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The Bumblebee Blog - Part 12

The bumblebees and honeybees are having a wonderful time with a smorgasbord of flowers to choose from in the garden.

Possibly the most eye catching combination at present is Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ with Rose ‘Blue for You’, both growing in the central round flower bed. This rose sounds unattractive in tones of grey and mauve with occasional streaks of white, and fading to pink, but it is unusual and when combined with the right companion is undeniably attractive. When we first included it in a show stand at the Royal Cornwall Show in 2012 it was the most asked-about plant in the display, and the one people were queueing up to buy when we dismantled the stand. However, the nepeta is definitely more popular with the bees.

Blue for You is a semi-double rose. There is some confusion about single and double flowers and their value for pollinators. Double flowers are mutations. In some cases all the reproductive organs of the plant are converted to petals which renders the plant sterile and it must be propagated vegetatively through cuttings. In evolutionary terms this is a dead-end for the plant. However, as these flowers are typically very showy, and tend to last longer before fading, their garden-worthiness has ensured their continued existence. Other double flowers may have reproductive organs but the profusion of petals makes them inaccessible to pollinators, so the plant will not be fertilised and set seed, and provides minimal nourishment for pollinators. Semi-double flowers have several rows of petals, but the reproductive parts remain visible and accessible to pollinators. The best of both worlds.

The lupins are getting into their stride and the first flush of flowers has been and gone. It is vitally important to keep deadheading your lupins if you want them to flower continuously. We have found that it is best to deadhead as soon as the spike is over half-way spent. This seems harsh, but it ensures continuity of blooming. If you wait till the spike is completely finished there is a delay before the next blooms open.

The Forget-me-nots have all but finished flowering now. There is still a haze of blue but the bulk of the plant has become scruffy and blackened. Now is the time to pull them out and dispose of them. Give the plants a shake over some bare ground on your way to the compost heap. They are prolific seeders. It’s easy to weed out or transplant the plentiful seedlings that will appear.