Bees, bounty and betony

In our planting plans we’ve tried to introduce plenty of plants to attract bees of every kind; bumble, solitary, and honey. The dramatic loss of natural wildflower forage across the UK affects all three, so the more pollen and nectar we can provide in our gardens, the better.

But not all flowers are equal in the nectar and pollen producing stakes, as we learnt last Sunday when we attended an open day at Rosybee Plants near Wantage. There Rosi Rollings trials, tests, and supplies the very best plants for bees. It was wonderful to spend time in the company of someone championing the needs of the UK’s bees.

Our tour of the Rosybee site began in the research patch where honey bees dangled from the drooping heads of Borage, and bumblebees mooched over pincushions of Scabious, or clambered up and down the stems of Teuchrium. Both enjoyed the purple haze of Verbena bonariensis.

It’s here that Rosi conducts bee-counting research, recording the numbers and types of bees that visit each plant.

We were relieved to recognise many plants that we’ve introduced in to our own garden this year, and hope that our new borders will look as good as the Rosybee bed as they become more established.

On the far side of the site, beyond the nursery’s polytunnel, a field of Phacelia and Borage provides extra nectar for the Rosybee honeybees, housed in five hives on site. They are lucky bees indeed.


And lucky us – for where there are well-fed honey bees there’s usually honey.

We weren’t disappointed, and took home a heavy jar of pale, creamy, set honey. Soon, we too will be enjoying the benefits of that swathe of beautiful blue flowers.

We also bought a tray of Betony (Stachys officianalis) to add to our bee-friendly borders; and made a note to find space for some Phacelia tanacetifolia and Monarda or bee-balm. We’ll add these two bee-friendly plants when we can.


Rosi’s research (which you can find out about here) has inspired me to spend some of my “bee-time” counting bees in addition to the ongoing pursuit of bee identification and the regular task of BeeWalking for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. You can join in the count and contribute to Rosi’s research here.

To find out how bee-friendly you garden is, try out the BeeKind tool on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s website here.

To learn more about the life of honey bees tune in to the BBC’s Hive Alive.

2 thoughts on “Bees, bounty and betony

  1. A lovely article. I have also been researching the best nectar plants for clay soil which has taken 4 years of trials and tribulations.
    I am pleased to learn of so many like minded people such as yourself.

    1. Thanks for visiting Humphrey. It would be interesting to hear your findings. We have clay soil here. Finding that verbena bonariensis is attracting lots of insects at the moment – honey, bumble and solitary bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and even dragonflies!

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