How-to for beginner gardeners with Shannon Hunt.
Before you leap into your garden to get down and dirty removing dead, dying, diseased and straggly plants, survey what could be useful for the insects that are beneficial to our gardens. Plants that are still flowering are an important nectar source for those bees that pop out of the hive occasionally and insects that have not hibernated yet. By creating or leaving plenty of hiding places in your garden over the colder months, you will help insects to survive.
Flowers for nectar
Bees and insects gather nectar from autumn flowers like pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis). These little orange and yellow rays of sunshine are easy to grow throughout the year and can continue to flower through the autumn and winter months. If you watch a bunch of marigolds for a while, you may yet see a bee settling on the flowers!
If you want to help bees even more, consider planting camellias. Choose the single-petalled open varieties, such as Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’ and C. × vernalis ‘Yuletide’, as the pollen-filled centres of their blooms are more easily accessed by bees than the tighter, multi-petal varieties.
If you are planning on planting a flowering bush to help feed the insects over the colder period, Forsythia will do the trick nicely, too.
Create a habitat
Placing pieces of driftwood, rotting wood, big rocks, old baked bean and spaghetti cans, and broken terracotta pots strategically throughout your garden creates plenty of cracks, crevices and protective spaces for good bugs and insects to retreat and sleep over the colder months. These include ladybirds, bees, dragonflies and lacewings, which not only prey on leaf-chomping insects in the warmer weather but also play their part in pollinating your vegetables, ornamentals and blossoms.
Read more in our June issue.