There has been much talk of late of the decline of our bee population. Many reasons have been given – cold winters, wet spring weather, hot summers, disease, loss of habitats, use of insecticides; probably all have contributed to the decline. Latest research (Jan 2014) on honey bee deaths suggests that a Tobacco Ringspot virus may be contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Gardeners are being urged to plant bee friendly plants and, no matter how small your garden nor how controlled your planting, there is always room for one or two. In fact, making your garden just that bit more “wildlife -friendly” can be very rewarding.
There is no definitive list of plants .. just be observant, what are bees and butterflies attracted to? The hum of bees on a lavender bush must be one of the sounds of summer we are all familiar with. And lavender has its own properties useful to humans too – aromatic, relaxing, a treatment for migraines and wonderful in cooking too.
Do you have space to make a dedicated herb garden ? I’ve noticed thyme and oreganum are great hits. A bench placed amongst the herbs is a wonderful place to sit in the early evening, surrounded by the hum of insects and aromatic scents, before gathering fresh herbs for the kitchen.
Even herbs grown in pots by your front door will attract the bees.
The sedum (“ice plant”) is a great plant, structural through the summer and then flowering in the autumn when everything is dying back. It is much loved by bees as is the tall purple verbena bonariensis. Both of these plants have the advantage of late summer flowering, thus prolonging the availability of nectar. A particular favourite of mine is scabiosa, originating in southern Africa, and a beautiful colour.
The RHS has produced a downloadable list of plants for pollinators;
Buddleia draws in the butterflies and, in the evening, the moths … providing food for the bats swooping through our evening skies. A client once asked us to make an avenue of buddleia for this very reason.
Of course, nothing will be swooping in our skies or pollinating our food without the help of gardeners and, on a larger scale, pressure on legislation to protect our wildlife. The recent State of Nature report, a collaboration of 25 wildlife agencies in the UK, makes sad reading – 60% of animal or plant species have declined in the past 50 years. Hedgehogs have declined by about one-third since 2000, turtle doves have declined by 93%.
Read more here : http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/science/stateofnature/index.aspx
However, naturalist Sir David Attenborough said “there are signs of hope”. Those signs of hope are the passionate conservation groups who warn us, educate us, tweet us; our conscience perhaps. So think about supporting a bird, bee, hedgehog or hare charity; maybe think about a green roof for that shed. Leave a corner with stacked logs for insects to creep amongst.
Perhaps one of the single best ways to encourage wildlife is to make a pond.
Within a week of us making this pond, on the fringes of this garden next to an old orchard, the owners reported frogs, toads and newts. Pheasants and partridges soon followed and, the following spring, these ducklings were hatched and taken for their first swim on it.
Even if you have little space, why not incorporate a birdbath at the very least.
The benefits to us all will be manyfold; you will never regret living in tune with nature.