Pollinators in your garden
A talk by John Cullen. HPS 13 October 2018
John is part of a family based nursery in Lincolnshire specialising in plants for the pollinators, scented plants and edible plants since 2009.
Part of his training background was at Hampton Court and he was tutored by Juliet Sargeant. He learnt from her that every plant should have a purpose and so looks for a plant to look good, taste good and be pollinated. He has shown at Hampton Court, Chelsea and Tatton Park.
In his early gardening life he found that good plants were hard to source in London and so started growing his own. John Cullen plants are neonicotinoid-free.
Neonicotinoids are a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine and are used by some growers as a wash/drenching insecticide. They are used on crops to control pests such as vine weevils and aphids but also kill bees. The insecticide is taken into a plant’s system and there is debate as to whether it remains in the plant system or is diluted over time. It may also be present in it’s seeds. If it is present in pollen and taken back to a hive, the hive will become sterile and collapse.
John's talk covered this reaction on pollinators; bees, butterflies and moths. There are around 250 species of bees in the UK; bumblebees, solitary bees and a single species of honeybee.
They select plants according to the length of their tongues. If their tongue is not long enough, they will pierce the flower.
They prefer single flowers (not doubles) as it is easier to collect pollen.
They are attracted to plants with scent.
They like herbs that flower.
Solitary bees are likely to pollinate tomatoes, cucumbers etc.
Solitary bees don't sting.
Bumblebees have a lot of predators like tits and badgers.
It's only lady honey bees that collect pollen.
After coming out of (sleepy) hibernation in spring, they tend to go for low plants like pulmonaria.
They taste with their feet - to see if the plant is good for laying eggs.
Ivy and nettles are preferred egg laying sites. Have some in your garden to discourage caterpillars on your favourites.
Butterflies in your garden show that you have a good eco-system.
Very important pollinators as they are attracted to night scented plants.
When considering plants for your garden think of a year round plant food source for pollinators like flowering shrubs - which often flower twice in a year. Planting in blocks gives a good display but helps pollinators feed easily.
To avoid insecticides encourage birds into your garden especially overwinter.
Did you know you can buy ladybirds? John averages 1000 over 3 acres released in spring.
Keep a corner for ivy and nettles away from your borders for hungry caterpillars.
You can always ask when you buy if the nursery uses neonicotinoids.
You may be aware of the yellow RHS sign on plants indicating that a plant is "bee" friendly. You may find this press release from RHS last year interesting. http://press.rhs.org.uk/RHS-Outreach/Press-releases/How-to-bee-friendly-this-summer!.aspx