Saturday, June 22, 2019

5 Bee-Friendly Perennials for Your Garden.

They’ll Grow Just About Anywhere!

Echinacea with bee

Gardens and wildlife just seem to go together, sometimes too much so. (Deer and rabbits come immediately to mind.) Thoughts of flowers, birds and butterflies most often enter one’s head. But there are other creatures worth accommodating. I’m thinking of bees.

Why bees? 

Well, because they are very important. For example, bees are major contributors to the well-being of a host of living things by the not so simple act of pollination, which, by the way, they do by accident.

For many folks, “BEE” is synonymous with “honeybee.” But those aren’t the only ones that deserve attention. In fact, the common honey bee is not even native to North America. There are over 4000 species of native bees in the United States.  There are sweat bees, stingless bees, bumblebees, long-horned bees, cuckoo bees, leaf-cutter bees, carpenter bees, and a blueberry bee.

Bees could use our help.

Bees suffer from loss of habitat, mites, pesticides, wax moths, and colony collapse disorder. I doubt that any are actually in danger of extinction, though. (I expect someone will write to argue otherwise.) Still, it never hurts to be generous and help other creatures set upon by trials.

You can help in various ways, but some of the easiest and most obvious include the following:
    • Avoiding insecticide use when bees are present;
    • Providing nesting places, or leaving some plant litter around the garden so bees can find their own;
    • Providing a water source (Bees will line up around the edges of bird baths to drink.)
    • Providing lots and lots of flowers.

Bees LOVE flowers!

There are very few that bees will not visit. For some, any flowering weed will do. But there are some things that bees look for especially in a flower. These are:
    • Pollen
    • Nectar
    • Scent, even if imperceptible to us
    • Color (Bees especially like blue, purple, violet, white and yellow.)

With that in mind, here are five flowers for you to grow that bees love, and they’ll flourish almost anywhere.

Achillea flowers
Achillea, commonly called Yarrow, is a perennial herb native to parts of Europe, Asia and North America.   Yarrow produces flat flower clusters in hues of red, pink, gold, yellow and white. Flowering begins in the spring and continues well into summer or even fall. Feathery, fern-like leaves are green or gray and have a fresh, spicy fragrance.  Yarrow is perfect for borders and naturalizing in mass plantings, fresh- and dried flower arrangements. It grows well in zones 3-8.

Coreopsis – known by the unflattering name of “tickseed” – is a bright-flowered plant with blossoms shaped like large asters. Color is mostly yellow, but there are some in pink shades, too. Maintenance is minimal. It’s a sunny summer flower that will lift your spirits. Coreopsis thrives in USDA climate zones 4-9.

Echinacea (Coneflower) is loved for its beautiful, showy flowers, and has been reputed for centuries to be an herbal remedy. It requires very little maintenance, too. Popular colors include pink and white. Echinacea is perfect for climate zones 3-8

Nepeta 'Blue Wonder'
Nepeta (Catmint), of course, is adored by cats and their servile humans, but bees go crazy around it, too. Catnip plants are wonderful for the herb garden. The alluring flowers and aroma are pleasing to all. Catmint colors include blue, blue and deeper blue. Though native to Europe, it is right at home anywhere in climate zones 3-9.

Rudbeckia (Black-Eye Susan) attracts bees, butterflies, and birds which love the seeds. All Black-Eyed Susans are reasonably drought-tolerant. They're especially suited to naturalizing, wildflower meadows, cutting gardens, wildlife gardens, native plant collections, heritage and cottage gardens. Colors are shades of yellow and orange. Rudbeckia is native to North America, and since there are very few states where it cannot be found, you know it’ll thrive in USDA climate zones 3-9.

“But”, you say, “I’m afraid of bees!”

That’s called melissophobia. Actually, though, you’re not so much afraid of bees as you are of bee stings. Am I right? Fear less. Bees are not interested in you. They only sting in self-defense or to protect their homes. As a former bee-keeper, I speak from personal experience. Many were the times I’d slowly approach the hives without protection of long sleeves, veil and gloves to sit and observe the wondrous little creatures. Some would fly up to inspect me. Sometimes another person would join me. So long as one of us didn’t thrash about, the bees would buzz off and go about their beesiness.
Think how much satisfaction you’ll feel with a garden full of flowers for the bees, knowing that you’ve done some good.

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