Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Bottoms up Bees!

There are people on this planet who are always prepared for every eventuality. They have wrapped bottles and chocolates under their Christmas tree waiting for unexpected guests and a drawer filled with every conceivable type of card ready to commemorate any event requiring stationery. Sadly I am not one of these people. The sight of a bottle under the tree has me reaching for the corkscrew and I seem incapable of leaving a shop with chocolates still in their wrappers, since shopping is one of the most snack-inducing chores on my long festive to-do list. As for cards, if I write one, I rarely have a stamp, so my good wishes sit forlornly on the postage pile for months on end.



Happily, pollinating insects do not require celebratory stationery and their chosen source of refreshment is not top of my snack chart (although I am unable to resist nibbling Hemerocallis flowers which is a bit embarrassing on garden visits). Since there are plenty of plants which aren't Hemerocallis, I am in with a very solid chance of being prepared for pollinating visitors; and bulbs are a massive help when it comes to having refreshments ready for any early arrivals.


Iris reticulata
Top of the earlies at Le Grys Farm has to be Crocus tommasinianus. Last year I planted a little crocus lawn and on a sunny day in February, I sat on a bench and watched bees tipsily plunging head first into the blooms. Bottoms up my dear friends. 


This year I will be planting more Crocus tommasinianus and they will all be sited close to benches to entice me to sit down and enjoy offering the bees this little hospitality. 



Another flower which saw bee action earlier this year was Tulipa clusiana 'Peppermint Stick'. The outside of its petals are rose-red, edged in white and they open to reveal glorious pure white inner petals. The flowers last very well and it is a joy to have them in the garden, so I will certainly be adding more to the borders this autumn.


Iris reticulata is a late winter bulb which I wouldn’t wish to be without. Two streams of them flank the path to the old farmhouse and although the foliage seems to elongate forever after flowering, they are planted among Geranium which quickly grow up and disguise the dying leaves. In summer, Iris hollandica punch through the Geranium plants. If you have never sat and sipped coffee while watching bees disappearing into these beautiful flowers, you need to get a batch of bulbs and grab a mug. It is one of life’s simpler pleasures and one which is truly worth experiencing. 


Of course, there are plenty of wonderful pollinator-friendly plants available in summer and one I love to see in the garden is Allium. Now is the time to plant the bulbs, not least because buying the plants in spring or early summer will cost a great deal more than a bag of bulbs.



I am always interested to hear about which plants are popular with bees on other gardeners' plots. It can present a garden-based shopping opportunity which is up there with bulb planting as one of my favourite gardening tasks. It certainly makes a very welcome break from the boredom of digging out the clay pan from hell. This seemingly typical clay pan has now mysteriously metamorphosed into the 6" deep concrete slab of a former farm building. Consequently, I am adapting to this alarming discovery by metamorphosing into Popeye. It's not quite the look I was hoping for.

41 comments:

  1. Loving your bulb planting Sarah, especially the rows of Iris and that tulip is gorgeous and elegant one!

    Sounds hard work all that digging and especially now that you've discovered a concrete base underneath the clay. Good luck with it, you'll get there in the end and it will all be worth it :)

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    1. Oh I do hope I get there in the end! I am beginning to wonder if I shouldn't have aimed for a bog and concrete-loving plant combi and saved myself the effort!

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  2. I know some of the perennials the bees like around our garden but oddly I can't think of a single bulb they frequent. Clearly I need to start paying more attention! Thanks for the list of bee loving bulbs so I can think about what to plant for the coming spring.

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    1. My pleasure. I think the key is to plant the right bulbs and put them near a seat.I am a great believer in lots of seats in the garden. I don't sit in any of them for very long as there is always a task which catches my eye.

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  3. Lovely post on some of my favourite things Sarah, bees and flowers (chocolate and wine are some of the others) are always a pick me up. Snowdrops and blubells are top of the list but I also love crocus and iris reticulata. I'll be moving house next month and have no idea what's going to come up in the new garden which is quite exciting.

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    1. Oh yes - snowdrops are my very favourite flower. How exciting! I love the anticipation of watching to see which bulbs come through when I move house. With the exception of a handful of daffs, a Wisteria and a few trees, I have planted everything in the gardens here so I have missed out on the wonderful wait to see what grows. Good luck with the move!

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  4. I love the photo of the bee right inside the crocus. I'm still in the middle of buying my bulbs, I'd better get a move on before I miss the boat to get them planted.

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    1. Ah you have plenty of time. I usually end up popping the bulbs in on Christmas Eve. They all come through - just a bit late.

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  5. The bees around here spend so much time in the trees (fruit trees early, seven sons tree late) that they rarely descend to bulb level. The buzzing in the cherry trees is practically ear-splitting. The masses of Iris reticulate are stunning.

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    1. With all that buzzing - I hope you get masses of fruit. I was so concerned about yields in my young fruit trees, I joined the bees last spring with my pollinating paintbrush!

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  6. Beautiful Iris reticulata! Tommies do well here too but I have to put them in sunken pots to keep the voles at bay. I think if I try reticulated iris again I need to put them in pots too -- they only lasted a year.

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    1. That's a shame. I know some gardeners talk of them as being short-lived. I have heavy, alkaline soil, to which I added a good amount of compost prior to planting Iris reticulata at a decent depth. I always add to their numbers and just in case any go missing, I grow fillers in trays ready to pop in a gap. So far the trays have never filled a gap, but have gone on to extend the iris area. Fingers crossed you find a way to establish these lovely bulbs.

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  7. Tulipa clusiana 'Peppermint Stick' is a stunner! I will be on the look out for that.

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  8. It's good to hear what the bees like best in your part of the world, and I rather like the look of that tulip. I have also planted a lot more of those crocuses, but a pink variety this time. I hope the bees like pink! They love the early Chionodoxa in my garden.

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    1. Oh yes! Chionodoxa is a beautiful little plant.

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  9. Oh no, and I was feeling sorry for myself for having discovered protruding foundations of wall where I wanted to plant stuff! An enormous concrete slab would have me looking for c4... I'm hoping to buy some crocus and iris reticulate tomorrow, impossible to have too many of either. Good luck with your concrete...

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    1. Thank you! At least my concrete will come up. I hope your wall foundations are staying put! (Even if they have made you change your plant plans).

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  10. Don't you just love to see crocus en masse - mine are all planted in hanging baskets - and that tulip is gorgeous. The bees seem to have disappeared from the garden now

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    1. We have had some very late flowering plants - Delphinium have had a major second flush as have Echinops; and the Echinops in particular have been attracting bees. I guess they won't be there today though - that back-end of a hurricane is buffeting the garden and the rain is horizontal!

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  11. I'd love to have a crocus lawn but as the gardens belong to the flats where I live, a team of 'maintenance' gardeners come and mow the grass throughout the year so even if the flowers survived, the leaves would be chopped down. I do plant lots of tulips in the raised brick borders though and have bought alliums and snowdrops as well this year. What's good for bees in my garden? Herb flowers, linaria, cerinthe, fruit flowers, oooh, just about everything! :) x

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    1. In which case you have a wonderfully bee-friendly plot! Cerinthe is such a good do-er - and so beautiful. Herbs are fab. I plan to plant more creeping Thyme next year.

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  12. Oh my goodness, the 'Peppermint Stick' is just lovely, I think I must have some of them! I agree about Iris reticulate, I planted lots of them last year, I hope they will come up again. The most bee friendly plant I have in my garden has turned out to be fuchsia – probably not what most people think of first. I have more than 50 fuchsias spread around and the bees love them, especially bumble bees. My fuchsias flowered all winter and gave food to the earliest bumble bees arriving in my garden from February and onwards.

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    1. Your Fuchsia have inspired me to try a couple next year. Winter-flowering Fuchsia? Oh to have the London climate in the country!

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  13. A crocus lawn sounds fabulous! You certainly know how to enjoy the garden. Bees get drunk on Columbine flowers that grow along the path in my front garden. I like to sit on the blue bench there and watch them, and a cup of coffee adds to my pleasure.

    By the way, I also like to snack on Hemerocallis flowers!

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    1. I DO enjoy the garden! And I am delighted to find a fellow Hemerocallis-nibbler!

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  14. Hello Sarah, I'm slightly less organised than you are with things, which is why I haven't gotten round to sorting out any spring bulbs. I know what I want to have (lots of everything) but I don't have anywhere prepared to put them. I do have excuses though and hope to get round to sorting spring bulbs out perhaps next year, of the one after..?

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    1. Hi Sunil, you have so much going on in your garden at the moment, it's hardly surprising that you haven't had the time to think about bulbs! We moved into the barn conversion here last Christmas and I didn't want to be without spring bulbs, so I planted them in big plastic posts (the ones I use for aubergines and cucumbers) and planted out the growing bulbs as borders became available. It was worth the extra trouble and beat looking at bare soil in spring. You might try that - and if the borders aren't ready, you can still enjoy your spring bulbs and pretend you always meant for them to be container grown.

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  15. The bees like C. tommasinianus in my garden as well. For early flowers, they also like Galanthus and Scilla sibirica. I don't grow 'Peppermint Stick' but I do have T. clusiana 'Tubergen's Gem' and 'Cynthia'.

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    1. Scilla are lovely. The clusiana tulips are so striking aren't they? Do yours come year after year for you?

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  16. I'm not so great with cards and getting stuff mailed out, either, but I'm trying to get better! That is funny you like to nibble the Daylilies. I might have to try one next summer. I don't envy you digging in the clay. My last garden had awful clay. Thankfully in this one I don't have as much clay. It's all rocks, which made for a nice switch until I started digging up boulders bigger than I could lift!

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    1. Ouch! I think I prefer clay. I discovered a wall under a border this week. Some chunks of brickwork were large, but not so heavy I couldn't lift them. I don't envy you digging out boulders!

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  17. Lovely photo of the bums-up bee in the crocus! In my garden, they like the giants: angelica (seems to induce a drunken stupor in bees - could it be the gin scent?!) and globe artichokes. Last week at the allotment, there was a big stretch of ivy in flower on the fence and it sounded like a bee runway. Almost scary to walk past it was so loud!

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    1. Thank you! I think I need to find a place for Angelica. The bees are enjoying ivy at the moment - if you're scared, at least you can hear where they are!

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  18. I never see bees on my crocus because it's so cold when they bloom. Sometimes there's still snow on the ground when they flower. But I am potting up a bunch of fragrant peony flowering tulips soon. Even if the bees don't have their faces in them, my nose will be enjoying them daily. :o)

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    1. That's a shame. At least you have some in case you get a warm winter one year. I look forward to a photo of you with your nose in those tulips!

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  19. Love the blues in the blooms. Very nice colors in my mind. Thanks. Jack

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  20. We planted tulips at the allotment this year. The bee keeper in the next field could have labelled his jars as Tulip Honey. At home it is the Honeysuckle that buzzes the loudest.

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    1. Hello Patricia, how fab to have a bee keeper in the next field! I hope he harvested plenty of honey this year.

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