Bumbling on…

Ho Humm. Here’s yet another reason why we should shun dizzy annual bedding plants – particularly those boring little red begonias and busy lizzies (or is that bizzy lusies?).

According to an email I recieved last week, bumblebees don’t like them because they have little nectar on offer. And did you know that the various bumblebee species differ in the lengths of their tongues, and as a result their flower preferences differ? 

Here’s another intriguing nugget – the native flower most attractive to most bumblebee species is Viper’s Bugloss (Echium vulgare).

All this fascinating information came, via my son (the Geek) – from his girlfriend. 

So I took a casual stroll up my garden to do a bumblebee head count (actually there were more bumblebums than heads to count) and see what was turning them on this lovely balmy evening. 

Catmint is clearly a fave as is lavenderLinaria ‘Canon Went’ and a couple of delphiniums were getting the full treatment, as was a sprawl of mustard-yellow-flowered Sedum acre that’s spilling artily out of a broken old terrcotta pot outside my door.

I even found a little chap luxuriating within the half-folded petals of a white Rugosa rose and, as I made my way back to the house, I heard a big fat furry one with its head stuck up a foxglove, fabulously amplified.

Bumblebees are seriously in decline, apparently, and we should be planting the right stuff for them. The email came complete with a list of plants – which I’ve cut & pasted below. 


Alliums
Aquilegia
Birds-foot trefoil
Bugle
Bush vetch
Campanula
Ceanothus
Chives
Comfrey
Cotoneaster
Escallonia Everlasting Pea
Everlasting wallflower
Foxglove
Geranium
Honeysuckle
Kidney Vetch
Laburnum
Lupin
Monkshood
Poppies
Raspberries 
Red Campion
Roses (singles)
Sage
Salvia
Thyme
Tufted vetch
Meadow Cranesbill
White Clover
Wisteria
Woundwort 
Black horehound
Borage
Bramble
Buddleia
Cardoon
Catmint
Cornflower
Delphinium
Heathers
Hollyhock
Hyssop 
Knapweed
Lavender
Lesser burdock
Marjoram
Mellilot
Mint
Penstemon
Phacelia
Polemonium
Purple loosestrife
Red bartsia 
Red clover
Rock-rose
Sainfoin
Scabious
Sea Holly
Snapdragons
St. Johns Wort
Sunflower
Teasel
Thistles
Viper’s bugloss

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6 Responses to Bumbling on…

  1. patientgardener says:

    How interesting – my garden is full of bumblebees but there is a distinct lack of butterflies, despite me growing all sorts of things they are meant to like. I wonder whether the rain last year had a very detrimental affect on them.

  2. Daphne Gould says:

    Currently my bumble bees favorite meal is my coriander. They are ignoring my lavender all together.

  3. Meems says:

    Hi Helen,
    Just found you from blotanical. I like your site and your profile was interesting to read.

    My garden grows on the other side of the pond in Florida. We seem to have loads of bumblebees on the coneflowers, indigo spires, confederate jasmine, and pentas.

    Hope you are enjoying your weekend.
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

  4. Kate Hutchinson says:

    I don’t know if the bees come out earlier because I live in London but my bees love the shrubby honeysuckle that flowers in February. My favourite thing though is to see a bees coming out of a hollyhock looking as if it’s been heavily dusted with yellow icing sugar.

  5. Hello

    About the Viper’s Bugloss – there is a steep bank near where I live where the council (or a building developer) did a massive wild flower seeding after the ground was churned up in the creation of a wide path.

    For a while, there was a lot of Viper’s Bugloss. It flowered alternate years but gradually declined until now there are but a few plants here and there.

    It’s interesting you are suggesting it could be cultivated (I’ve only seen it as a wild flower) but, assuming one could get it started, do you know how to keep it going?

    Lucy Corrander
    LOOSE AND LEAFY

  6. Rosie Harden-Vane says:

    Helen, you are the best garden guru of the lot. Down to earth, to the point, very knowledgeable and able to express things in a way that we can all understand. You never let things “go over our heads”. Thank you for being in the Telegraph!
    Rosie.

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