“I’ll show you the best plants for pol­li­na­tors,” says Hazel

At­tract bees, but­ter­flies and hov­er­flies by grow­ing plants laden with nectar. re­veals an­nu­als and peren­ni­als that pol­li­na­tors will make a bee­line for

Amateur Gardening - - Content - Hazel Sil­lver

The life and soul of a gar­den is its wildlife. As well as the chirp­ing of the birds, we en­joy the pres­ence of ben­e­fi­cial in­sects such as bees, but­ter­flies and hov­er­flies, which pol­li­nate our plants and keep us com­pany while we gar­den. With­out the back­ground hum­ming of bees and the sight of but­ter­flies flap­ping over the flow­ers, it would be a far less en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

As these beloved in­sects con­tinue to strug­gle world­wide due to habi­tat de­cline, pol­lu­tion and pes­ti­cides, we gar­den­ers can lend a help­ing hand by plant­ing flow­ers that pro­vide them with food. Or, more specif­i­cally, their favourite del­i­cacy: nectar.

how­ever, when it comes to nectar, not all plants are cre­ated equal. While these in­sects will make a bee­line for some flow­ers, they’ll fly past others with­out a se­cond glance. Some­times this is be­cause they can­not reach the nectar – for in­stance, if a plant has been bred to the ex­tent that petals bar ac­cess, or if the length of the flower does not suit their feed­ing ap­pa­ra­tus. But often they will by­pass a plant simply be­cause its nectar con­tent is low.

A study by the Univer­sity of Sus­sex showed how pol­li­na­tors rate over 30 dif­fer­ent plants. And sur­pris­ingly it was not al­ways our na­tive wild­flow­ers that came out on top. Many or­na­men­tal gar­den plants that had been hy­bridised or brought in from over­seas fared as well – or bet­ter. Achil­lea, sin­gle dahlias, bor­age and perovskia were all pop­u­lar, with agas­tache, wild mar­jo­ram, cat­mint, salvia, hys­sop, viper’s bu­gloss

(Echium vul­gare) and laven­der va­ri­eties (in­clud­ing La­van­dula x in­ter­me­dia ‘Gros Bleu’) com­ing out on top.

There’s still time to get plants in the ground that will pro­vide late-season nectar. Seeds of many late-sum­mer and au­tumn-bloom­ing an­nu­als loved by wildlife (like cal­en­dula, sun­flow­ers and

Titho­nia ro­tun­di­fo­lia) can be sown now. Nectar-rich late-flow­er­ing peren­ni­als (he­le­ni­ums and asters) can be planted, as can con­tainer­ised dahlias like ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ – avail­able from nurs­eries.

But if you plant just one au­tumn nectar source this month, make it an ice plant (Hy­lotele­phium spectabile

‘Bril­liant’ or ‘Mr Good­bud’). This will pro­vide sus­te­nance for bees and but­ter­flies from Au­gust to November.

Sow an­nu­als such as cal­en­dula and herbs like mar­jo­ram for a gar­den that is alive with but­ter­flies and bees from sum­mer through to au­tumn

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