Saturday, May 1, 2010

From Waterwise Garden News:

Seeing the Blues - Color and Bees

The Web of Life in Your Garden

"When fully in bloom, visitors to my garden often visit the most colorful plants first. If I've done my job well in designing the space, that's where all the bees are too.

A healthy garden needs to support a population of bees, as without them the world would have less flowers and even fewer fruits and vegetables. Bees, like many humans, are attracted to pretty things. They have good color vision and are attracted to brightly blooming flowers. Bees are particularly attracted to the colors blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow. These flowers provide nectar, a bee's main source of energy, and pollen, which provides the balance to a bee's diet.

To ensure as many honeybees and native bees as possible can benefit from your garden, choose to plant a diversity of blooming perennial plants. Honeybees, which are native to Europe, pollinate a wide variety of flowering plants (both native and non-native) and are particularly fond of European herbal plants like Lavender. We also want to attract native bees, so it is necessary to have native plants. I always try to plant at least two thirds native plants in my gardens. I guess bees like to shop local too! Bee species fly at different times of the season, so I always design my garden with long blooming plants, and an assortment of bloomers that come into flower at different times of the growing season. Plant at least three to five of the same plant because bees like to move from plant to plant of the same kind. I recommend putting your bee plants in a sunny spot that is also protected from strong winds if possible. Bees can be fussy that way.

Last thing, in my 26 years of gardening I've never been stung by a bee. I asked around here at the greenhouse and that seems to be pretty common. Bees, by nature, just don't find us as tempting as a nice Delosperma. Native bees never sting unless at risk of death, and honeybees rarely sting except when their nest is threatened. I can relate.

We are losing flowers and habitat with more and more spaces being covered with pavement and buildings. Be eco-conscious by planting flowers to replace lost nectar sources. By doing so you will nurture a critical ingredient in nature and our world's economy, the bee. If each of us can support the web of life in our gardens, then together we can make an earth changing difference."

David Salman is the Founder, President and Chief Horticulturist at High Country Gardens. He has spent over 25 years in pursuit of the best plants for western landscapes. He is a distinguished recipient of numerous awards including the 2008 American Hort. Society's award for outstanding commercial horticulture.

A prolific writer, Salman has written numerous articles for Fine Gardening, American Gardener and Horticulture magazines. Salman also writes The Xeric Gardener, his own blog.

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