Hannah Stephenson reveals how to create a bed for pollinators.
Wild pollinating insects like bees, butterflies and hoverflies, have suffered drastic declines in recent decades, both in terms of numbers and biodiversity, according to Buglife, the Invertebrate Conservation Trust.
Many species have suffered such declines, and the trust warns they’re being pushed to extinction by a number of factors, including lack of space for wildlife in our countryside and in our towns and cities, and the use of pesticides.
That’s why there has never been a better time to fill your beds and borders with flowering plants and trees which are magnets to pollinating insects. Here’s how…
What size is your border?
If you have a narrow plot then use space vertically, perhaps with climbing shrubs such as honeysuckle or passionflower which bees and butterflies love.
In many gardens, borders are too narrow and beds too small, but plants can be scaled up or down simply by increasing or decreasing the number of each plant you put in. Just bear in mind how quickly and how large your plants will grow, as before you know it, just one flowering shrub could have taken over the whole area.
If you have room, the minimum width for a border should be around one metre, in which to grow a dwarf shrub and some smaller perennials. Group three or five of the same plant together in a cluster, and choose those which are in 9cm or one litre pots, which will give them space to fill out.
Front of the border
For an easy maintenance border, you can’t go wrong with cranesbill geraniums for both ground cover, colour and interest from insects. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is a winner, with its open, mid-blue flowers, which go on from spring to autumn.
Some catmint can be grown towards the front of the border, including including Nepeta x fassennii, which has an informal, sprawling habit, while heucheras provide excellent foliage contrast, ranging from deep purple to acid green. Their spikes of wispy flowers also attract bees.
If you want colour and insect interest into late summer, the ice plant, Sedum spectabile, provides a cool silver leaf and flowers in late summer and autumn.
Middle of the border
There are so many mid-height plants to place in the middle of a border, from the lollipop-shaped alliums which can be dotted through a scheme, to rudbeckia, perennial salvia, sea holly, roses and thistle-like cirsium. This section will probably offer you the most choice.
Back of the border
Fast-growing flowering shrubs such as buddleias and ceanothus will provide nectar for butterflies and bees, while tall foxgloves and delphiniums and eupatoriums will add colour and form behind lower-growing plants, as well as interest for pollinators.