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Attracting Pollinators to your Garden


In the UK our main pollinators include bees and butterflies, but also moths, hoverflies and even wasps.

As growers of cut flowers though, we face a dilemma. Our crops should be harvested before they are pollinated, as pollination affects our flowers' longevity in the vase for our customers. Some double petalled varieties, such as double varieties of cosmos, have a better vase life than the single varieties. But we are looking for ways to encourage biodiversity and support the pollinators that visit our growing areas and that means we should consider some single petaled varieties, as the nectar is more plentiful and more easily accessed for our native pollinators.

Might there be a compromise?

I think there is. A significant number of varieties that will benefit our native bee population are also on any cutting garden or flower farmer’s list of top performing cut flowers. For example, we probably already grow these varieties,

Echium Vulgare

Helenium

Borage (spring germinated)

Stachys Byzantina

Lavendula Grosso

Lavandula Eidelweiss

Origanum vulgare

Knautia Macedonica

Veronicastrum virginicum

You can access a detailed list from Rosy Bees study here


In my cutting garden, I have found Cerinthe, Echinops ‘Veitch’s Blue' and Echium Vulgare to be particular bee magnets and I’m sure you have noticed particular favourites too.
















What about plants for our other beneficial pollinators?


Generally, all umbellifers provide a landing pad for winged species and that includes lacewings and ladybirds and these varieties will also find their place in our cutting gardens and flower field planting plans. The list might include,


Daucus Carota - Dara

Ravenswing

Ammi Visnaga

Orlaya Grandiflora

Anethum graveolens



Along with ensuring plants that will attract bees, we are also well

tuned-in to sourcing varieties that will attract our native butterflies and again, these varieties may also already have a permanent spot in our cutting gardens and flower fields,

Budleija

Centranthus rubra (Red Valerian)

Verbena bonariensis

Sedum

Hebe

Marjoram

Erysimum

Solidago

Lavender

Echinops



We must also remember that many of our beneficial pollinators are nightfliers and plants that are beneficial for moths and our cut flower fields include,

Budleija

Cleome

Nicotiana

Honeysuckle

Hesperis

Centranthus rubra (Red Valerian)

Limonium latifolium (Sea Lavender)



But what about their caterpillars?


It’s a balance. Encouraging moths and butterflies into our growing areas means we must also allow for their caterpillars and the potential risk of damage to our often hard won cut flowers. We can plan for this too by allowing lady’s bedstraw, foxglove, primrose, thyme, rose bay willowherb, clarkia and fuchsias to provide a habitat for moth & butterfly caterpillars. In wilder parts of our gardens and fields we can try to leave longer grasses, thistles and knapweeds.


Our native trees and hedging plants; oak, birch, willows, hawthorn and hornbeam also provide a perfect habitat for these beneficial caterpillars.





Libby Nairn













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