Gardening for wildlife – wildflowers, bumblebees and the Labiate family

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.

About mybiodiversitygarden

Trying to raise awareness & share information about ecology and biodiversity and what gardeners can do to attract more wildlife
This entry was posted in Bees, Biodiversity, butterflies, conservation, Nature, pollination and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Gardening for wildlife – wildflowers, bumblebees and the Labiate family

  1. plantameadow says:

    Lovely blog. Lots of useful info and photos to help people who want to help our pollinators by planting more wildflowers. Thanks

  2. alderandash says:

    Really useful info – especially with all the photos – thanks so much for taking the time to do this. Some neighbours are moving and may keep their bees with us for a while as, so I’m especially keen to think about what I’m planting that may be of benefit to bees.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. Basically, the smaller the bee the shorter the tongue. This is why you will see certain bees on the daisy family as nectar can be accessed easily. Other bees with longer tongues prefer plants like betony, dead nettles etc. Fascinating hobby it is. Hopefully next year the first blossom of pussy willow, one of the best sources of pollen for bees after hibernation. Take care and enjoy!

  3. marion says:

    I have been trying to get more wild and bee friendly plants in my garden for ages and resisting the conventional tidy garden. I am in New Forest FOE in the UK and we are lobbying the local council to preserve more wildflowers on the verges and other green spaces. It is fascinating to learn more and more about wildflowers which are in decline everywhere. Down with immaculate lawns and garden chemicals!

    • You are a hero!🙂 It is really fascinating to see the value of wildflowers for wildlife. I grow reseda lutea, wild mignonette, and it has been flowering for months now. Lots of solitary bee species, such as hylaes, bumblebees and honeybees love them. Small whites lay their eggs on this plant so each year i welcome a new generation of butterflies. Thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment and i appreciate your efforts in creating a bee paradise; another stepping stone for biodiversity!🙂

  4. PermaGoddess says:

    Marco, always so much wonderful info and reading.

    • marion says:

      I just want to mention the benefits of English ivy ( Hedera helix) for wildlife, I am letting my garden walls and hedges get covered with the mature form and its flowers are full of bees and butterflies, we had 10 red Admiral butterflies the other day and several commas – I have nettles and golden hops to attract larvae. These all have to be controlled of course as well as the brambles which the butterflies love. The best place for ivy where it cant t cause trouble is on old trees where they have not been quite cut down but leaving a tall stump for the ivy.. which then eventually becomes a small tree itself. . My garden is not small but a difficult shape next to an over tidy churchyard and a hay meadow and on the end of a housing estate where nearly all the gardens are overly neat and boring,- not at all good for nature, however we have several hedgehogs visiting our rather wild garden., The neighbours complained about the state of our garden but I explained what I am trying to do and we now have a truce! One has even started a mini meadow, but cant help having the rest of the garden regimented.!
      I have more lavenders to add to the herb garden and will get more rosemary soon. – must get wild mignonette sounds such a valuable plant. The sedums also have been full of bees and hoverflies this autumn. .
      Love this site!
      Marion.

      • Hello Marion! Yes, ivy is an underrated source of pollen and nectar for so many pollinators. In autumn, i saw hundreds of honeybees foraging on ivy, gathering lots of pollen and nectar. It is one of the most imporant plants for the bees to stock up for winter. Also many butterflies, hoverflies love them. Its berries provide food for birds in a period where there is not much to eat for them. Its foliage is eaten by several moth / butterfly caterpillars and its evergreen leaves provide shelter for insects, birds and small mammals. A wonderful plant. It sounds like you have a great garden suited for so much wildlife, a true inspiration. Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you so much! Likewise🙂

  5. Jane Pennington says:

    How I sympathise with you regarding your neighbour, Marion. I have one the same. Wants me to cut down my ivy. How many times do we have to shout out that ivy doesn’t kill/strangle trees!! This neighbour is a farmer and wants to ‘manage’ everything. My garden is wild except where we walk through and grow veg. He asked me if I have trouble with slugs and I smugly reply that the frogs and the thrushes eat them for me😉
    Love your blog. A recent find on researching bees🙂

    • Dear Jane,

      I wish we had more gardens like yours! Thank you for taking the time to write a comment. All the best, Marco

    • solarbeez says:

      You mentioned slugs…I bet your frogs and thrushes couldn’t handle the ones we have in Oregon. http://solarbeez.com/2012/04/02/slug-control/
      Of course, I’m just having fun here. Love this website. Biodiversity is SO important. We are having a great time growing lots of flowers for the honeybees and bumble bees. We’ve found that comfrey, borage, and Echium bloom for months of bee pollinating.

      • LOL i am afraid that slug is just a little bit too big!🙂. Yes, i also grow comfrey, borage and echium and they are fantastic plants for bees. Also growing some Talekia speciosa for the smaller bees with shorter tongues.

      • solarbeez says:

        Do you think Talekia speciosa will grow in a Zone 5? I’m on the Oregon Coast…very wet in the winter, rarely snows. Summer temps are between 45 – 70F (7 – 21C)?

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