Trees and Shrubs for Bees by Matt Keane

There are many reasons why people choose to plant and here at Future Forests, we get asked all sorts of queries, we do our best to provide the right info and more importantly the right plants to suit your needs. You may want to plant trees for shelter and protection, maybe you want to plant a coppice for firewood. Maybe you need a hedge for privacy, perhaps you want to fill your garden with fruiting plants, so that both you and the wildlife that inhabits your garden will have an abundance of food. Perhaps you want to plant lots of perennials and flowering shrubs for the sheer beauty and joy that they can bring you.

In recent years, a different reason has become prominent and vital, we get asked to suggest plants that are good for pollinators and sometimes in particular trees and shrubs for bees. Here are just a few suggestions currently available.

Crataegus monogyna, Hawthorn or ‘Sceach gheal’ in Irish. Our most common hedgerow species and for me, one of our most important and versatile native trees. Makes a fantastic boundary hedge and a lone hawthorn tree in full blossom is a sight to behold. It will grow almost anywhere.

Ceanothus-California lilac. Anyone who has seen a Ceanothus in full flower will remember it; around May and June masses of deep blue, slightly scented flowers smother the plant, making for a stunning display. There are lots of Ceanothus, from ground cover shrubs like repens, to wall shrubs/climbers like Trewithen Blue that can reach up to 20’.

An unusual tree that beekeepers have looked for recently has been Tetradium danielii – the Bee tree. Originally from Korea and China, it grows happily and quite rapidly here in Ireland. It flowers in late summer and can be a valuable nectar source for bees.

Leptospermum – 20 years ago I had the good fortune to go hiking in New Zealand, on one section of the Abel Tasman walk. I walked through what felt like a forest of Leptospermum or Tea Trees, the source of the famous Manuka honey. It is its cultivated offspring like Leptospermum scoparium Apple Blossom, Martini and Winter Cheer that we offer in our nursery. These varieties are also good by the coast.

Pyracantha – Firethorn. Another versatile species, it makes a great thorny barrier hedge or can be trained against a wall. Its flowers can be covered in bees, and it produces an abundance of berries in various colours depending on the variety you choose.

Fruit trees – Our range of fruit trees is always expanding at Future Forests and planting an orchard has many life-affirming benefits, bees are obviously crucial for the pollination of fruit and the perfect trade off occurs. Your fruit trees will give the bees nectar and they will pollinate and ensure you a good crop.

Planting native species is always a wonderful way to help attract pollinators into your garden and it is something we have always encouraged. Luckily, we also have the choice of so many other trees, shrubs, and perennials. Thoughtfully planting a mix of both can allow you to extend the flowering period in your garden, helping bees and other pollinators at times of the year when food may be in short supply.