One of my projects this year in my mission to transform my garden into a wildlife haven was to create a new Bee Border. Well, it's meant more for any pollinator, but 'Bee Border' flows off the tongue, don't you think? Sometimes you hear of such things as a Nectar Bar, but that rather ignores the value of pollen, so maybe it should also be called a Pollen Pantry.
Anyway, back to the more prosaic spadework to kick things off this May when I dug and prepared the ground. The idea of the bed was to create a long, low mound because I needed to use some spare soil from when I excavated the pond. As a result, it looks rather like an ancient archaeological barrow or giant's grave, about 3m wide and 10m long. The sloping faces mean that flowers will be able to look over the top of their neighbours' heads, like a minitheatre of blooms facing the sun, exactly what pollinators need.
Filling a new border can be an expensive business, but I wanted to see what I could do on a budget. My mix of plants would include some maxi plug plants from Rosybee nursery - Common Calamint and Helenium 'Sahin's Early Flowerer'. I would also use some self-seeded plants I had potted up from elsewhere in the garden. And to these I would add some seeds of herbaceous perennials, plants that will come up each year but are unlikely to flower in their first year. Then, to give me some voluminous, colourful plants in year one, I added some annual pollinator favourites, some of which I had collected from the garden. The plants and seeds cost in total about £30.
So here's what it looked like on 1 May this year, with my 'natural sculpture', three big logs which had been lying around in the garden now erected like a mini Woodhenge.
Well, it's tme for the big reveal. Here we are, on Wednesday evening, from the same position:
Isn't it incredible what nature will do in less than three months? I watered the areas where I'd sown seeds on a weekly basis for the first six weeks, just to get them germinated and established, but the bed hasn't been watered since the start of July and I don't intend to do so for the rest of the summer
In the foreground (above) is Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' and Borage, two of the very best bee plants you will find. The tall yellow spires are of self-seeded and transplanted Great Mullein, the white spires are Bugbane Cimicifuga simplex.
The primary colours (above) come from my beloved annuals. The bright blue is from my Number 1 Go-to plant, Echium 'Blue Bedder', the yellow from Corn Marigold, and the red from Breadseed Poppy.
Meanwhile, the Helenium is doing well - it is the fiery-orange flower below, with some of the seedheads of the Breadseed (Opium) Poppy.
As a little flavour of the pollinators who are already flocking in, look closely and here are two Marmalade Hoverflies slurping up the pollen of the poppies:
While perched on one of the felty leaves of the Great Mullein is the Patchwork Leafcutter Bee Megachile centuncularis, taking a break from a busy round of food collecting.
So, as far as my budget bed is concerned, so far so good. Next year, as some of the seedling perennials mature and flower, the bed will probably look quite different, but I love how quickly and cheaply you can use plants to make such a different for wildlife.
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