Going blue for bees

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Going blue for bees

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I often bang on about the difference between a wildlife meadow (mainly perennial plants; on poor soil; includes grasses; once started, never cultivated; cut with a mower or scythe) and annual plantings (can be on good soil; using annual flowers; that gets cultivated anew each year). Don't be fooled by seed packets and magazines that talk about meadows and show you fields of poppies - two VERY different things!

We'll look at meadows in more detail in May, but right now, with day length and temperatures on the up, it's time to sow annual seeds.

I covered some of the basics in a blog a couple of weeks ago here. But today I wanted to just look at some of what I think are the best plants to go in an annual sowing.

The typical 'native' mix contains Field Poppy, Corn Marigold, Corncockle, Cornflower and Corn Chamomile, and looks rather like this.

However, having grown this many times, I'm not convinced it is the bee's knees when it comes to pollinating insects. Cornflowers are great, poppies are ok, but the others just don't create the buzz you might think they ought to.

Instead, in my experience, some of the best pollinator plants are:

Borage

Echium 'Blue Bedder'

And Phacelia tanacetifolia

Notice how they are all very much on the violet/blue/lilac side of the spectrum, much like Cornflower, and that's no accident - studies have shown that those are bees' favourite colours.

All the three flowers I've recommended are very cheap to buy as packets of seed, and some of my friends and colleagues are giving them a try this year to see how well they do.

If you've got a spare large pot or a little patch of ground you can cultivate, we'd love you to give it a go and let us know how you get on.

  • Hi Carolr

    How do you put your dog/cat hair out? I've put out a variety of nesting materials, but the birds don't seem interested.

  • Will go out and get these as soon as possible but the ground is very waterlogged at the moment.  Have put cat and dog fur from grooming out for the birds and they are taking as much as I put out - the blue tits also love the feathers from when the budgies moult so I save these and put them out too