GBBD – June Flowers for Bees and other Pollinators

I rarely post photos of my own garden. I work as a gardener, which means our garden at home takes second fiddle and often has the look of cobbler’s shoes but I do try to grow as many plants that have wildlife value as possible. This is my first time of joining in with Carol at May Dreams Gardens for GBBD, I am a little late, apologies!

Phacelia and Bee

Phacelia tanacetifolia enjoyed by lots of Bees

Phacelia tanacetifolia is on the top of my list for Bees and pollinators alongside Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’. We grow Nepeta both as a hedge and dotted through the garden, plants in full sun attract the most Bees.

Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant'

Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ with stripey bottomed bee and no pollen balls – ident appreciated!

Phacelia was originally grown here as a green manure, it self seeds wonderfully and now we have lots, a large patch in my veg garden and also dotted throughout the borders. Phacelia also makes a great cut flower. Third top plant for Bees and Pollinators in June are the Geraniums and especially the large patches of Geranium x Magnificum

Collecting Pollen on Johnson's Blue

Collecting Pollen on G x Magnificum, similar stripey bottomed Bee with pollen basket

Early Morning when the Opium Poppies, Papaver somniferous are fully open they are the first to attract awakening Bees, by early evening the petals begin to close up and Bees have long switched to the blue brigade.

Papaver somniferum

Papaver somniferum

On the left of our East facing dining room window we have a large climbing Hydrangea petiolaris, in the winter we watch lots of birds flitting around the bare branches, once the flowers are open Bees are attracted too.

Hydrangea petiolaris with

Hydrangea petiolaris with White tailed bumblebee Bombus lucorum and clearly seen pollen balls.

I grow both wild native Foxgloves Digitalis purpurea and I save the seed and re sow any that spring up as white in another area of my garden. I read Foxgloves attract long tongued bumble bees only, I am not yet sure which bees have long tongues, but hopefully my foxgloves are helping. I shall watch out to see if either colour is preferred. Other plants in flower at home attracting Bees and other pollinators this month are Aquilegias, Borage, Chives, Polemonium – Jacobs Ladder, self sown Nigellas, Alliums and the aphids sticky sap on my Apple trees, I wonder why?

Phacelia and Honey Bee

Phacelia and Honey Bee

We have a wonderful organisation over here called Buglife with an excellent website highlighting the desperate flight of Invertebrates, did you know in the UK , half of our 27 bumblebee species are in decline. Three of these bumblebee species have already gone extinct. Seven bumblebee species have declined by more than 50% in the last 25 years. Two-thirds of our moths and 71% of our butterflies are in long term decline. Across Europe 38% of bee and hoverfly species are in decline; only 12% are increasing. It is estimated that 84% of EU crops (valued at £12.6 billion) and 80% of wildflowers rely on insect pollination.

We shall all go hungry if we do not get on top of this.


60 thoughts on “GBBD – June Flowers for Bees and other Pollinators

  1. The bees obviously love your garden. I have read that bumble bees are in decline but in my garden they seem to increase yearly. I have 4 lots of them nesting in the eaves of my house. I just hope that they are not carpenter bees munching at the wooden beams. I am just off to look at the bug website. Thanks for the link.

  2. It is good to see what you grow in your garden Julie. Bees can choose to make honey from the excretions of aphids, sounds disgusting I know, but this kind of honey is delicious.

    • You just made me smile! I can always rely on you to help when I am stuck with something. Thank you, thats a mystery solved. Hope the holiday is going well, I thought of you too when we were in Granada and we saw the Mrytle hedges there, would that be something to consider to replace your box?

      • I love myrtle but it isn’t reliably hardy for me. I loved all the myrtle hedges in Spain and the way they flatten the tops of the cypress. I knew about the bees making honey from the aphid honeydew because years ago I went to a honey tasting – it took about 3 hours to taste 7 different honeys, a very typically Italian event but I did learn about the different honeys and the one from aphids was particularly interesting and delicious, so glad I could help.

  3. These are lovely photos. The plight of the bees terrifies me. We’re thinking of moving out of the city sometime in the next year or so and are hoping to get some hives. It won’t save the planet, but we’re reading here that if more people have bees it might help. Who knows; at least we’ll have honey!

    • Moving out of the city sounds a great plan Su, we love living in the country, but I read there are now more Bees in the cities than the countryside as folk keep hives in cities and farmers spray insecticides in the country. Hopefully attitudes are changing as more research happens.

  4. This was a lovely post Julie, with great photos of your bees. I had a lot of large and various bumble bees early in the year, but now mostly just the small bumble bees and honey bees. I’m hopeless at identifying them though! The honey from bees that take the sap from trees is very popular here (Waldhonig – ‘wood honey’) and is sold at every corner if you go down to the Alps!

    • Yes, there are so many subtle differences they are tricky group to identify. I really would like to be better at it. Wood Honey sounds very interesting, I wonder if it has a distinctive taste.

  5. I love reading posts like this Julie. I’ve just hopped here from The Blooming Garden and will be back. I also have hydrangea petiolaris growing on an East-facing wall outside our dining room and in the morning it is smothered in several different types of bee, including white-tailed which are quite distinctive. I agree with everything you say about the plight of our invertebrates and thank you for the link to how to identify bumble bees. It’s given me an idea for our allotment open day on Sunday.

    • Good luck with your open day Sarah, hope it goes well. Guessing you are hoping to entertain children or grown ups, there is another simplified ID guide on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website, that may be helpful.

  6. nice to see your garden Julie, you have a lot of blooms and bees, I have noticed a decline in bees around my garden since we have been experiencing all the extra wet weather, bees don’t like the wet, it is both sad and frightening the decline in pollinators, I try to plant for wildlife, Frances
    oh Julie, I thought I had posted this comment but I have been side tracked by the bee identity site, thanks 🙂

    • I can’t find the statistic on how many square miles our collective gardens cover but I remember it to be vast, as gardeners we can do a lot of positive things to help the plight of pollinators.

  7. Hi Julie, what fabulous photos, thanks for sharing.
    Do you have a hive? You certainly have plenty of bees. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a Bumble Bee hive (ie not one for honey, as I don’t really like it, I just want the bees!) do you know anything about them?

    • Hi Jenny, I believe the Bee hotels you see for sale are for some species of solitary bee that nest in tunnels, a lot nest underground in the same way that most Bumblebees do. I bought the book Bird, Bee and Bug Houses then designed my own 4′ tall Insect hotel, currently a large family of woodlouse are enjoying it! I really recommend the Blog Amelia writes very knowledgeably about her garden in France and bees. Anything by Dave Goulson who set up the Bumblebee Conservation Charity. In his book ‘A sting in the Tale’ , he suggests digging a hole and wrapping grass in a ball to encourage a Bumblebee Queen to nest. My husband would like to keep honey bees in the future, although I am not sure about eating the bees food and substituting with sugar water. I drink milk and eat meat by the way. I think planting is probably the most important thing to provide and certainly Phacelia and Nepeta are currently really popular. Wild Bees will come to your garden if you have the right plants, If you look on the Buglife site the link is on my post they have a page on pollination and a whole page of suggested plants. Hope that helps.

  8. Well said, Julie! Although I’m no expert on bees, or other insects for that matter, I’m well aware of their plight, and we try to do what we can. With regard to bumblebees, we seem to be achieving something, as we have plenty to enjoy. Not so much joy with honey bees, though. We did have bee colonies in our garden a few years ago – they took up residence in a compost bin! We toyed with the idea of keeping them properly, but we chickened out. We were too close to gardens with young children and feared creating a problem. Disappointing!

    • My husband would like to keep bees in the future but like you we are close to gardens with young children. We visited a communal garden recently where a group kept bees well away from houses, which seemed to work. In my imagination though we own a lovely orchard with room for Bee hives and chickens. One day!

  9. Excellent post, Julie–a garden after my own heart! I guess you have the same problem we do here in the States–too much sterile turf, overbuilding, pesticide use–well, you know the rest. Thank you for providing for the beleaguered pollinators. Hopefully, one garden at a time….

    • Yes just the same things as you. I feel there is a definite shift of attitudes though and more acceptance of the terrible damage neonics have caused. Hopefully we have not left this too late.

  10. Are the various efforts gardeners make having any impact yet, I wonder? I think the banning of herbicides in much of Canada has done good so far. By the way, that deep pink opium poppy photo looks like a painting.

    • Chemicals available to farmers and domestic users are subject to an experimental two year ban over here. There are powerful lobbyists representing the huge chemical companies but I do feel the tide is turning against them Feeding so many people as cheaply as possible is the route reason in farming. As gardeners though we can change and make a positive contribution to help bees and pollinators.

  11. Hello Julie,
    Well done for highlighting this issue so well, and with such lovely images. But yet again, you’ve fooled me with your mnemonic. What does GBBD stand for? I was nearly minded to write into GQT (there! I’m doing it as well..) this week. I’ve been a regular listener for nigh on 40 years – way before I became interested in gardens, and this week, the otherwise excellent Chris Beardshaw was discussing the best plants for bees/insects with an expert from Bristol Zoo, and ended up with the summary of ” So what you really need to do is go to the gardening centre once a week, and come back with something that’s in flower. That way you’ll have food for the bees throughout the year”. If only it were that simple. This last fortnight if you’d come back with a Clematis montana ‘Broughton Star’ and planted it next to a Cotoneaster horizontalis, you would have appreciated the Clematis flowers, but all the insects would be on the Cotoneaster!
    Best wishes

    • Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. My first attempt at joining in with this meme as our internet speed is less than one, so I cannot see the photos on ‘Blogger’, which drives me potty. I can see everything on wordpress though. Oh Mr Beardshaw, I really hope he was distracted as he should know better!!

  12. I love to watch bees at work, and they certainly seem happy in your garden. I didn’t realize you were a professional gardener – I truly envy you. I just planted some ‘Six Hills Giant’ – how tall does it grow for you?

    • Our soil is sandy and poor, so 50-60cms at the most but its a real bee magnet, cut back when its starts to fade and you will get a second flush albeit smaller. I love my work Jason, but I am quite often working on my own, so its lovely to peek into other gardens and the lives of gardeners through blogging.

  13. Lovely photos and post. There is also the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in the UK another excellent organisation promoting bumblebees. Comfrey is a current favourite in my garden with many of the bumbles.

    • Thank you, I have the BCT on my list of recommended websites and have just read one of Dave Goulson’s books. I had read in his book that some Bumbles rob nectar by biting a hole in the side of a comfrey flower. Our lane is lined we comfrey, I have been looking but haven’t seen any holes. Have you?

      • I’m just reading Dave Goulson’s Sting in the tail – fascinating book. Haven’t noticed them making holes in comfrey but last year saw them doing it on my runner bean flowers!

  14. Great photos. Lots of blue flowers, which I love. I too started with phacelia as a green manure, but now grow it for the bees and the way it curls. I think that there are a lot of bumblebees around this year. Hurray!

  15. It’s so lovely to see how many bees visit your garden and I love the selection of plants you have. I really must hunt down Hydrangea petiolaris, it is such a lovely plant

    • I’m very fond of it Matt, our garden faces east and is exposed, so lovely to have a tough yet beautiful plant outside of the dining room window that both the wildlife and we enjoy.

    • Sounds good, I saw my first swarm last year Brian, it was quite an exciting event. Phacelia is not invasive, it seeds around a bit like Nigella, very welcome and very pretty too.

  16. I bought a couple of nepeta a week or so ago and even as I carried them around the garden, looking for the right spot, there were bees following me. I felt like the pied piper. It was quite a challenge planting them without getting stung!

  17. Beautiful photographs, the bees are really spoiled for choice in your garden. I think that the bumble bee could be Bombus hortorum or the Garden bumble bee. It is one with a longer tongue and I often see it on my Delphineums and Larkspur. Amelia

    • Thank you Amelia, I can see how you are so passionate about Bees, they are very absorbing. I would like to grow more suitable plants and create some sheltered places in my garden too. I’ve just come in from watering at 9.30p.m UK time and there are still bees around on the Phacelia and Nepeta.

  18. Lovely post, Julie! I try to grow flowering plants the insects (especially bees) like. I also have a few winter-flowering shrubs and these are useful on those early days in Spring when the bumble bees wake up and want something to eat. My winter-flowering honeysuckle and mahonia are very popular. I have noticed that the farmers here have started planting phacelia here and there – either as a green manure or to attract bees or both – not sure. All for the good anyway.

    • Your garden sounds wonderful for wildlife Clare, interesting that farmers are growing Phacelia hopefully another encouraging sign that we are more aware of the plight of Bees.

      • My husband tells me he read an article in The Times recently which said that bumble bees had benefitted from the decline of the honey bee and were gaining in numbers!

      • That’s interesting Clare, I wonder why, but I guess that the massively reduced farmland areas with nectar and pollen plants means there is less habitat for these species. Another reason it’s so important for gardeners to plant for bees.

  19. I have a single but very large phacelia plant that I grew from seed sent to me by another blogger. It’s not the same phacelia you have but our bees love it, too. I have a lot of dry shade but have stuffed in as many pollinator attracting plants as possible and have filled my sunny areas only with plants that support pollinators. My garden quite literally buzzes!

  20. Julie , those are such beautiful portraits of your bumblebees and flowers . The story of decline you share is stark. Thank you for this beautiful post. The poppy photo is my favorite ☺

    • Phacelia is an annual, you have too much snow for it to be any use as an overwinter green manure, but I think you would really like it grown as an annual. Its a South-West American native, we’ve borrowed it over here!

  21. I just planted this “purple” bee magnet this spring. I seeded it in the early spring but it grew out and got a bit brown and went to seed( early June). Will it reseed or how do I manage it in my garden? I had to clear the bed out for a succession planting of kale. Would I be able to seed it out for a fall showing? I am in zone 5 USA illinois-just wondering. I thought it had an amazing texture and look:-)

    • You should be able to Robbie, they are quick to germinate. Phacelia tanacetifolia is also a green manure so any plants you dig into your soil will work to improve fertility. I both save the seed once the heads have gone dry and let some self seed. I think it will be too cold where you are to overwinter, we are in a zone 7-8. I have only sown directly to the soil but they may well work grown in modules and potted into the open ground in Spring, did you direct sow this year?

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