Bee Friendly Borders

Bee Friendly Borders

Bee friendly borders

There are a myriad of plants and flowers to choose from, but if you want a garden teeming with life and buzzing with activity, you won’t BEE disappointed if you have some of these.

And it’s not just bees you’ll attract either – lots of other insects will love coming to visit too.

We love bees too, so have designed some borders all ready for you to download, you will love them and most importantly so will the Bees! If you don’t want to scroll through and try and sort out which plants you want to have; visit the shop. We have lots of predesigned border planting ideas and we use lots of bee friendly flowers in our designs.

If you fancy choosing some plants yourself though, or you just want to know which ones are great for insects, there are a few simple rules to follow though to ensure all the insects love your garden.

  • Choose open flowers – so avoid doubles and overly cultivated blooms
  • Avoid using Bedding plants
  • Choose more natural looking flowers and flower sizes
  • Buy plants that flower in every season
  • Use some native wildflowers in the borders too.

Flowers are for us to admire – right?

Well absolutely yes they are, but flowers aren’t just for us, many of today’s modern blooms however are created primarily to please the human eye – but are we forgetting who flowers are really for?

What would butterflies think v1

Let’s take you back a few hundreds of millions of years to when flowers began. The plants that survived and thrived were those that evolved the best strategy to reproduce effectively. The emergence of flowers and nectar allowed plants to attract insects and this improved the efficiency of the pollination process and allowed plants to proliferate.

Flowers evolved over millions of years to attract the best pollinating insects or they formed a symbiotic relationship with certain types of insect to develop a really efficient reproductive cycle. It created a win-win situation whereby flowers provided the insect with much needed food and the insects took the pollen and redistributed it.

But horticulture has thrown a ‘spanner in the works’

For millions of years this system has worked well and then humans discovered how we could ‘breed’ bigger and better flowers. Careful selection and cross pollinating meant we could create more colourful blooms. We could develop flowers with modified and elaborate petals and stamens and produce blooms in all the colours of the rainbow. Horticulture also developed the ability to create more bountiful crops and fruits.  We also managed to increase the range and variety of many hundreds of species of plants and thereby widen the available larder for many pollinating insects.

However, a whole industry has evolved to create flowering plants whose appeal and use to insects is pretty limited but to us humans they look spectacular!

These plants produce many flowers over long periods of time, often the flowers are bred to be larger and more elaborate and the colour combinations created are really quite astonishing.

Are these really flowers though?

1390282_29761392 overly bred rose
If a bee cannot recognise this as a flower….aren’t we missing the point?

These plants have been cross bred over time to create blooms that could never be created in nature. The stamens and petals are so modified, insects can’t access the nectar or transfer the pollen. The plant cannot reproduce itself. In fact many of these plants are sterile and so cannot reproduce without human interference.

Thus if the flower produced is incapable of performing the function for which it originally evolved – is it really a flower?

Now you may argue that it doesn’t really matter. These plants can’t cross pollinate with other plants and what’s the harm in planting them in the garden.  Flip that thought process round and ask what’s the good of planting them in the garden either.

The problem arises if too many highly developed flowers appear in domestic gardens – bees and butterflies would expend so much energy trying to find food.  They will have less food to store and this reduces their ability to survive the winters.

If we all try to do just a little bit…

Domestic gardens are becoming far more important to native wildlife than ever before. Do you really want to fill your gardens with plants that cannot provide any food for butterflies or bees?

All that is required is a little more thought before you buy any plants. If you go to a garden centre to buy your plants, have a look at the displays.  Do you see any insects flying around (now the Garden Centre could have sprayed the plants), but with that concentration of plants in flower, you would surely expect to see some bees buzzing around.

Flowers image B Roslett
image B Roslett

Bees see in Ultraviolet, so what we admire in a flower is not actually what attracts the bees to it. It is unlikely that commercial plant breeders check the UV look of the flowers in development to see how and whether a bee is attracted to it and it wouldn’t be commercially viable to do so.

It is quite possible therefore, what you see as a spectacular flower is totally unrecognisable to a bee or butterfly.

A simple check on the plant label will normally tell you whether a plant is good for bees.

We all love to fill our houses with beautiful things. However, you wouldn’t buy a kettle that didn’t boil water just because it looked nice. Good design is about form AND function.

So before you buy plants for the garden, think what benefits the plant will bring.

Bee Friendly Flowers for Winter & Early Spring 

  • Aconites
  • Ajuga
  • Berberis
  • Calluna (heather)
  • Crocus
  • Dicentra
  • English Bluebells
  • Erica
  • Galanthus (snowdrops)
  • Genista
  • Hellebores
  • Ivy
  • Lamium
  • Lonicera Fragitissima (winter honeysuckle)
  • Mahonia
  • Muscari
  • Primula vulgaris
  • Pulmonaria
  • Rosemary
  • Viburnum

Bee Friendly Flowers for Spring:

  • Allium
  • Borage
  • Campanula
  • Celandine
  • Chive
  • Eryngium
  • Foxglove
  • Geranium
  • Geum
  • Hebe
  • Honeysuckle
  • Myosotis (Forget me not)
  • Papaver
  • Penstemon
  • Salvia
  • Thyme

Bee Friendly Flowers for Late Summer:

  • Bergenia
  • Cornflower
  • Helianthemum (sunflowers)
  • Kniphophia
  • Lavender
  • Loosestrife
  • Nasturtium
  • Raspberries (autumn cropping)
  • Scabious
  • Sedum
  • Solidago
  • Verbascum
  • Verbena
  • Veronica