Creating Gardens for Pollinators – by Daphne Barden

Creating Gardens for Pollinators – by Daphne Barden

Daphne Barden

Daphne Barden

Daphne Barden is the proprietor of Long Garden Bees & a member of Longford Beekeepers’ Association

Lilac

Lilac

As we now approach warmer and longer days, we are seeing an increase in colour around our gardens.  From May onwards, bee numbers are rapidly increasing in our hives and food in the form of pollen and nectar is in high demand.  Finding a balance between having an eye catching garden and allowing spaces to naturally grow is key in creating beautiful spaces for pollinators and homeowners alike.

Being named after a winter flowering shrub, ‘Daphne Odora’, you could possibly guess that a passion for gardening is in my DNA, whilst also being a fourth generation beekeeper.

Irish hedgerows offer an abundance to biodiversity, and play a significant role in supporting our honeybees.  Surrounding our home the hedges are filled with Blackthorn, Whitethorn, Elder, Ivy, Ash, Sycamore Honeysuckle and Willow to name but a few.  The variety of species which exists in our hedges naturally provide year round pollen and nectar for our bees.

Furthermore, any areas in the hedge where we found gaps, we have now filled in with a mixture of Willow, Lilac, Hazel and Cotoneaster, all which provide food, create much needed shelter and are easy to grow.

White Clover

White Clover

During the past few years, myself and my husband David have embarked on the journey of creating a garden dedicated to pollinators, and supporting our honeybee colonies. Our site is approximately one acre and therefore we have split it into distinct sections, some of which are yet only a dream, including: Herbaceous Borders, Heather Border, The Wall, Wildflower Meadow. One thing I have found to be certain when planning our garden, when it comes to planting for pollinators – Keep it Simple. 

This means, selecting single flowering plants and planting using colours which are easier for bees to see. For this reason, we tend to use purple/pink/blue flowering shrubs, which are easy to maintain and come back year after year. We also allow verges to grow and cut paths through our lawn to allow wildflowers to grow, leaving large swarts of clover and dandelion.  

Enhance your garden for pollinators through plant choice:

  1. Consider the seasons when there may be shortage of food for pollinators and try to have a variety of flowers which are in flower every month
  2. Plant according to your garden’s exposure, soil type, shade
  3. Examine what thrives in your area in your neighbour’s garden
  4. Consider how the plant can be propagated and used to expand your garden
  5. Plant according to your experience, start with easy to grow plants and then venture into the world of sowing from seed and propagation.
Cotinus

Cotinus

Herbaceous Borders:

Back of Border:

  • Buddleja Davidii – Purple cone shaped flowers for the back of any border, prefers full sun. 
  • Ribes Sanguineum (Flowering Red Currant) – Beautiful tall growing pink flower with a distinct scent which attracts all pollinators
    • Lavatera (Mallow) – purple-pink flowers which grow upright
  • Ceanothus  (Californian Lilac) – purple flowering tree which can be trained or grow as a stand alone tree
  • Cotinus Coggygria (Purple Smoke Bush) – small yellow flowers in Spring with an unusual puff like flower in Autumn, preferred by honeybees
  • Verbena Bonariensis – tall stem of delicate purple flowers


Middle of Border: 

  • Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop) – Purple spikes growing providing an abundance of nectar
  • Allium – bulbous herbaceous perennial which grows into a large purple ball shaped flower
  • Digitalis Purpurea (Foxgloves) – Produces multiple flowers with about 75 flowers per stem
  • Penstemon – Purple bell shaped flowers in an upright clump
  • Sedum – Easy to grow perennial providing pink flower heads in late summer and autumn
  • Hebe Elliptica (Flowering Hebe) – flowering hebes are regularly visited by all pollinators in late Summer and Autumn
  • Echinacea Purpurea (Coneflower) – tall growing simple flowers loved by honeybees.
Allium

Allium

Front of Border

    • Johnson Blue Geranium (Cranesbill) – sprawling mass of purple / blue flowers which are hardy perennials 
  • Cosmos  – Annuals which are planted each year with multiple varieties available
  • Erica Carnea (Winter flowering Heather) – a fantastic early source of food for honeybees
  • Scabiosa  (Scabious) – perennial varieties create an impressive display of purple flowers in Summer
  • Bulbs – Snowdrops, Crocus, Hyacinths, Muscari, Iris, Tulips, Allium
  • Aubrieta  – spreads easily and covers a large area in masses of small purple flowers.

Blue Geranium

Blue Geranium

Muscari

Muscari

Heather Border:

    • Erica (Winter Flowering Heather) – Pinks and whites depending on the variety which keep their colour for months on end (Honeybees tend to favour white variety in winter)
    • Calluna/ Daboecia (Summer and Autumn Flowering Heather) – multiple varieties and colours available including two-tone species 
    • Salvia Nemorosa – upright, clump forming deciduous perennial with purple spiked flowers 
    • Lavandula Angustifolia (English Lavender) – very popular due to supply of nectar as well as a link between lavender oil and Varroa Destructor reduction in colonies
  • Nepeta Cataria (Catmint) – Easily grown and attractive for all pollinators providing pollen and nectar
  • Erysimum Bowles Mauve (Wallflower) – most likely my favourite plant of all time flowering for most of the year with no care and providing beautiful purple flowers week after week. 
Heather

Heather

Lavender

Lavender

The Wall

    • Aubrieta (Rock Cress) – spreads easily and covers a large area in masses of small purple flowers in Spring
  • Campanula (bellflower)blue / purple flowers which begin to flower when aubrieta ends spreading easily
    • Thymus Praecox or Serpyllum (Creeping Thyme) – carpet like mass of flowers which provides a beautiful scent and red and pink flowers in Summer
  • Galanthus (Snowdrops) – Early food for pollinators
  • Crocus – planted together offer impressive bursts of colour
Snowdrop

Snowdrop

Aubretia

Aubretia