Five Shrubs to drive Bees and other Pollinators Wild!
Here are five of the best hardy shrubs for temperate gardens to attract Bees and other Pollinator to your garden.
Everyone by now knows the value of Bees, Hoverflies, Butterflies and other pollinating insects in ensuring fruit crops produce the fruit we need to sustain human life on the planet. While not everyone (yet) truly values bees and these other vital pollinators, those in the know want to do their best to help secure their future in an ever-changing and often insect-unfriendly world. One way we can help is to reduce our use of potentially harmful and insecticidal chemicals. Another is to include some plants in our gardens that are both great for us and equally great for these glorious insects. These are my favourite five of the moment (in no particular order).
Hebe 'Midsummer Beauty'
Not just one of the best insect attracting shrubs for the temperate garden, but one of my most favourite plants altogether. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love Hebes, this is one of the all-time greats. A larger shrub to 1.8m (6') and generally wider, this sun-loving plant produces 20cm (8") long racemes of flowers through summer. It is evergreen with young foliage being pleasantly purple-tinged. Pretty hardy throughout the UK, but inland and in exposed gardens a warm, sunny spot will make all the difference in protecting the foliage and ensure good flowering. Like all Hebe, it dislikes winter wet and it is often a little weaker and less fulsome for the first couple of seasons after planting. This will sort itself in time and in a favourable spot, this is a hugely impressive plant and can even be grown as an informal hedge. When it is good, it is so very good!
Buddleja davidii 'White Profusion'
Buddleja aren't called Butterfly bushes for nothing! Large plants can often have hundreds of visits each day from Butterflies, Bees, Hoverflies, Day-flying Moths and more. Even at night, Moths, who are arguably the real unsung heroes of plant pollination will visit Buddlejas for nectar. Buddleja davidii 'White Profusion' is just one good variety and in my experience any Buddleja in a garden will be a popular nectar spot, but I list it as it is a good doer, with silvery-grey foliage and a pure white flower. It is also readily available to buy. If space is of a premium, much of the newer varieties have been bred to be more compact, so look out for any variety with 'Nanho' in the name, or plants from the Candy Lila and Candy Little series, as well as the Flutterby series, plus others, all of which are compact and lower growing than older varieties. The only downside to white flowered Buddleja, like many white flowered plants, is that as each flower goes over, it turns noticeably brown. If you can't take that, there are Pink, Purple, Blue and almost Red forms available, where this colour change is less noticeable. Plant in full sun and in well-drained soil for best growth. Buddleja do very well on really quite poor soil and are commonly seen growing out of cracks in the brickwork of abandoned building, derelict sites and wasteland. A true survivor. My best advice is to prune Buddleja to maintain size and shape. I experiment to great results with cutting back a substantial plant of Buddleja davidii to one third of its original size in Feb/March. It put on long, straight growth and flowers were later to arrive, starting in July, but were twice the size that they were on an unpruned plant. Worth an experiment I'd suggest.
Below are some images of Buddleja davidii 'White Profusion' with Bumblebees (Bombus sp) and with Peacock Butterflies (Aglais io). Lilac coloured Buddleja davidii seedling with Jersey Tiger Moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria) in Northern France.
Darwin's Barberry is one of the most striking shrubs of Spring. The purity and intensity of the orange coloured flowers, red peduncle and pedicels (flower stalks) and glossy, deep-green, spikey foliage all stand out making this easy to identify and a delight to behold. Full disclosure, these flowers are really rather small at only 5mm (1/5 of an inch), but are produced in abundance over the plant and are a great source of early shrubby nectar for insects on the wing in March/April. The spiny leaves and thorns on the stems make it a useful boundary plant, or one for under ground-floor windowsills to beef up home security. Grows well in sun or shade, but if find it at its most striking in light shade, where it appears to glow, even on dull days. It will grow to around 1.5m (5') tall and perhaps a little bit wider. After flowers, fruit is formed ripening over the summer. Birds and mammals in the garden will eat these in autumn, making it doubly wildlife friendly.