It’s the last day to enter our gardening giveaway – all you have to do is share a photo of your garden to the competition post on Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org and you’re in the draw! Prizes include vouchers courtesy of Palmers, as well as a copy of the Yates Garden Guide. Winner drawn Tuesday 16 November – so get your entries in quick!
To get you inspired, here are some tips from the Angie Thomas author of the Yates Garden Guide (which you could win) about attracting birds and bees to your garden, published with permission from HarperCollins New Zealand.
Watching birds enjoying your garden and bees and butterflies skipping from one flower to the next is one of the pleasures of having a garden. To enable this, we need to grow a range of plants that provide a source of food throughout the year, in addition to creating a safe habitat and potential nesting sites. And as housing developments replace areas of native forests and bushland, it becomes even more important for backyards to become a new home for birds and insects.
Some of the best plants for attracting birds are those that are native to your area. Not only will those plants usually perform better in your garden, but they’re also perfectly suited to provide a source of food and shelter for your local birds. The wider the range of plants grown, providing sources of nectar, fruit, seeds and nesting material, the more diverse the birds that visit your garden. Nectar-feeding birds such as honeyeaters, wattlebirds and spinebills in Australia will enjoy feasting on banksia, callistemon, grevillea, eucalyptus and correa flowers. In New Zealand, tui and korimako (bellbird) will be drawn to flax, cordyline, rewarewa, kowhai and pohutukawa flowers.
Fruit- and berry-eating birds such as wood pigeons and silvereyes enjoy New Zealand’s Pseudopanax, Pittosporum and nikau palm. In Australia, parrots such as rosellas and lorikeets will feast on lilly pilly and dianella fruit. There is a wonderful range of seedeating
birds, from the largest parrots down to the tiniest finches. Australian cockatoos and parrots like casuarina, acacia, banksia and hakea seeds, and finches enjoy foraging on native grasses such as kangaroo grass (Themeda australis), tussock grasses (Poa spp.) and Lomandra spp. Insectivorous birds such as silvereyes and fantails will help reduce the numbers of pest insects, including aphids, moths and caterpillars, so they’re very welcome visitors in gardens. They’ll also enjoy scratching around for insects in mulch and leaf litter.
Plants for bird shelter, nesting materials and nest sites can also be included in gardens. Grasses such as Festuca, Lomandra and Poa can provide soft nesting materials as well as places for small birds to hide. Trees provide refuge and nesting sites for many birds. While trees are young, an interim measure is to include nesting boxes around the garden. Different types of nesting boxes will suit different types of birds.
In addition to filling your garden with bird-attracting plants, include a constant source of water for birds to drink and bathe in. And, of course, domestic cats are one of the biggest threats to native birds, so be a responsible cat owner.
ATTRACTING BEES AND OTHER BENEFICIAL INSECTS
Bees play an essential role as pollinators in the garden. Without bees, many of our vegetables and fruit would never reach harvest stage. Members of the pumpkin family are classic examples of plants that rely on bees. These have separate male and female flowers and, unless the pollen gets carried from the male to the female flower, there’s no way the cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin etc. will develop their fruit. There are also lesser recognised
pollinating insects, including butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles and flies, that assist with pollination of a range of different vegetable, fruit and ornamental flowers. It’s important to entice as many of these beneficial pollinators into gardens as we can. One solution is to plant lots of flowers. Mixing flowers among fruit trees and vegies not only adds colour, but also helps to ensure that there are enough bees and other beneficial insects around to do the job. Of course, these insects aren’t interested in helping the flowers; they’re simply chasing the nectar and pollen that the flowers produce. Pollination is incidental.
Favourite, bee-friendly colours seem to be yellow, purple, blue, violet and white. Here are some easy-to-grow, bee-attracting flowers:
- Forget-me-nots are spring annuals that produce copious quantities of seeds, ensuring that the plants reappear year after year.
- Lavender in all its forms is a wonderful bee attractant and, because of its long flowering period and its range of varieties, it’s possible to have lavender in flower for most of the year.
- Nasturtiums grow readily from seed. Both the bee-attracting flowers and the leaves are edible.
- Catmint, with its grey foliage and soft mauve blooms, makes a delightful edging for vegie beds.
- Phacelia is renowned for its appeal to beneficial garden insects, including hoverflies and honeybees.
- Salvia, especially the blue-flowering variety, attracts bees.
- Zinnias, many having vibrantly coloured flowers, are a favourite with bees during the warmest months. An easy way to grow a patch of bee-attracting flowers is to sow a packet of Yates ‘Bee Pasture’ seed mix. It contains a colourful blend of pollen and nectar flowers that bloom at different times of the year, to attract and provide forage for honeybees and other pollinators.
Some herbs are also very bee-friendly when they flower. Try these herbs:
- Basil is an annual that grows right through the warmer weather, producing sprays of white, pink or mauve flowers in late summer and autumn. Allowing a few flowers to develop will attract bees.
- Thyme is a perennial mini shrub that, like basil, flowers in late summer.
- Sage, the culinary form of the ornamental salvias, does a good job as a bee attractant.
- Rocket can be classed either as a herb or a salad vegetable. Allowing some rocket to flower and go to seed will encourage friendly insects to visit the garden.
- Oregano is a hardy perennial with pink, purple or white bee-attracting flowers.
- Borage has pretty blue flowers that bees love. It’s an annual plant but self-seeds readily.
- Also try chives, garlic chives, lemon balm, mint, rosemary and coriander. Other bee-attracting plants include calendula, alyssum, daisies, poppies, cornflowers, proteas, bee balm, iberis, Pride of Madeira, dahlias, roses and camellias with ‘open’ flowers (exposed stamens), crepe myrtles, fruit trees such as apples, pears, stone fruit and citrus, passionfruit, camellias and Australian and New Zealand native flowering plants. It’s important to grow plants that flower at different times of the year, so there’s always a reason for bees to visit your garden.
You can create bee-friendly havens in your garden, too. Bee ‘hotels’ are made from bunches of hollow sticks or bamboo, blocks of timber drilled with small holes, mud bricks, pine cones and straw. A wide variety of materials can help attract a range of different bees and pollinating insects, including native bees.
Rocks, logs and bushes around the garden can also encourage native bees in the warmer months, which are excellent pollinators of native plants. Interestingly, common vegies in the tomato/potato family can’t be pollinated by European honeybees. However, bumblebees and some Australian native bees, such as the very attractive blue-banded bee, use a technique called buzz pollination to pollinate these types of flowers.
Bees will also appreciate having access to a source of water. A shallow bowl, filled with water and a layer of marbles or pebbles, allows bees to safely land and have a drink. Beekeeping is becoming very popular in urban areas; however, check local council regulations, codes of conduct and any required permits beforehand. There are beekeeping associations in most areas as well as many amateur clubs. If you’re not ready to have
your own hive, hosting a hive may be possible, where an organisation will set up and manage a hive for you, in return for a share of the honey harvest. Don’t forget, though, that some people have a life-threatening allergic reaction to bees and bee stings. Perhaps a cute sign about yours being a ‘bee-friendly garden’ will provide visitors with an appropriate warning.
© Yates Garden Guide By Angie Thomas
Published by HarperCollins