wildlife
Texas Parks & Wildlife is another good site that can help you with “habitat restoration” whether you live in a rural or urban setting. https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/wildscapes/
Other Online sites
There are many websites out there to help you with making your garden more bee friendly – remember the ones that work for you are the ones you actually like visiting. I can only tell you what works for me! Some of the sites I have visited give great general information but at the time of writing do not have specific plant lists for Texas – I hope that they’re working on that! Plantnative.org and pollinator.org are two such sites that I think are worth visiting.
So much of what I write about can be achieved in small steps – make improvements every season or every year. Not many of us have the money, resources or time to go out and instantly magic up an amazing Bee Garden. I certainly can’t do that but I do keep an overall vision in my mind about what I want to achieve in my patch of the world.
Look around you, seek inspiration and create your own vision. Whatever the size of your garden, whatever your personal resources you can “tread lightly” on your bit of land and develop a haven for our pollinators. I challenge each and every one of you to do that in 2019, 2020, 2021 ………