We always knew we wanted an organic garden brimming with wildlife. Unfortunately one of the most important assets to any garden, the bees, are under threat all over the world. There are many different reasons for this but we believe the biggest one is the use of pesticides, mainly insecticides containing neonicotinoids that are used by many gardeners and industries alike. Other causes are the extensive loss of natural floral habitats, due to modern farming as well as climate change and disease. Recent wet summers, have made it difficult for bees to find pollen and the Varroa mite is a parasite that attacks bees, spreads viruses, and often cause the collapse of entire bee colonies. Honey bees and bumblebees are dying on a catastrophic scale and this is affecting every other living creature on the planet. Loss of the bees will lead to crop failure and starvation.
The good news is that we can all do our bit in slowing this process down. By using no pesticides in our gardens and by providing plenty of flowers for pollen we can give the bees a better chance of surviving. Early in the year, there are not a lot of flowers around and planting some trees, shrubs and flowers that flower at this time of year, can be tremendously important to the bees. It is a good idea to use native plants, as the bees seem to prefer them and they are well suited to the area. We encourage the spread of dandelions, wild primroses and lesser celandine in different parts of our garden.
We have planted mahonia, commonly called oregon grape, forsythia, magnolia and gorse. All of these trees and shrubs have winter or early spring flowers. Other useful additions include, hellebore, commonly called Christmas rose, heather, garden primrose and daffodils. We always favour single, old-fashioned varieties of flowers. Some modern plants are bred for showy, double blooms without much consideration for pollinators.
In the future we are planning to keep our own bees, but at the moment we are providing all the bumblebees and other local bees with the best possible habitat, all year around. It is a lovely feeling when you see the first bumblebees of the year, awoken by the spring sunshine and warmth, fly around in search of pollen and you know they will find it in the garden. The more bees you can attract to your garden, the more of your fruits and vegetables will be pollinated, so everybody wins. We believe it is the single most important thing any gardener can do. All of the photos were taken in our garden today.