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