It has never been more important than now to plant for pollinators in our gardens. Insect populations are dwindling and they need all the help they can get.
It is not just the bees that we need to provide for; beetles, hoverflies, butterflies and moths all play a vital part in our own food production.
A pollinator garden is one that has habitat to suit all of these species, starting with flowers to provide lots of all year round pollen and nectar. When you visit your local garden centre look out for the ‘bee friendly logo’ on plant labels to help you make good choices.
If you have space in your garden leave areas where you can let things get ‘a little bit wild’. A patch of nettles in a corner will provide the idea place for butterflies to lay their eggs, and a small pile of logs is perfect for other insects to use as protection from the elements.
When choosing plants, seek out ones that are rich in nectar that provide for different insects and their feeding habits. Some pollinators have long tongues and are suited to feed deep inside bell-shaped flowers like foxgloves. Others have shortened tongues and favour more open flowers like Helenium and Achillea so ensure you have a good selection.
Plant a broad range of plants to cover all the seasons, include plants like hellebores and crocus for springtime, and be more relaxed about having your lawn looking pristine. Dandelions and daisies are some of the first spring plants to flower and are so important for hungry insects so don’t be tempted to get out the weed killer!
In summer lavender ‘Hidcote’, Agastache ‘Black Adder’, and Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’ are ideal. I always think of butterflies when I see a buddleja. The dwarf variety Nanho Blue which has silver/grey foliage and blue/purple flowers only gets to 1m high, so is ideal for the smaller garden.
In Autumn Sedum and Japanese anemones are great choices, and in winter Mahonia is perfect for the job, as well as providing a wonderful scent gives a splash of vibrant colour on those dark dreary days.
Planting in blocks or drifts will encourage insects to return again for their nectar. This process is called constancy which simply means it is more efficient for them to return to a known nectar source than it is to visit a new plant and work out how they are going to extract their pollen each time.
It is not just plants that provide pollen for our insects, trees and shrubs are important too, as pollinators work on all levels in the garden. Trees like Prunus ‘Shirotae’ provide a gorgeous scent and stunning white blossom.
My husband Andrew and I are having a year off from Gardeners’ World Live this year! Instead we are going to have a day out together at the show and look at other people’s hard work. We will be exhibiting our own show garden again this year at Taunton Flower Show in August, so come and say hello.
Until next time