I have a dog so when I walk the beast, I look at yards. Lately, with my bee fixation, I also hunt for bees and the plants and gardens that seen to be the most bee friendly. I’ve discovered that some plants, despite prolific flowers, are largely ignored by bees of all sorts. Others are beloved by honey bees but visited by few others. (True geraniums seem to fall into this category.) The garden in Wallingford shown in these photos does a lot of things right, both from a design point of view and a bee’s. Might it look a little barren in winter with all the perennials? Yes. Are perennials often more work than shrubs (assuming the shrubs are the right size for the spot)? Yes. Still, it is pretty and the bees (and various other tiny flying beasties – strange flies, tiny wasps, big old beetles) sure seem happy and the flowers do not look munched so all seems in balance.
It was the Coreopsis that first caught my attention. The mellowness of the yellow suggests ‘Moonbeam’ to me but it could be another. This is a good sized planting – I’d say at least 6′ long by 18″ wide and the insects were really having a good time with the flowers. There were honey bees, bumble bees, a golden thing that I’m pretty sure was a fly, teeny-weeny fliers, probably wasps but maybe bees too were all sharing space on the flowers and then flying off to check out the Sedum, the Veronica, not quite so much the dahlias, Echinacea or the Liatris around the corner. In addition to the flowers there were some nice clumps of Hakonechloa and a tall ornamental grass. Hosta and hydrangea anchored the shady foundation of the house.
Pollinators need food which is pollen and nectar for them and that means flowers, not just foliage. It also means flowers throughout the growing season. Good sized grouping of flowers (at least a yard across) are also a lot easier for bees to find and work rather than dotted around. It makes sense they don’t have to spend time flying about just to get to the food. They go to one place, gather what they need and head back to the nest. From a design perspective, a big swathe of the same plant almost always looks better than the same number scattered about in tiny bits. Most native bees (including bumble bees) are ground nesters so leaving some unplanted, unmulched ground (generally in the sun and someplace it won’t get water-logged) where they can raise their babes and over winter is key to having them in the yard as well.
I’ll come back and track the changes in appearance over the year to see how the yard holds up during its off season.