We first started to plant the research bed in 2012 and since then it has expanded a bit and we have changed a some of the plants but this year I have been doing a more major overhaul with the following aims:
- any plants that have really not proved to attract many bees has to go, even if they are pretty. This is hard for the gardener in me but the local Gardening Club will benefit for thier plant sale.
- adding new plants to test
- extending the area because we have run out of space - the original bed was 11m x 6m and we are now adding second slightly smaller one but it means digging out grass and weeds.
- ensuring that each plant has a more accurate square meter of ground which involves adding a few more plants for some and extracting a few for others or just giggling things about.
This last point is needed because when we started, I hadn't yet developed the scrict research method we now use and so I just put in a tray of each time of plant - typically 10- in a block . My habits as a gardener meant that the planting was more aesthetic than logical for research; I simply wanted to know how my plants behaved and had only a loose idea of how I would monitor the bees.
The work is very nearly complete but its so dry that some of the plants I have moved look most unhappy and have needed daily watering as if it was June. The new plants being added are:
- Geranium x magnificum - highly recommended by the wildlife gardening forum
- Geranium rozanne - because the RHS 'plant of the century' needs to be tested
- Cirsium rivulare - becauseanecdotally (including several garden designers) it is great for bees
- Helenium moorheim beauty - because I want to see how more helemiums compare with our top performing autumnale
- Stokesia blue star - because I have seen it attracting bees and want a proper count
Most of these will not be mature enough to provide good stats until next year but we will have to see how they develop. I hope to get decent counts from the plants that we added last year; Perovskia and Buphthalmum, both of which I have casually observed attracting many bees in other gardens but its impossible to score them properly without growing them.
In response to a request from a London based charity I am also trailing some more annuals, specifically looking for ones that are easy to grow from seed and will work in pots or small garden spaces. More to come on this later.
Some plants are just beginning to flower and I did the first formal bee-count last week. I cannot wait for it all to really get going!