Labiates: a large group of plants well known to us as many of the herbs we use in our kitchen are part of this great family of plants. Lavender, marjarom, rosemary, thyme are all members of this family.
For insects, the Labiates are an important source of food. Some bees are particularly interested in these plants such as the wool carder bee. Below a small selection of the plants i am growing here.
Motherwort- Leonurus cardiaca A very stable, reliable and vigorous plant that even withstand the strong winds. It used to grow near road sides in the Netherlands but it is in severe decline and only found in a handful of sites nowadays. Anthophora furcata is a solitary bee which is often seen on this particular group of plants.
Wood sage – Teucrium scorodonia is a modest plant and is happy in semi shade conditions. It is much loved by bumblebees and other solitary bees and it starts flowering in July until late August so it is a welcome addition to the garden.
Above: Anthophora furcata female feeding on wood sage.
Betony – Stachys officinalis. My all time favourite. I love betony with its bright flowers. I introduced it from my folks’ garden but it does not do too well on sandy soil so in due course we will see if it copes or not. This one is also on the brinck of extinction in the Netherlands. A female wool carder bee arriving.
Nepeta cataria- catmint. This is a plant i have never grown before. When not in flower, its leaves look somewhat like that of a nettle but are much softer and have a very particular smell.
Wild Basil -Clinopodium vulgare
I like this plant a lot. It is easy to grow and its pinkish flowers are cheerful. It flowers from July through September and it offers both pollen and nectar. It loves dry calcareous soils so this means it is almost confined to the Southeastern tip of the Netherlands, the only area where we have this type of soil.
Wall germander – Teucrium chamaedrys subsp. germanicum. A must have in the garden as its nectar is supposed to be one of the highest in sugar after wild marjoram. It can easily be overgrown by more vigorous plants.
Yellow Archangel- Lamiastrum galeobdolon
This plant grows very well in shady conditions, a woodland plant. It flowers in April and May and it is also loved by bumblebees. The white flowers are that of Greater Stitchwort.
Spotted Nettle – Lamium maculatum
Probably one of the best plants for bumblebees as i have seen lots of them on this plant. It flowers from April and continues to do so in July so quite worth the effort.
Broad leaved thyme -Thymus pulegioides
A plant for dry, calcereous soils. Will also be overgrown by taller plants and grasses so you may combine this one with germander.
Horehound – Marrubium vulgare
A fascinating plant which was used a lot by people for making tea and to help fighting coughs etc. Bees seem to love this plant and so i am starting to grow this plant for the first time. Sadly, this one is also on the brinck of extinction in both Netherlands and Belgium.
Wild Marjoram – Origanum vulgare
This plant does not need any introduction. A real must have for the garden. If your garden is really small, try growing one square metre of this plant and you will see bees and other pollinators come to drink its nectar.
Meadow cleary -Salvia pratensis. It is without doubt one of our most beautiful wild flowers in my humble opinion. The picture below says it all.
In order to make the garden attractive for bees, you may consider the following:
1. No pesticides
2. Grow flowers in groups, it is more economical for bees to forage; a single plant is often not worth the effort as flying requires a lot of energy. Having 5 or 8 plants together is already more appealing
3. Offer flowers throughout the season as bumblebees only store food for a limited number of days. Honeybees have stored a lot of honey to deal with bad weather. Bumblebees have a safety stock for only a few days. They simply have to get out and get their nectar or pollen or starve.