There is a great article in the New York Times today about pollinators. Although I live in a narrow suburban lot, I try to do my part to have a healthy place for most life (I say most, because I don’t try to have a good habitat for Voles, I just do. That said, I loved the Great Horned Owl that swoops in to eat them, so you won’t find me trying to poison them.)
As everyone knows, honeybees are declining for some reason we aren’t totally sure of. Unfortunately Honeybees love plants that some humans hate, like Dandelions and Clover.
Instead of letting my lawn become weed infested, here’s a list of plants (some of which are not natives) that seem to be very popular with the bees.
Asters– particularly the bright blue and purple ones.
Foxgloves- Bumblebees in particular love foxgloves.
Sedums & Sempervivums– I usually have so many bees on my Sedum Matrona that I can’t get near it when it is blooming.
Buddleia– Butterflies, bees, the whole shooting match.
Queen Anne’s Lace- which is actually a really lovely flower, and adored by bees, but you need to cut off the flowers before they go to seed or you will have an enormous number of seedlings.
Scilla and Snowdrops– the first bees are good pollinators of these adorable little bulbs.
Catmint, Clematis, Liatris, Sage and Sea Hollies are all very popular with the bees. As are flowering trees like Crabs.
By far, the most popular garden plant for bees in my yard is an enormous Chrysanthemum “Mary Stoker,” which flowers just as the season comes to an end. It is absolutely beautiful to watch all of the pollinators. From a distance.
One thing to keep in mind is that providing flowers for bees is not enough, you need to provide habitat. Ground nesting bees seem to love soft garden soil- so although alarming when you dig in and hear a loud buzzing, don’t be quick to evict these creatures from their homes.
Although often garden magazines discuss how wonderful bees are, very few mention the fact that many homeowners would prefer not to have bees buzzing around their children. I have not yet (knock wood) been bothered by a bee in the garden, (even the enormous scary bee that lives in my front garden bed) but I do give them a healthy respect and try to interfere with their lives as little as possible. If you are concerned about these plants around your kids (provided they don’t have bee allergies), try to remind your children that bees, like many creatures, are happy to leave you alone, if you leave them alone.