One out of every three bites of food that we eat is made possible by pollinators like honey bees. Raymond Carriere, founding president of
Communities in Bloom and a former park ranger, says that wasps are the aggressive stingers, not bees. “I wouldn’t put my hand in a beehive and turn it upside down, they might get a tad upset,” he jokes. “But I would not be afraid if bees are around, they generally don’t sting.”
We can each do our part by planting a few flowers to foster them. “Bolstering a garden with sources of pollen, such as the plants below, will help bees thrive,” says Raymond. Click through for 10 bee-friendly plants your garden will thank you for.
The first five plants listed below are included in the free seed kit from
Star-shaped with bright yellow flowers, the lance-leaved coreopsis is a low-growing, easy-care perennial that thrives in the hot, late summer all across North America. It’s bee-friendly and perfect in a breezy summer arrangement.
Leggy New England asters (also known as Michaelmas daisy) can grow to a statuesque four feet to provide a generous amount of pollen for honey bees, while being deer resistant. A highly varied species, there are more than 50 different cultivars with distinct colors, sizes and shapes, but the most common color is a pretty violet version that makes an excellent cut flower.
Showstopping spikes of clustered purple flowers are a hallmark of this tall, thickly flowering plant. It grows wild across eastern Canada, and this perennial can survive harsh winters. With a tough stalk and numerous flowers, it’s a hardy plant to attract and foster bees.
A rich red blossom surrounded by bright yellow with a speckled floret at its center, the golden tickseed is a striking addition to a garden bed or planter. Also called “calliopsis,” the versatile bloom can tolerate both full sun and partial shade.
It could probably use some rebranding, but bees and butterflies definitely aren’t afraid to get up close and personal with sneezeweed. This persimmon blossom is drought tolerant and can take full sun.
From the same family as garlic, chives are easily grown herbs that do well in gardens across the country, and are a tasty addition to dips and salad. Their near-circular purple bloom attracts honey bees in spring, and repels unwanted insects.
Cottage berry pickers know that raspberries grow wild all over Canada. Typically, the plant won’t flower until its second or third year, after which it sprouts white blossoms with rounded petals. After pollination, it produces a daily abundance of fruit in the late summer or early autumn.
This sweet-smelling herb gets all of its scent from its leaves, but the flower attracts honey bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. With tall florets of tiny purple flowers, this variety of hyssop has a distinctly liquorice-like taste, and its leaves can be picked and dried for use in tea and sweet desserts (lavender ice cream is pretty sublime). This long-lived perennial blooms all summer long but won’t grow in the Maritimes or Canadian North.
The provincial flower of Manitoba, the pretty prairie crocus is a low-growing plant with single stems for each bud. Bright blue or purple blossoms flourish in the late spring and early summer. Laid-back gardeners take note: it spreads into multiple flowers the longer it remains planted (but it won’t flourish in Quebec or the Maritimes).
Wish you had fresh blueberries to top your granola every day? If you’re patient, plant a lowbush blueberry, which grows wild in pine forests in Eastern Canada as the needles provide the acidic soil it craves. Though the bush doesn’t flourish in its first few years, it will provide abundant flowers and blueberries later.
Author: Wendy Jacob
Photography courtesy Bees Matter