More Bee Plants

At the Beekeepers’ Spring Convention I toddled along to a lecture by Andy Willis on bee plants. It was interesting fare. You hear so much advice on bee plants which is either misleading or wrong that it was refreshing to hear from someone who has made this a lifetime’s work, and who bases his views on personal observation. Many “good” forage plants will only produce a decent flow of nectar in specific circumstances, so he emphasised the need for diversity. I hadn’t also fully appreciated that honeybees value flowers like Field Poppies (Papaver rhoeas) for their pollen, but not for their nectar. He ran through the year, providing a list of plants to provide continuous sources of pollen and nectar, which is one of the things we’re hot on too.
Some of his ideas included:
January: Winter Cherry (Prunus x subhirtella)
March: Winter flowering Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), Almonds (Prunus dulcis), Apricots (Prunus armeniaca)
June: Acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia)
July: Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa)
September: Golden Rod (Solidago spp.)
October: Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
December: False castor oil plant (Fatsia japonica)
We’ve got the trees for sale now in our “trees for bees” section on the website.

Herbs

Sometimes my nerve nearly fails me. Perhaps it is a symptom of the world we live in that there are too many generalists about, and that they seem to have too much front. In my previous incarnation that’s exactly what I was, knowing a little about a broad spectrum of Japanese / investment topics and a little about how stock prices behaved, and now on a bad day it seems I am reinventing myself as a kind of unqualified eco-generalist.

Supposedly Pliny the Elder
Supposedly Pliny the Elder (no relation to Prince Albert)
I recently blithely started to research a range of historical herb garden collections to be sold to help raise funds for the excellent Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at Sussex University, about whom more another time. Bees love herbs and herbalists love bees; it’s a natural love affair that has persisted since well before Antony and Cleopatra, and as complicated.
Fortunately I keep stumbling across really good people to help me. I was looking for some Viola odorata the other day, and it turned out there was a supplier just up the road – Arne Herbs, run by the affable Anthony Lyman-Dixon. I should have known about Anthony who, it turns out, is the expert’s expert in historical gardens. His specialty is the Medieval and early Renaissance, but unsurprisingly he’s no slouch outside his period and full of super-informed advice. He suggested Linda Farrar’s “Ancient Roman Gardens” as an introduction and the polymath (most definitely not “generalist”) Pliny the Elder as a principal source for a “Roman garden collection”. Pliny loved bees, specifically honeybees, but although his nephew was an engaging enough read as an A level text, Alan Titchmarsh he ain’t. Thank goodness, Antony is continuing to help me through textual interpretations and the practical difficulties of plant selection.
Another area, another supplier, and I’m just pleased to be able to promote them. We hope to be able to launch our range of historic herb garden collections later in the autumn. I should stop worrying and just believe in serendipity.