Here at our March St community gardens we have recently had a new natural stone bed constructed by the entrance. Our Wednesday Horticulture group was tasked with planting up the bed to create an attractive display that would also be in-keeping with our ethos. We decided that the theme for the display would be ‘lets bee friendly’ to each other and to bees! The idea is that all the flowers in the bed would provide a good food source for pollinators such as bees. It was also important that the display looked attractive as it is right at the entrance to the gardens, luckily many of the flowers that are bee friendly are also pleasing to the eye.
Why Bee friendly?
When choosing flowers for your garden or allotment it is beneficial to choose these ‘bee friendly’ varieties for a number of reasons;
- Many crops rely on pollination to form fruit, so by encouraging bees you may increase your harvest
- Numbers of pollinating insects are in decline so we should do anything we can to help turn the trend around.
- If your flowers are successfully pollinated you can save the seeds and grow free plants the following year
- Pollinators are wonderful to watch as they busily work around your flowers
We chose plants that would flower at different points of the year so that we could ensure our display spanned the seasons. Starting as early as February we will see Crocus and Lungwort emerge followed on by Daffodils and Bergenia (or elephants ears) in the spring. By summer the display will really fill out with the yellow and pink Achillea, purple and white Lupins and red Valerian. Lavender shrubs will provide a constant show of aromatic purple flowers from early spring into autumn and our dwarf Hebe shrub will flower from late summer right into November. Providing food for pollinators for 10 months of the year will give them the best chance of survival through winter and a good start the year ahead.
To make the display as interesting as possible we also considered leaf colours and shapes. This is especially important for times when the flowers are less abundant like winter. The contrast between the leaves of the plants we chose is quite profound, ranging from the large rounded red leaves of Bergenia through the small pale blue-green Lavender to the finger like green leaves of the Lupins.
With the plants ready to go it was time to hatch a plan. We discussed how we might arrange the display to create the most impressive effect. When creating a display it is important to consider the height of each plant as you do not want taller plants obscuring the view of others. Other things to consider are that some plants will spread to provide good ground cover and others like spring bulbs will shoot up and then seemingly disappear again. We agreed that the Hebe bush should be central to the display with the taller summer flowers such as Lupins forming the backdrop. The smaller plants would be best suited to the front of the bed and the spring bulbs would be dotted in wherever there were gaps.
The next step was to place the plants on the bed in their pots and play with the arrangement until it looked balanced. We stood back to check and made final adjustments until we all agreed that the display looked good.
Now it was time for the fun part – the planting! With trowels at the ready everyone took turns to plant up. We kept taking breaks to check back from a distance to ensure the planting was going to plan. Once the potted plants were planted we made holes with a bulb planter in the gaps, some shallower near the front for the small Crocuses and some deeper towards the middle for the taller Daffodils. The team then planted the bulbs in bunches of odd numbers (this is more appealing to the eye) and backfilled the holes.
With the bed planted up all that remained to do was a good tidy up and team photo. We will have to wait patiently until late winter before we see any flowers and soon after that we will welcome the return of the bees.