Thursday, 25 October 2007

Helping the pollinators

We have not had a good seed harvest this year, and we have automatically blamed the terrible summer we have endured. However, even if we have flowers in bloom we still need pollinators to assist when we are not there! Are we doing enough to ensure that we get enough bumblebees living by the collection? We have started planning ahead for next year to try and ensure we maximise natures natural pollinators.

Bees need flowers for sustenance, and our Cannas need bees for pollination. But it's important all the flowers we grow, not only cannas, provide the food that bees need. It's vital that we provide flowers throughout the bumblebee's life-cycle, straight through from March to September. Here in the temperate north, cannas start their flowering season in June, carrying on flowering until the frosts arrive, normally late October or early November, so that provides the goodies from early summer onwards. So, as canna growers, our gardens also need to provide flowers that will supply them with food from March through to June, when the Cannas kick-in.

The old Foliage Group varieties are particularly favoured by natures pollinators

So, the secret will be to try and keep continuous flowering, and it's also a good idea to have at least two nectar- or pollen-rich plants in flower at any one time during this spring period. The nectar feeds the adult bee, while the pollen is collected to feed the young. Of course, the more flowers you have, the more attractive your garden is to bees, so you can never have too many!

Most double flowers, especially modern roses, are of little use, because they're too elaborate. Some are bred without male and female parts, while others have so many petals bees can't get to the nectar and pollen to collect it. This is the main reason why Cannas are popular with many bees. So for spring we will have bluebell, daffodil, flowering cherry, forget-me-not, lavender, lily-of-the-valley, rhododendron, rosemary, viburnum, and thrift. For the early summer we have the early Cannas, fennel, lavender, passion flowers, thyme and vines, and then onwards there are always several hundred canna flowers open at once, so that should do the trick.

Let you know how we get on next year...

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