Saturday, July 18, 2009

Taking Care Of Beesness


With renewed interest in things natural, more folks are thinking of planting gardens to attract wildlife. Birds and butterflies are particularly desired, but many other critters are overlooked; bees, for example. Perhaps they are neglected because they are so small and barely noticeable, or perhaps it is because some can sting and be very noticeable if disturbed. But bees can use a little help, and by helping them they will help you.

Bees are important for pollination. When they forage for nectar they brush against flower pollen and carry some of it with them. As they visit other plants, they deposit some of the pollen. Receptive plants are thus pollinated and fruit is formed. Without bees, our dinner tables would be nearly bare.

Life is tough for bees. Food and water can be scarce. They are food for various other hungry creatures including winged hunters and parasites. Beetles and moths destroy their homes. Toxic pesticides poison flowers with disastrous results. For honeybees, just one sting meant to protect themselves and their brood means certain death. Some think that cell phone signals confuse them so they can't find their ways home. They need safe havens. You can do so by providing them with pesticide-free gardens planted with nectar-producing plants. Bees need water, too.

Bird-watching is a popular past-time, but bee-watching can also be fun. A bee-keeping friend of mine tells me he can sit and watch his hives for hours of learning and enjoyment. I know its true because I used to keep bees myself.

I love to watch them searching among flowers. Our bird-bath also serves bees who line the edge of the water on hot summer days for refreshment. It has gently sloping sides so the bees can gather next to shallow water without falling in over their heads.

You may wonder whether attracting bees invites danger since they can sting. You must realize that not all bees pack a punch. Even those that do are usually too intent on sipping nectar or otherwise going about their bees-ness to bother us. Seldom do they notice our presence beyond passing glances. Even if threatened they usually issue a warning "fly-over buzz". So you can plant a bee garden and enjoy their presence as you would other wildlife; invite them, feed them, water them, but don't try to handle them.

Here, then, for your consideration is a partial list of perennials and groundcovers that attract bees. The descriptions are brief, but I hope it will be helpful.

Abelia x 'Rose Creek'. This is a lovely mounding shrub that makes a terrific groundcover when planted in groups. Evergreen foliage on red stems. Produces loads of attractive white flowers throughout the growing season. Grows 24" to 36" in height. Full sun in USDA climate zones 4-9.

Achillea spp. Also known as Yarrow. Fragrant gray-green lacy foliage. White, rose, yellow, gold flower clusters from mid to late summer. Full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 3-10. Grows to 36" in height according to species.

Actaea racemosa. Also known as Bugbane. Fern-like foliage. Frothy white flower plumes on 5' stalks in summer. Partial to full shade in USDA climate zones 3-9.

Ajuga reptans. Also known as Carpet Bugleweed. Bronze to variegated foliage. Blue flowers on short spikes in spring. Full sun to full shade. USDA climate zones 3-9. Well-drained soil. Grows to under 6".

Allium spp. and ornamental hybrids. Also known as Ornamental Onion. Lovely globe-shaped flower clusters in spring to summer. Full sun to partial shade. Color and size varys by variety. USDA climate zones 4-9. Well drained soil. Plant bulbs in fall.

Armeria maritima. Also known as Thrift or Sea Pink. Evergreen spreading clumps of grassy foliage. Dark pink, ball-shaped clusters. Blooms spring to fall. Full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 3-8. Grows to 12" in height.

Asclepias tuberosa. Also known as Butterfly Weed. Clusters of bright orange flowers attract butterflies in summer. Full sun in USDA climate zones 4-10. Grows to 24" in height.

Aster spp. Small, colorful, daisy-like flowers late summer to fall. Full sun in USDA climate zones 4-9 and height varies according to species.

Astilbe spp and hybrids. Also known as False Spirea. Frothy flower plumes in colors ranging from white, pinks, reds, lavenders. Partial to full shade in USDA climate zones 3-8. Height varies according to species.

Carex spp. Also known as Japanese Sedge. Evergreen, grass-like foliage green or variegated. Mounding to spreading habit. Moist soil. Full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 5-9. Grows to 12" in height.

Cotoneaster spp. Pronounced "co TOE nee aster." Spreading groundcover shrubs. Evergreen to semi-evergreen foliage. Small flowers like apple blossoms in spring followed by pink or red fruit. Full sun to light shade in USDA climate zones from 4-10 and height to 18" depending upon species.

Coreopsis spp. and hybrids. Also known as Tickseed. Deciduous oval to thread-like foliage with daisy-like flowers in yellow or pink in summer. Full sun to light shade in USDA climate zones and height to 8" to 18" depending upon species.

Crinum spp. Large plants with strap-like foliage in the Amaryllis family. Large clusters of white to pink flowers in summer. Full sun in USDA climate zones 8-11. Grows to 48" in height. Bulbs planted in spring.

Calamintha grandiflora. Also known as Calamint. Lavender blue flowers on mint-like leaves from spring to fall. Aromatic foliage. Full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 5-9. Grows to 24" in height.

Crocosmia. Also known as Montbretia. Red, orange to yellow iris-like flowers on long stems in summer. Sword-like foliage. Full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 6-9. Grows to 48". Plant spring bulbs.

Echinacea purpurea and hybrids. Also known as Coneflower. Pink/purple, white, orange or yellow flowers spring to late summer. Full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 3-8. Grows 18" to 48" in height according to species.

Geranium spp. and hybrids. Also known as Cranesbill or Hardy Geranium. Mound-like clumps of evergreen foliage. Flowers in red, white, pink, blue shades spring to summer. Full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 4-9. Grows to 24" in height.

Heuchera spp. Also known as Coral Bells or Alumroot. Low-growing clumps of variegated foliage in green to bronze colors with spikes of frothy white, pink or red blooms in spring and summer. Many new varieties introduced. Full sun to shade in USDA climate zones 3-8. Grows to 18" in height.

Hypericum calycinum. Also known as St. John's Wort or Aaron's Beard. Evergreen to semi-evergreen foliage with buttery yellow foliage in spring with some re-bloom into summer. Full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 5-9. Grows 12" to 18" in height.

Lamiastrum galeobdolon. Also known as Yellow Archangel. Evergreen silver-variegated foliage with yellow flowers in spring. Spreading groundcover. Full sun to shade in USDA climate zones 3-9. Grows to 15" in height.

Lantana spp. and hybrids. Deciduous to evergreen, depending upon climate zone. Upright to spreading shrubby perennial. Fragrant foliage and clusters of often multi-colored flowers spring until frost. Flower color ranges from white, yellow, orange, pink, lilac, purple, red. Full sun in USDA climate zones 7 - 11 and grows 12" to 60" in height according to species.

Lavandula angustifolia. Also known as Lavender. Compact shrub-like perennial with fragrant evergreen grayish foliage. Fragrant lavender to purple flowers summer to fall. Full sun in USDA climate zones 5-9. Prefers alkaline soil with low fertility. Grows 18" to 20" in height.

Leucanthemum x. superbum 'Becky'. Also known as Shasta Daisy. 2003 Perennial Plant of the Year. White daisys with yellow centers from summer to fall. Full sun to light shade in USDA climate zones 4-9. Grows to 36" in height.

Monarda didyma. Also known as Bee Balm. Tall, fragrant perennial of the mint family. Crown-like cluster of white, pink, red, purple flowers in spring and summer. Full sun in USDA climate zones 4-9. Grows to 48" in height. Prefers moist soil.

Nepeta spp. and hybrids. Also known as Catmint. Many species are perennials. Nepeta 'Walker's Low' is favored, 2007 Perennial Of The Year. Heart-shaped, gray-green foliage with purple flowers from late spring to frost. Full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 4-7. 'Walker's Low' grows 30" to 36" in height.

Perovskia atriplicifolia. Also known as Russian Sage. 1995 Perennial Plant Of The Year. Deciduous to sem-evergreen shrubby perennial. Fragrant gray-green foliage. Ethereal light blue flowers from mid-summer to fall. Full sun in USDA climate zones 5-9. Grows 24" ('Little Spire') to 36" in height.

Phlox nivalis 'Eco Flirtie Eyes'. Also known as Trailing Phlox or Florida Phlox. Trailing habit. Evergreen, needle-shaped foliage. Pink to lavender flowers in early spring. Long bloom period. Full sun in USDA climate zones 5-9. Grows to 10" in height and spreads 24" to 36".

Phlox subulata. Also known as Thrift or Creeping Phlox. Pink, red, white, lavender flowers in early spring. Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. Full sun in USDA climate zones 3-9. Grows 4" to 6" in height. Medium tolerance for foot traffic.

Rosmarinus officinalis. Also known as Rosemary. Evergreen, fragrant, needle-like foliage. White, pink or light blue flowers repeatedly. Full sun in USDA climate zones 7-10. Grows to 48" in height.

Rudbeckia fulgida var. 'Goldsturm'. 1999 Perennial Plant Of The Year. Also known as Black Eyed Susan or Gloriosa Daisy. Yellow daisy-like blooms with deep brown centers from mid-summer to fall. Full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 5-9. Prefers moist soil, but tolerates drought. Grows 24" to 36" in height.

Salvia spp. One of my favorites is S. nemorosa. Also known as Perennial Sage. Varieties include 'Blue Hill' or 'Blauhugel', 'Caradonna' (2000 International hardy Plant Union Award), 'East Friesland' or 'Ostfriesland', 'Marcus' (PP# 13322), 'May Night' or 'Mainact' (1997 Perennial Plant Of The Year), 'Pink Friesland' (PPAF), and 'Snow Hill'. Deep green to gray-green foliage with long-lasting flowers in shades from white, pink and purple. Long-lasting blooms from late spring. Re-bloom after cutting. Full sun in USDA climate zones 4-8. Grows to 18" in height.

Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue'. 2000 Perennial Plant Of The Year. Also known as Pincushion Flower. Light blue flowers from summer to fall. Cutting increases blooming. Full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 3-9. Grows 12" to 18" in height.

Sedum spp. Also known as Moss or Stonecrop. Succulent foliage of various shapes and colors. Flowers in shades from yellow, pink to red. Full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 4-9 and grows from 4" to 30" according to species.

Thymus spp. Also known as Thyme. Aromatic, evergreen foliage, green to variegated. Lilac, white, pink, red flowers in summer. Full sun in USDA climate zones 4-9. Grows to 4" according to species. Medium tolerance for foot traffic.

Verbena spp and hybrids. Aromatic green foliage with large clusters of red, pink, purple flowers spring through fall. Spreading habit. Full sun in USDA climate zones 6-10. Grows to 12" in height according to species.

Veronica. I really like Veronica penduncularis 'Georgia Blue.' Evergreen foliage turns bronze in fall. Blue flowers in spring. Full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 4-9. Grows 3" to 6". Medium tolerance for foot traffic.

Because space is limited, I can only name a few other perennials and ground covers that attract bees: Acanthus, Agastache, Alstroemeria, Anthemis, Campanula, Digitalis, Echinops, Erigeron, Erysimum, Gypsophila, Helenium, Helianthus, Helichrysum, Hesperis, Inula, Knautia, Kniphofia, Lamium, Lathyrus, Liatris, Ligularia, Lobelia, Lupinus, Lychnis, Lythrum, Malva, Mentha, Oenothera, Origanum, Paeonia, Penstemon, Potentilla, Pulmonaria, Saponaria, Sidalcea, Solidago, Stachys, Stokesia, Tanacetum, Thalictrum, Tiarella, Trifolium and Verbascum.

Return to goGardenNow.com

No comments: