More and more, it's becoming important to plant for bees so that we can have reliable pollination for our food crops.
In a time where our landscapes are rapidly changing with large monoculture farming practices, forests being clear-felled and the impacts of climate change, we need to counter this with how we garden in the city and out bush.
Choosing plants with good flowers for bees provides an abundant and reliable food source for our important little friends.
Bees will fly up to five kilometres to source food, so even if you don't have a beehive on your property, you can still establish plants to attract them, where they'll pollinate your crops and increase your yields.
Bees are fascinating creatures. Did you know that to communicate a good source of food to the other bees, the 'scout' bee will do what's called a 'waggle dance' for the whole hive.
This dance informs the others of a good flower's exact location. They use the sun as a reference point to guide them - incredible!
The area and climate you live in will determine what plants you should choose, but here's a snapshot of a few you can choose for each season, ensuring that you have something flowering all year round.
Queen Anne's Lace (ammi visnaga): This annual cottage-garden plant grows to 1.5 metres and its tiny flowers. It's fantastic on the edges of garden beds or throughout an orchard, is front tolerant and goes well in temperate and sub tropical areas.
Buckwheat (fagopyrum esculentum): We grow buckwheat in our urban garden as a summer green manure to replenish our soils. In larger spaces it can be grown as a grain crop - the bees can't get enough of it.
Calendula (calendula officinalis): We have calendual everywhere in our gardens. This self-sowing annual is a great salad flower, has medicinal properties and bees love it.
Cosmos (cosmos bipinnatus): This little beauty is a must-have plant in and around the vegie garden, grow it throughout your orchard or around the edges of your garden beds. It grows to around one metre high in a range of colours and is a popular hangout for a range of beneficial insects.
Borage (borago officinalis): This self-seeding annual is a vigorous small bush with gorgeous blue-purple flowers, which are also edible. We use them in our salads or as decorations on cakes.
Sunflowers (helianthus): There's not much to say about the sunflower, except the bees love it and if you have chickens you can feed the sunflower seeds to them as a treat.
Coastal Daisy (erigeron glaucus): One of our favourite edging plants, this little daisy is incredibly drought hardy, will spread readily and is easy on the eye. We use it to stabilise slopes and attract bees of course.
Nasturtiums (tropaeolum): A seasonal, self-seeding ground-creeper or climber, you can eat all parts of the nasturtium fresh in your salads. We happen to think it's one of the most beautiful plants in the universe.
A quick note. In cooler parts of the world, winter is the time where the bees are hibernating, curled up in their hives - keeping warm and eating their honey supplies from earlier seasons. However, weather permitting, some bees will still forage - here are some of the plants they can eat from.
Wattle (acacia pycnantha): An Australian native, this nitrogen-fixing, quick-growing hardy tree is a real beauty. In the depths of winter it shoots out its bright, golden blossoms. Whole hillsides change colour in and around Hobart (our home town) - a sign that winter is drawing to an end and a welcome food source for any foraging bees.
Daffodil (narcissus): We plant a range of winter bulbs (include daffodils) throughout our orchard. They provide splash of colour and life when everything else is pretty dormant. Plant a range of bulbs so the flower is slightly staged over a couple of months.
Dandelion (taraxacum): Dandelions are often seen as weeds, but we love this plant. Its deep tap root helps break up our compacted soils and we sometimes even make a dandelion coffee from the root.
Hardenburgia: An Australian native, this climber or ground-cover comes in purple, pink or white flowers and is bee heaven. It also fixes nitrogen in the soil and will grow in very average conditions.
Sweet Alice (alyssum): This sweet-smelling clusters of tiny flowers is a hardy, drought tolerant, self-seeding groundcover. It thrives in temperate and sub tropical regions, we grow ours on dry slopes.
Clover (trifolium):Both white and red clover plants are bee attractants. This is a nitrogen fixing vigorous ground cover, which you'll often find in pastures and your lawn.
Thyme (thymus vulgaris): We think this is probably one of the bees' favourite flowers in our garden. As a creeping plant, we grow it on the edges of our paths (instead of grass) and in a designated herb garden.
Fruit trees: Any fruit tree will provide valuable spring flowers for bees. As much as possible we try and make our flowering plants food-producing plants. Whether that's herbs, salad flowers or fruit.
Sage (salvia officinalis): Great for the honey bee, sage is a vigorous, drought hardy bush and a staple in any herb garden.
Some of these plants may not be appropriate for you to grow due to climate or may be considered a noxious weed in your region - always check with your local authorities if you're unsure. Otherwise, go forth and plant - the bees need us.
- Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstrom are the founders of Good Life Permaculture, a permaculture landscape design and education enterprise regenerating landscapes and lifestyles.