If you are worried about the decline of bees in your landscape, there are some things you can do to encourage their presence – plant flowers. There are a lot, but here are six of my favorite perennials:
Crocus offers some of the first tastes of nectar and pollen for foraging bees on sunny, warm days. The visitors are bees that wintered over in holes, hives and crevices, and they need early season nourishment to build up their broods. Crocus can be grown in sun or shade, even in the lawn.
I know we all think dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a weed, but it’s another early bloomer that supports bumblebees and honeybees. It won’t hurt to allow a few to bloom. Remove the spent flowers before they go to seed and once other plants are blooming in the garden, remove the dandelions.
Calamint (Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta) is probably one of the longest blooming perennials in the garden. This underused species has fragrant, showy, white to pinkish flowers from June into September. It needs full sun and well-drained soil. Calamint behaves nicely, staying in a tidy clump about 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide. There are cultivars available, including ‘Blue Cloud’. Reported to be deer resistant and, once established, calamint is drought tolerant.
There are several North America native hyssop (Agastache spp.), sometimes called hummingbird mint, which bees and hummingbirds love. The foliage has a minty fragrance. ‘Honey Bee Blue’ and ‘Blue Fortune’ (A. foeniculum) are reliable, long-blooming perennials. My favorites are the slightly less hardy hyssop (A. rupestris), such as ‘Apache Sunset.’ Gardeners frequently grow these hyssops as long-blooming annuals. Plant hyssop in full sun and well-drained soil. Hyssop is deer and drought tolerant, once established.
Tall sedum is a pollinator magnet in late summer and early fall. The popular Autumn Joy (Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’) attracts butterflies, bees and beneficial wasps. The seedheads dry to offer winter interest. Sedum is very drought tolerant. Grow this perennial in full sun and average, but well-drained soi.
Boltonia (B. asteroides), sometimes called false aster, is another native perennial that late-season bees, butterflies and other important insects fly to. ‘Snow Bank’ is a readily available cultivar. Grow boltonia in full sun to part shade. It tolerates wet soil. Surround it with other plants to camouflage this 3-foot tall specimen’s shrubby bottom.