Bees and Butterflies – How Herbs Can Bring Your Garden to Life
There is nothing better than a gorgeous warm summer’s morning spent pottering in the garden. The sights and smells of your favourite flowers, vegetables and shrubs can be truly magnificent. Add to this the pleasant company of some softly buzzing, equally busy mini-friends and you’ve got yourself the perfect start to the day.
One clear sign that a garden is working well is an abundance of bees. Bees collect nectar and pollen to feed their babies and in the process help your garden by pollinating the plants they come into contact with. Without bees, many of the plants in your garden would achieve between little and nothing. These miniature friends can work hard, buzzing from plant to plant, often going unnoticed and certainly underappreciated.
Unfortunately the world's bee population is in dire decline. For many years the natural habitat of bees has been reduced steadily and some scientists fear that the situation for bees has become desperate. Not good news for the bees and not good news for us green-fingered gardeners either!
This said, there is plenty we can do in our gardens to encourage bees to visit and a flourishing herb garden can do just that. Not only can a herb garden entice these VIP bugs but they can also provide the right habitat for other welcome creatures such as butterflies and hoverflies.
By carefully choosing the herbs you grow you can turn your garden into a safe haven for mother nature’s unsung little heroes!
Here are some herbs you can use to get your garden buzzing:
Beekeepers will excitedly tell you about the benefits mint plants have on bee wellbeing. Beekeepers are known to plant mint close to their bee hives to fend off wax moths and their larvae which can be highly disruptive to honeybees. But mint also benefits the individual bee by helping to combat tracheal and varroa mites that live on bees and can cause them stress and illness.
A relatively recent study by Sussex University put lavender at number one for preferred plant for honeybees and bumblebees. The large number of flowers and the wealth of pollen and nectar in lavender seems to be a real hit for bees and a garden with even a small area dedicated to lavender will usually be very popular with our buzzing buddies. Choose different varieties for extended blooming.
All rosemaries flower in early April and many will have a second flowering in September meaning that rosemary is ideal for providing bees with plenty of pollen and nectar throughout most of the year. The melancholy blue flowers are particularly attractive and make a beautiful contrast to the sharp black and yellows of visiting bees.
Particularly if you keep pets or have young children you may be concerned about bee stings once your garden gets especially buzzing with bees. Although the bugs are generally friendly, if startled or threatened they can deliver a nasty sting as a last resort. Therefore, lemon balm is a good option to choose: it seems to have a calming, settling effect on bees and could discourage them from being overly aggressive - it is also believed that rubbing lemon balm onto your hands or skin can help prevent bee stings too.
If you let chives flower you can still enjoy some stems in your cooking whilst providing beautiful, chubby blossoms that are a delight to both bees and butterflies’ senses. As your garden becomes more established, chive flowers will grow increasingly large. Year on year you’ll encourage more and more buzzing wild life to your garden.
If you let it, fennel can grow surprisingly tall surprisingly quickly - it’s been known to rise to over five feet if allowed. If you have the space and enjoy the pleasant bright green fronds and distinctive aniseed flavour, allow fennel to grow without inhibition and you will be a bee’s friend for life! They love the affluence of pollen it provides and will continue to come back time and time again for more.
Why not plant some herbs this weekend and watch your garden become alive and buzzing in no time!