blog

Follow our progress running the nursery, watching wild bees, keeping honey bees and creating our own bee-haven in south Oxfordshire

Echium vulgare: one of our 'top 5' plants for bees

iStock_000013467717Small.jpg

This is a one of our top 5 plants for bees; a native that is so dramatic it looks exotic.

Also known as Vipers Bugloss, Echium Vulgare, this native British biennial is a member of the boraginaceae family and,  along with its cousin, borage, it is a massive source of nectar for bees and a great generator for honey.  From June through to September it produces tall (4ft/120cm) spiky spires of deep blue flowers that attract the full range of bees. It is particularly special for bees because it continues to produce nectar throughout the day and for abut 3 months; so you will even see bees on it in late afternoon when other flowers have dried up.

The vulgare (common) species  is not a plant you will ever see in garden centres and I think this is probably because the leaf rosette looks really ugly before the flowers come.  But from those scruffy leaves suddenly comes a spire of wonder. It grows wild in the chalk downs where it thrives in well drained soil and although it is a biennial but it will  self seed in poor dry ground; I recommend sprinkling some sand or grit under it to improve seed germination if you have nice garden soil.

We sell echium vulgare

Bramble blossom - summer bee-food

This year (2011) the brambles have bloomed earlier than normal - as have most flowering plants - after the warm dry spring. They normally flower in July and August but the bees are very happy to have had the benefit of extra food during the slim pickings of June.

Brambles provide both nectar and pollen; the latter is a pale grey-buff colour and when you see it in the hives it can appear as if the comb is going mouldy.

Right now the hedgerows in our area are full of bramble flowers flowing outwards on their out-stretched arching branches.   In our new field (fingers crossed) one of the boundaries is a wall of bramble rising up about 10 feet.  I think this is a indicator that the bees will be very at home here.