It might seem a bit premature to be thinking about Summer bee forage, but when growing from seed, if it’s not planted now, then it may not flower in time. Now I know that it’s possible to grow annuals, from seed, for flowering in Summer, but I prefer to grow perennial plants. That way, the number of bee plants increase each year, rather than remain static. In line with permaculture principles, I also want to grow plants that have more than one function. I realise that you can include looks, and scent, as functions, and I do, but why stop there?
Please note that rather than put pictures of these plants in this post, I have included links to the wikipedia entries for most of the plants, where you can see what they look like, and read a bit about alternative uses for them.
Most of my flower seeds have already germinated, and will need potting on soon. I have concentrated on Echinacea, and Bergamot this year, with a few extra added. The echinacea is used as a herbal remedy, as is the bergamot.
Both are good bee forage plants. The echinacea is all E. purpurea, but of a number of different varieties, whilst I have sown three different Monarda’s. As well as growing from seed, I bought some of them as potted plants late last year, and divided them yesterday. I got 52 new plants from 10 originals, which is pretty good going. Other Summer bee forage plants that I’m growing include three different perennial sunflowers, including the Maximillian sunflower, which is an edible. In fact it seems that the sunflower family has a lot to offer. The annual sunflowers have edible buds, the jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke), has edible tubers, as does the maximilian. I divided an ornamental perennial sunflower recently, and the roots were very fleshy, and I think that it may be edible too, but will only know if I try it.
I saw plenty of bees on Eupatorium last year, so as well as dividing a couple of plants that I bought, I have sown seed of E. purpurea, and E. cannabinum, and a few are starting to germinate.
I grew/planted some purple loosestrife last year, and am still waiting to see if they’ve survived. I also bought a few more plants at a herb nursery near here. All are for the swales, where I hope that they will thrive in the more moist conditions.
As well as herbaceous perennials, I’m also growing Summer flowering trees and shrubs, some of which are ready to plant out. These include Hardy Eucalyptus, Sweet Chestnut, False Acacia, Small Leaved Lime, Chinese bee tree (Evodia danielli), Chinese mint bush (Elscholtzia stauntonii), Hop tree (Ptelea trifoliata), Amur cork tree (Phellodendron amurense), and Japanese Angelica tree. Some of these will take some time to flower, but that’s not a problem.
During the Winter I planted out 100 Rosa Rugosa in the Forest Garden. I’m not sure if they will flower in the first year, but eventually they will be producing flowers all Summer long. If you follow the link, it says that it has been grown in Japan, and China for a thousand years. Awesome, and a greta bee forage plant.
Finally, I am propagating a number of mints to use as part of the groundcover layer in the Forest Garden, and they will also provide Summer bee forage. The two main ones are apple mint, and horse mint, both of which are recommended by Martin Crawford.
The mints highlight two of the effects that I’m hoping to achieve. The first is using aromatic plants in the hope that the essential oils released by the plants, into the air around my trees will help to keep them healthy, by inhibiting harmful bacteria and fungi. The second is varroa control for my bees. This will be the third year that I have used essential oils to control varroa. I add it to the feed normally, but the oils that I use, thyme, eucalyptus, wintergreen, and mint, are all plants that I am/will be growing. What I’m hoping is that if there are enough flowers of each growing, that the bees will be bringing back large quantities of the oils to the hive. Not just as a component of the nectar and pollen, but also through contact with the flowers and plants. Not only should this help with varroa and disease control, but I’m hoping that the variety and types (medicinal herb) of plants, will also boost the general health of my bees.
Well that’s what I’m growing for my bees to forage on in the Summer. What are you growing?