Tubu­lar belles

Plant­ing a bee friendly gar­den? Then you cer­tainly need to in­clude fox­gloves, says Ruth Goudy

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE -

How to have a bee friendly gar­den

As well as my pas­sion for plants, I have an ad­dic­tion to words. I have a dic­tionary app on my phone which sends me a ‘word of the day’. Imag­ine my de­light when ‘an­thophilous’ came along. It means ‘at­tracted to or liv­ing among flow­ers’. The word is de­rived from Greek – ‘An­thos’ mean­ing flower and ‘phi­los’ mean­ing lov­ing, friendly or dear. The term is usu­ally used to de­scribe how in­sects feed on flow­ers, but it got me won­der­ing about how much we all de­pend on na­ture, flow­ers and plants to thrive. For me, they are es­sen­tial to well­be­ing. If I am stressed, over­tired or wor­ried my best course of ac­tion is to take a walk with my dogs, breathe deep breaths of fresh air and en­joy the view on the farm, even if it is only for a few pre­cious min­utes. Maybe the world would be a bet­ter place if we all had ac­cess to green space and made good use of it.

Bees, as well as be­ing an­thophilous in­sects, are renowned for their social struc­tures and co-op­er­a­tion. Maybe we could learn from them. Bee pop­u­la­tions are in de­cline, so the more we grow plants that they can feed on eas­ily the bet­ter they will be. One of bees’ favourite plants is Dig­i­talis, or Fox­glove, na­tive peren­ni­als with tall, colour­ful, long last­ing spires. Bees love fox­gloves be­cause they can reach in­side their tubu­lar blooms and feed on the nec­tar. When you are plant­ing in­sect friendly en­vi­ron­ments it is best to avoid flow­ers with dou­ble blooms, as the petals can pre­vent the bee reach­ing the pollen. Also, the plants may have been bred for the bloom and may have lost nu­tri­tious pollen.

Fox­gloves have such a won­der­ful, colour­ful im­pact and el­e­gance they ap­peal to the an­thophilous crea­ture in me. The best known is the nat­u­ral Dig­i­talis Pur­purea which grows in strik­ing pur­ple spires and is the va­ri­ety found in the wild. Fox­gloves come in all sorts of colours. An­other favourite is Dig­i­talis Dal­ma­tian with lit­tle spots on the throat of each bell. Of all those that we have grown this year I like Dal­ma­tian Peach. How­ever, I am rather fickle and may well have changed my mind by next year. Af­ter all, the def­i­ni­tion of an­thophilous says noth­ing about be­ing faith­ful to one flower.

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