There are many reasons why we wish to attract bees and other pollinators to our gardens. Fruit and vegetables perform better when they are pollinated, in fact some will not fruit or flower at all without the help of our bees. On a macro level we wish to keep up the world’s population of bees to safeguard food supplies into the future. And, what sound is more evocative of lazy summer afternoons than the buzz of contented bees!
We installed our raised beds for vegetables by the patio, outside the kitchen door: a fairly barren part of the garden at that time. We decided to enhance the attractiveness of this sunny corner by planting a native (naturalised) Fuchsia and a group of herbs in pots. In case this was not incentive enough to attract bees we added a ‘beeline’, a line of pots and tubs to edge the patio area, next to the vegetable beds, which would be filled with summer flowers. Here we plant bee-loving borage and sweet peas to give some height and a splash of summer annuals. When the season is over these tubs are emptied and stored away until the following year. Originally I used a variety of pots pressed into service, but I settled on a group of large flat tubs that gave a bit of structure and a look of uniformity, while the flowers could spill out with joyful abandon.
The first year I decided to use a summer meadow mix of wild flowers in the pots. This was not really a success and by the end of the summer we had a tangle of thugs and very few flowers. The next year I chose the better components of the meadow mix, such as cornflowers, and grew them individually. Now, however, I sow a combination of self-seeding plants such as borage, calendula (marigolds) and nasturtiums, with a variety of plants grown from seed or rescued from dried-out supermarket shelves which are sold off cheaply. Cornflowers have remained an annual staple, poppies sometimes make an appearance, cosmos, nicotiana, ageratum, and occasionally lavender, salvia and other perennials for just one season. Each year gives a new show, with different colours, textures and forms, the bees seem happy and I’m sure the vegetables benefit.