If you only have one plant in your garden for the bees, Salvia is it! It comes in a wide variety of colours and forms, is very hardy and easy to grow from cuttings and according to Helen Vaughan who just did a workshop on ‘Bee Friendly Gardens’ with Beekeeper Dermot at the Canberra Environment Centre. Purple Sage is one of the Salvias widely used in cooking and look out also for the pineapple sage with red flowers that is flowering now and well into winter in a frost free nook. It has a wonderful pineapple scent and has been used in jelly and jams as well as being a medicinal herb with antibacterial and antioxidant properties. For Winter flowering forage and colour, pot up some wallflowers, anemones, nerines, primulas, winter sweet, snowdrops and crocus. Early flowering prunus and wattles also provide flowers at the end of the Winter which can be a difficult time for bees to find food.
Just a few bee favourites at the National Botanic Gardens this fortnight are Banksia spinulosa with large golden flowers which are humming with bees and well worth watching as they disappear into the centre of the flower & the flower seems to dance as they sip the nectar, Grevillea lanigera with long lasting pink and crème flowers suitable for Victoria and NSW climates and Scaevola albinda, a groundcover with mauve fan flowers is also a favourite with the bees. The native flowers are also perfect for our native bees and pollinators and unlikely to be treated with pesticides or other nasties. Please ask when you buy plants what they have been treated with as many pesticides are toxic to bees and one of the reasons their immune systems are so compromised. The bees around the world are in need of our care and pesticide free flowers are the best way to help them.