Gardening for Pollinators : Part 3.

Purple Toadflax, Linaria pupurea, from the figwort family.

Unintentional Residents.

I love it that some plants arrive unannounced and settle into my garden without an invitation. I often come across something new with great delight. This happened with purple toadflax which, until recently, came from the Scrophulariaceae or figwort family. The unattractive Latin name came about because these plants were used in the middle ages to treat a form of tuberculosis named scrophula. However, following DNA analysis,the toadflaxes have been moved to the Plantaginaceae family. I was excited by purple toadflax because it attracted so many bumble bees and my honey bees like it too. I let it stay though did have to release the gooseberry bush from its suffocating clutches. What I like about this plant is that it flowers from late spring till the first frosts of autumn.

Purple toadflax somewhat engulfing gooseberry bush. Cotoneaster spp. in the background.

Ribbed Melilot, Melilotus officianalis, with cosmos in the background. Both great late summer bee plants.

Ribbed melilot is another plant that arrived out of nowhere and had me scouring my plant books for identifaction. As a member of the pea family, this plant lives up to its reputation of attracting honey bees and others. It provides good pollen protein levels. It flowers from summer till the first frosts and is almost shrub-like with many branches so I give it garden space and marvel that it arrived here somehow.

Cosmos flowers till the first frosts and the bees love it.
Self-sown Rosebay Willowherb in a pot.

Rosebay Willowherb, Chamerion angustifolium, is another surprise arrival. It’s from the onagraceae family and flowers from July to September. A friend called Martin Bridges gave me a clump of white rosebay willowherb last year and I can’t wait to see it come up.

White rosebay willow herb by Martin Bridges.
Rosebay willowherb pollen grains by Kate Atchley.
Red-tailed Bumble Bee, Bombus lapidarius, on bramble (blackberry) Rubus fruticosus.

Because bramble is such a wonderful source of pollen and nectar in July after a June gap, if we have one, I leave a few plants to flourish and they weave themselves a niche in the cotoneaster hedge. Somehow, privet, Ligustrum ovalifolium, has also gained a toe hold in the hedge, and it too provides some nectar and pollen at times when there may be a dearth of other sources. Privet is renowned for unpalatable and bitter honey but there is never enough for the honey bees to make mono-floral privet honey here.

Trees and Shrubs.

Australian gum tree, Eucalyptus gunni.
This provides nectar and pollen in late summer.
Another Antipodean plant, Leatherwood, Eucryphia rostrevor. It is not yet well established in my garden but should provide late summer pollen and nectar.
Eucryphia spp. in Cawdor Castle gardens attracting a tree-full of insects.
Another figwort family member butterfly bush, Buddleja spp.,
White alyssum, flowering till first frosts, amongst black kale decimated by cabbage white butterfly larvae!
Mullein, Verbascum spp.. from figwort family. Mostly produces pollen.
Purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria, from lythraceae family in my garden.

Purple loosestrife growing wild on the Inner Hebridean island of Colonsay, Scotland.

Plants for the Future.

Honey bee looks like it’s trampolining on an artichoke in Brodie Castle gardens. Look closely and you will see that the flower base is black with pollinators of many species.
Artichokes with pink bisort, also a bee plant, at the base.

I’m not sure that I have enough space for these truly amazing artichokes. They come from the daisy or asteraceae family and yield copious nectar and pollen which is why they just so full of pollinators that the base of the florets looks black. But if I can squeeze some in I shall.

Coneflower, Rudbeckia fulgida, or black-eyed Susan, daisy/ asteraceae family at Brodie Castle.

The Rudbeckia spp. flower well into late autumn and are great nectar and pollen sources. I’m planning to sow some seed this spring.

Dahlia spp. are excellent autumn flowering nectar and pollen providers from the daisy family.
More dahlias at Glenfiddich Distillery gardens.

If I grow dahlias they might need to live in pots. I think that they are spectacular and showy as well as being useful for insects.

Reclaiming Land.

I’m surrounded by arable farming land and ground elder, Aegopodium podagraria, from the carrot family barges into my garden relentlessly. My main gardening goal for this year is to lay down cardboard in several areas to suffocate this pernicious pest.

The Last of the Beelistener’s Gardening Blogs.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed hearing about my garden which is somewhat unconventional but undoubtedly geared for pollinators. One small visiting boy remarked that he liked it because it was like a jungle. I you want to read more about the relationship between plants and pollinators you can download an article that I wrote for a couple of magazines.

A Great Presentation From the 2019 NHS.

This a really good presentation by Mary Montaut editor of Irish Beekeeper (An Beachaire)

Here is an excellent BBC radio programme about pollination.

2 thoughts on “Gardening for Pollinators : Part 3.”

    1. I’m glad that you enjoyed this so much, Cynthia, and thank you for telling me. I liked Mary’s presentation so much because she really engaged with the audience in such a relaxed way and was so passionate about the subject.

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