Gardening on the Edge by Diana Wayland
Pink Perfection (Allium schoenoprasum), a form of chives that was developed in the herb nursery in Poyntzfield on the Black Isle.
Bees are declining due to the overuse of insecticides both in commerce and in gardens, and they and other pollinating insects are vital to the production of crops.
As more people increase their intake of plant-based foods, the importance of maintaining and increasing plant-based food production, including in our homes, has never been more important.
Instead of using pesticides, I try to make sure my plants are in the best of health – not over- or underwatered (not easy!), With adequate nutrients and space – because this will help them ward off pest attention.
I use barriers like nets over brassicas to keep the white cabbage butterflies out, and edges and windbreakers for round beds to deter carrot flies.
I also feed the birds. They trap many of the insect pests and help keep the Kaiyard pest free.
I also started developing beds of flowering plants on the wharf yard to provide food for bees and other pollinators. Having grown many herbs and wildflowers for decades, I know that many of their flowers are bee magnets. Many of them also bloom early in the year, which is of great importance to the bees at this time.
In my unfinished herb garden, I have comfrey, water ravens, wallflowers, chives, and ground ivy, all full of flowers. And bees.
Near the Kaiyard I have a grotto under our Sitka spruce windbreak that is already planted with snowdrops, wild primroses, purple-leaved bugle and Cocus tommasinianus, all of which grow here. I added celandine that grows locally, wild daffodils and native bluebells that I bought in the countryside.
Self-seeding scurvy grass came to them a few years ago, proof of how much sea salt we get, because it thrives in such conditions and has continued ever since. These plants bloom one after the other from late winter to early summer and are an important source of food for bees.
Last year I created a new perennial bed. It was completely planted by the end of July. After being hit by strong westerly winds shortly after planting, followed by a consistently rainy October, then a fairly cold winter, even colder February, arctic April and then drought, I am amazed at how good it looks.
I consciously chose old favorites, plants that are considered by many to be plain and old-fashioned. These include perennial cornflower, goldenrod, geranium Johnson’s Blue, lupins, aquilegia, yellow loosestrife, snow in summer and montbretia, as well as wildflowers such as ox-eye daisies, sweet rocket, red campion, red valerian, thrift (sea pink) and bellflower.
I avoid the more showy modern varieties of these cottage garden favorites because the older varieties are tougher; more resistant to extreme wetness, drought and wind. I garden in an extreme environment. I can either grow older and wilder varieties of plants that have a chance of survival, or I can opt for modern, showy varieties that are less robust and will fail.
The other reason is very simple and applies to wildflowers and herbs as well as many older perennial forms. Their flowers are single and much easier for bees to work with than the more complicated showy double versions.
So if you’re looking to plant to help bees, go for the single-flowered forms.
I also plan plants for hoverflies, such as foxgloves, fennel, and Michaelmas daisies; their larvae eat pests. Your space and time will come.