Gardening: How to encourage bees back into the garden

A bee on lavender flowers.
A bee on lavender flowers.

Not cutting your lawn and planting foxgloves are the two most popular things to do to encourage bees into the garden, according to a survey.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and The Wildlife Trusts’ Bee Creative in the Garden! campaign has had a fantastic response from gardeners who have created havens for wild bees.

Foxglove.

Foxglove.

Questions asked in the survey were:

Which of these bee-friendly plants would you most like to plant in your garden?

* 47% - foxglove

* 25% - sunflower

A sunflower.

A sunflower.

* 16% - borage

* 12% - single dahlias

Which of these actions are you most likely to do to help wild bees?

* 60% - let your lawn grow long

* 35% - make a bee home

* 5% - dig a pond

Bee-friendly plants for September/October include single dahlias, Cosmos, globe thistle (Echinops), Agastache foeniculum, hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), heather (Calluna vulgaris), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), ivy (Hedera helix).

Television and radio presenter, author and gardener Monty Don said: “British gardeners can actively nurture and conserve the wild bee population.

“You do not need rare or tricky plants. In fact, the opposite is true.

“Bees need pollen and the smaller flowers of unhybridised species are likely to be a much richer source than huge show blooms on plants that are the result of elaborate breeding.

“Any flower that is open and simple, such as members of the daisy family, or any that are set like a lollipop on a stick, such as scabious, and all members of the thistle family, are ideal for attracting honey bees, which have rather short tongues so need easy access.

“Bumblebees have longer tongues so are better adapted for plants that have more of a funnel shape, such as foxgloves.”

For more information on this subject, visit the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society website www.bwars.com/

The wild bee-friendly gardening guide, Get Your Garden Buzzing For Bees’, is free to download at wildaboutgardensweek.org.uk

Bees in September

September is an excellent time to look for wild bees:

Bumblebee nests start producing males and new queens. Queens are usually significantly larger than the worker females but will eventually mate and then forage to build up their body fat in preparation for hibernation.

Common colletes – a solitary bee that uses heather as its principal pollen source.

Harebell carpenter bee – this tiny black bee collects pollen from garden species of bellflower. Help them by leaving dead wood with holes in for nesting.

Common furrow bee – found on a wide variety of garden flowers.

Ivy bee – a new arrival, gathering pollen almost entirely from ivy flowers.

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JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND

Continue to deadhead plants such as dahlias, delphiniums, roses and penstemon to prolong the display.

Divide any overgrown or tired-looking clumps of alpines and herbaceous perennials, such as crocosmias. This will invigorate them, and improve flowering and overall shape, for next year.

Take cuttings of tender perennials, such as Pelargoniums. If you don’t have a greenhouse, use a light windowsill to grow them on.

Bring inside tender perennials, such as Fuchsia, Gazania, Lantana and Abutilon.

Some tall late-flowering perennials, such as asters, may still need staking to stop them being blown over in the wind.

Prune late-summer flowering shrubs such as Helianthemum (rock rose) and give evergreen hedges a final trim to make sure they are in shape for winter.

Reduce watering of houseplants as light levels drop.

Pot up a few herbs to bring into a porch or grow on the window sill.

Ventilate conservatories during warmer days but close windows at night.

Top up pond water levels when necessary and continue to remove blanket and duckweed. You may need to thin out submerged oxygenating plants, as they can quickly build up and crowd the pond.

Make and repair compost bins so that they are ready for the autumn, when fallen leaves will quickly fill them.

Pick ripe apples and store the best in fruit crates.

Dig up strawberry runners and pot them up.

Net autumn raspberries and blackberries to protect them from birds.

Lift and dry maincrop potatoes and store in paper sacks in a cool, dark place.

Sow broad beans and hardy peas for early crops next year.

Check pears regularly to harvest when perfectly ripe.

Vegetables to sow now include winter radishes, lettuce and salad leaves, spinach, spring onions, and turnip for its green tops.