Attract Bees to your garden by using colour with Paraic Horkan

Add colour to your garden (and help bees!)

Plants for Summer Colour

Bees are one of our most important garden visitors as they pollinate colourful garden plants. Without them there would be no fruit, flowers or vegetable plants. But bee numbers are currently in decline. Paraic has previously spoken about this on TV3’s Ireland:AM.

One of the simplest ways we can help the declining bee population is by planting bee friendly plants, seeds and flowers which produce pollen to help support the bees in your area. Not only will this help the bee population but it will also fill your garden with beautifully colourful flowers!

June and July are when bee colony numbers are very high. The queen bee is laying thousands of new eggs weekly and bees need to find large amount of forage flowers. Research by Professor Francis Ratnieks, a leading UK apiculturist (a bee expert), show that July and August are when bees are struggling to find nectar and so we should all be looking for garden plants that are large nectar producers in the summer. June is an excellent month to plant new plants and also the seeds of many biennial and perennial plants. Temperatures are warm and flower seeds germinate easily over this period which results in strong new growth and flowers in late summer and autumn.

  • Borago
  • Catmint
  • Cotoneaster
  • Cynara
  • Hebe Elliptica
  • Lavandula
  • Phacelia
  • Wallflower
Some bee friendly plants that will also add fantastic colour to your garden

Some bee friendly plants and flowers you can plant or sow now include.

  • Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop) is a top nectar producing plant.
  • Borago officinalis (Borage) a top nectar and pollen producing annual.
  • Buddleias Wonderful for both bees and butterflies and so easy to grow.
  • Cheiranthus – Wallflowers in bloom now but June is the time to set new seed for next spring
  • Cotoneaster Species – Small white flowers followed by rich red berries.
  • Cynara scolymus (Artichoke, Globe ‘Imperial Star’) Produces Nectar and Pollen for Bees, including Honeybees and butterflies. Flowers August, September.
  • Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender) a major honey plant, also its essential oil may contribute towards reducing Varroa destructor mites in honeybee colonies.
  • Nepeta cataria (Catmint) Produces Pollen and Nectar for many types of bees but particularly attractive to Honeybees. Flowers July-November.
  • Origanum vulgare (Wild oregano or Marjoram) or the sub-species hirtum-Greek Oregano.
  • Phacelia – brilliant bee plant rich in both pollen and nectar – long flowering period and so easy to grow
  • (Hebe) Wide range of summer flowering varieties, hence our name for it Bee Hebe.
  • Tilia cordata (Lime Tree) small-leaved species of which we need more in Ireland Flowers July and August.
  • (Valerian) An excellent native plant really makes the bees placid with its hypnotic fragrance, as it does us with its traditional herbal remedy.
  • Solidago virgaurea (Golden rod) a top bee plant abundant in Nectar and Pollen

A Bee Friendly Tree for Summer.

If you are thinking of planting trees this summer, why not think of our little bee friends and consider a tree that flowers? A tree that flowers will not only help bees but will help your garden to look amazing. There are some simply stunning flowering trees out there but one of my favourites has to be the Cornus Kousa.

Originating from Japan, China & Korea, Cornus Kousa is a member of the Dogwood family.  It is also known as the Szechuan Strawberry or Kousa Dogwood.  It offers colour interest in all seasons so would make a great focal point in any small to medium sized garden.

A relatively small bushy tree which is vase shaped when young, the Kousa dogwood grows well in full sun or partial shade and appreciates a well drained yet moist soil.  As the plant matures, the branches become more horizontal or tiered giving a rounded shape.  It is more disease resistant than flowering dogwood varieties and is hardy in the Irish climate.

Like all dogwoods, the Kousa is a deciduous plant and its spring leaves are followed in early summer by clusters of small green/white flowers which are surrounded by four larger white star-shaped bracts (false leaves).  The flowers are long lasting and are followed by strawberry like deep pink fruit.

As autumn approaches, the green leaves turn to shades of red, purple and gold before they drop completely in winter to reveal the next seasons surprise.  The bare bark of this dogwood peels away in patches to reveal a beautiful mosaic pattern of tan, green and grey.

Two varieties that I particularly like are ‘Milky Way’ and ‘Stellar Pink’.

Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘Milky Way’ gives great value in the garden as it has the most abundant and long lasting display of flowers and white bracts from early summer.

Cornus x rutgersensis ‘Stellar Pink’ is a hybrid, crossing the Cornus kousa with the more commonly known Cornus florida (flowering dogwood). It was first bred in America in the 1980’s in the search (successful) for a pink tinge to the bracts surrounding the flowers. Like ‘Milky Way’, ‘Stellar Pink’ is appreciated for its abundance and long display of flowers in summer.

Both varieties offer strawberry-like fruits following flowering and the same vibrant tapestry of colours in autumn before leaf drop in winter shows off the mottled pattern of the bare bark. Some gardeners like to trim away the lowest branches to better display the bark. They grow to a height of 5m and remain quite upright when young and eventually grow more rounded with age with a spread of 5m. Both prefer a neutral to acidic soil which should be well drained.

Please send me your questions to or visit my web site for more information.

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