Growing green: Gardeners blog

Bees gathering nectar on daisies in the garden.

As a gardener you can’t fail to notice the wildlife you have around you when working outdoors. Whether it’s the deer, the rabbits treating themselves to a nibble of your plants, or the tiny insects that scuttle along the ground. There are plenty to be seen.

This month we have already seen newts, frogs and toads, ground beetles, millipedes and centipedes, dragonflies and damsel flies, and there are always bees, butterflies and hoverflies busily collecting pollen and feeding off the nectar.

All our insects and wildlife are a vital cog in a healthy and sustainable ecosystem from the worms decomposing vegetation into the soil, or the busy bees pollinating our plans as they go about their daily work.   

Did you know that bees and other pollinating insects are vital to the production of our food crops? Without them there would be a major financial cost to the economy and food prices, and food availability, would suffer. So, we need to look after our bees.

In 2018 the government banned chemicals containing neonicotinoids as it was shown that they were damaging to bee populations.  Local councils across the UK have been swapping grassy areas for wildflowers and farmers have been creating more wildlife corridors across their farmland. And here at Cragside we are doing our bit too.

We have always tried to have a wide variety of plants that are a food source for the bees for as much of the year as possible. This summer you’ll spot the annual bee-friendly scatter mix in some of our borders which include flowers such as borage, coreopsis, common toadflax and many more. Some of the flowers are only just coming out and the bees are already feeding off them.

If you’d like to help bees near you, you can buy plants that have an open centre where they can feed from. As gardeners, we have been guilty of hybridising plants to look fancier which often result in more petals, a brighter colour or a better scent, but in tun this can reduce the availability of pollen and nectar. Good plants to grow include perennial asters, erigeron, open centred dahlias, thalictrum, calendula, sunflowers or daisy types. All are open centred and allow the bees to land and feed. It is also important to have water available for bees to drink from. Here at Cragside, the bees can be seen sitting on the lily pads in the pond. But at home, you can put out a shallow dish with some small pebbles in which allow the bees to access the water without becoming submerged.

Whatever it is that you can do to help at home, it will collectively help to increase the populations of bees across the UK for a healthy and sustainable future.

Flowers to look out for this month

A butterfly flying off a flower

Erigeron 'Rosa Juwel'

These tall pink daisy-like flowers can be seen swaying in the breeze among the borders on the Italian Terrace. They're a firm favourite with the bees and butterflies who can often be seen flying between the flowers.

A bee picture on Hebe 'Northumbria Gem'

Hebe 'Northumbria Gem'

These petit purple flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees and the many other types of pollinating insects​ during the summer. Discover these in the borders at the Formal Garden.