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GROWING GREEN: Plan a succession of blooms to keep bees coming back

What do single, purple and tubular blooms have in common? Bees!
It’s easy to forget how much time has gone by when I think about the significant decline in bees and wasps in my garden. I was guessing five years, but according to Wikipedia it’s probably closer to eight years.
I had vague ideas how to fix it, but a recent Chelsea Flower Show made it clearer when they started promoting the need for insect friendly plants in gardens.
But what are insect friendly plants? Research offers some answers.
I started with Wikipedia, but quickly moved on to Seeds of Diversity, Canadian Gardening, Canadian Wildlife Foundation and the North American Native Plant Society, to name but a few.
You can learn about the history of colony collapse disorder, hear about plants that bees prefer and even lists of plants that would encourage bees, wasps and other pollinators to your garden.
Gardener’s World provides the clearest message: bees prefer certain flower characteristics — single flowers, purple flowers and tubular shaped flowers. Planning for a succession of blooms over the season will keep them coming back.
I can attest to single blooms. I’ve observed many bees on my single petal dahlias, but they rarely land on other types of dahlias. Having too many petals makes it difficult for bees to get to the pollen and nectar. Going forward, I’ll be more conscientious and choose single petal blooms over fancier versions.
I’ve also read a number of articles that indicate bees see purple more clearly than any other colour and that purple blooms provide more nectar. This could explain why they are so plentiful on allium, buddleia, catmint, lavender and thistles.
No matter what your views on bees and wasps I hope you will consider adding insect friendly plants to your garden when next you head out shopping.
Growing Green is a regular feature prepared by the Mount Hamilton Horticultural Society. This week’s column was written by Marg Verbeek, treasurer of the society.

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