Let Herbs Flower
Since I started keeping honey bees, the decision on what plants to add to our garden factors in the honey bees as one of the reasons. I used to think of fragrant, native, butterfly and bird friendly as reasons to choose a plant. Flowers that butterflies love is not necessarily good for bees. The butterfly has a very long proboscis, much longer than bee mandibles, so it can easily access flowers for nectar that the bee can’t reach. If I can find flowers that are good for both of them, it’s perfect.
The first group of plants that work well for both butterflies and bees are herbs. I have to let them flower, not just keep eating them and make sure to cut off most of the spent flowers. I let the mint set seed many years ago and it has been a mistake I’ve been paying for ever since. I have a forest of mint that I can’t get rid of. Though it smells nice and I can and do use it in many ways, it grows faster than I can consume or give away.
I made the same mistake last year with Anise Hyssop, but they’re easy to transplant. I dug the seedlings up and replanted them in a group at the edge of the property and they turned out pretty nice when they flowered. The American Goldfinches love snacking on its seeds so they help to reduce a burgeoning plant population.
A small variety of the herbs I grow is below and aside from being great in many food dishes, in salad and tea, they are also magnets for bees and butterflies.
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is a good source of nectar for bees. The flowers and leaves can be used in salad and tea. I love the smell of crushed leaves, very soothing.
Borage (Borago officinalis) has lovely star shaped flowers in blue, white and pink. I have both blue and pink in the garden, still searching for white.
As much as birds like to eat the Calendula (Calendula officinalis) seeds, there are still plenty left for self- seeding. The petals can be used in tea and salad or as a substitute for saffron as well.
I don’t think I have to write much about what we can do with the mint. I wish it wasn’t so invasive. But I no longer feel guilty when pulling it out and putting it in a garbage bag.
The bright Canary yellow of a Bitter Melon flower (Momordica charantia) has a sweet fragrance that is very strong on a cool morning. Bees, Hover flies and small butterflies love it.
4 thoughts on “Flowers For Bees”
I’ve been wondering how your bees are doing. They look well-fed in your nice photos. It’s too bad when plants such as mint take hold. Have been thinking about trying anise hyssop but am reluctant to if it spreads much. It’s easy to pull out?
The honey bees are not doing well this year; the weather is restricting them to the hive more than usual. It is easy to pull the Anise Hyssop out by hand. I pulled them out when they were about four inches high and replanted them. They spread by seeds only, unlike mint which spreads along the roots. Consistently cutting out the spent flowers should help keep them in check.
Nice photos! If you don’t mind bringing it to the city , I would love some mint – with roots! Mine is not doing well.
Happy Labor Day!
No problem. Enjoy rainy Labor Day!