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Hungry Bees

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I found this pic on facebook.  Probably copyright, but I think they will forgive me for spreading it.

I leave white death nettles, they are a pain because of the roots, but early in the spring they tend to be the only flowers and are full of bees.

I'm trying more and more to have a wildlife-friendly garden, especially as my allotment is old-fashioned clear-dug - I've translocated celandines from the allotment as they will provide early nectar and, while they spread like billy-o, they die back early enough (and are low slung enough) that they aren't really in the way (as I've found on the lottie!). I've planted cotoneaster that I know they love in the "wild corner" too. I'm also trying to leave "weeds" in the winter, and although I don't seem to have white dead nettle I do have red. I've also got a wild geranium with tiny bubblegum-pink flowers that I'm leaving until other stuff comes on as, although it spreads like flip and takes up a lot more space than the celandine, it tends to bloom before I've much else in and flowering, and it's not that awkward to remove when it gets OTT. What I really need to do is get more early perennials in - though that garden is still very much a work in progress in terms of shifting concrete, never mind putting stuff in!

With a bit of luck I'm going to get more early flowers too - hellebores are in now, plus lots of bulbs, so hopefully the nectar will start early. And one buddhleia that I cut back in May for late blooms, when the dwarf variety I want turns up that will be cut early for early blooms.

That's the intention, anyway... Wish me and the bees luck!

Oh, and I'm also trying to put sedums, dwarf mints and thymes in my edges as (a) they're better looking and smelling than the grass that tends to sprout there and (b) hopefully they'll crowd the dandelions out a bit - I'm sure the seed eaters love them, but there is such a thing as too many dandelions and not enough other stuff!

The idea is that they'll fill the gaps and soften the hard edges by spreading out a bit and, hopefully, the dwarf mints will not be quite so rapacious as their full-size cousins. If they are.... I'll have to drink a lot of fresh mint tea, this is not a sacrifice.

One thing we do not have is a shortage of dandelions.  They are in the field next door, so no chance of stopping them.  I have not noticed the bees on them much.  But if you dig them up they tend to be surrounded by worms, so they must produce something the worms like.  I try and chop off as many dandelions from the paths as possible and feed them to my rhubarb.
I also have woundwort which the bees also like, that is like a tall red dead nettle.  Bees also seem to like dahlia.  So I want some single ones for them.  I have got a packet of the bishops children. 

Not a lot of bees around at the mo to enjoy the winter flowering honeysuckle, Japanese quince, mimosa just opening or the penstemons and shasta daisies that have been flowering for weeks now.   

There is a succession of spring bulbs for them followed by a long season of assorted flowering perennials, shrubs and trees in the main garden and a patch of dahlias in the veg plot and they really did buzz with bees last summer so I'll be planting more.

We're still "taming" the main garden and left a large patch in the middle completely uncut last year.  It produced a wide range of wildflowers and attracted enough insects to give us increased activity from swifts, swallows and house martins so I shall be prioritising nectar plants when I'm sowing seeds in the coming weeks.

The RHS has a good online list of pollinator friendly plants for anyone who's interested.


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