Flowers For Bees
Flowers for bees can be quite challenging. There are those who prefer wildflowers and many who fall back on cliched buddlia and lavender. They are good but often only for short periods. The ideal plant is one that repeatedly sends up fresh flowers week after week. The bedding dahlia is that plant, as shown in my photo. Many dahlias are very poor for bees, especially the cacti flowering type and pom-poms. The bees cannot get into the ‘closed’ flower to reach pollen and nectar. However, they swarm over the open fronted bedding dahlia. Also, we must not restrict ourselves to bees. Hoverflies abound and moths are often hiding in the plant’s foilage. That suggests that they are feeding at night. Having two shifts is so good for the environment.
Plants don’t do well if not maintained. Dead heading is essential on dahlias so they don’t switch off their flowers. The dead heads tend to look like the fresh buds but you learn to recognise the difference over time. The dead ones are more pointed and have a slightly oily feel to them. You can easily dead-head every day and certainly no later than every two days. Dahlias also tend to tire over time. A weekly or fourtnightly feed with liquid seaweed fertiliser will prevent that happening. If, for instance, you are into sustainability then you can overwinter some dahlia tubers. These will be planted in spring, dried off as winter approaches and kept in a garage or shed. Finally, watch carefully in spring because the shoots can be eaten off by slugs as they appear.
Flowers for bees
Slugs are less of a problem if you buy packs of bedding dahlias. They are relatively cheap and flower earlier than those dahlias with big tubers. You will need to find plants not grown in peat and then you have to recycle all those plastic containers! The bedding dahlia has a very small tuber and cannot be overwintered. Bedding plants are intended as single season plants and then for topping up the compost heap. That kind of gardening can be expensive but you have a colourful display and care for insects. What’s not to like.