In this season of frigid weather and no gardening, I have a couple of things to help me get through the winter. Hot soup, the pursuit of hygge (the Danish word for cozy comfort), and a large pile of books all help. But really what helps keep me sane are the seed catalogs. Planning for my bee gardens with lots of flower seeds and then imagining them in full flower makes me happy.
Over the years, I have used many seed catalogs, but lately I have settled on one, Botanical Interests. They offer over 600 varieties, (many of these are organic and heirloom), no GMOs, and lots of great information to help me along. Botanical Interests also shares my concern about the pollinators, so they are always clear about which varieties will offer food for them.
If you are willing and able, growing flowers from seeds can be a great way to help the bees (and other pollinators) because you can grow flowers free of pesticides or systemic neonicotinoids–chemicals that could kill a hive. This is huge. We know that plants and flowers grown for nurseries may contain some of these bee-killing pesticides. (See my post Why I Won’t Buy My Plants at the Big Box Stores for more info.) Also, seeds offer an incredible value. For just a few dollars one packet gives you an amazing amount of seeds. Now imagine that packet of seeds growing into plants. Then imagine how much money a nursery would charge you if you were buying all of those plants. Cha-ching.
Don’t have the equipment or windows galore for starting the seeds indoors? No problem. Just concentrate on flowers that can be sown directly in your garden.
Flower Seeds I Love
The right flowers are the workhorse of your garden. Think “Flower Power”. They feed the bees and other pollinators, attract beneficial insects, and are the #1 method (in my mind) to keep pests out of your garden (For more, see my post, How to Keep the Pests Away.) It is a win-win for everyone. So I always make sure I have a lot of flowers. Here are my bee and pollinator friendly choices for this year:
- Bachelor’s Button, Blue Boy (A)
- Bee Balm, Lambada (T)
- Bee’s Friend (A)
- Bluebells (Phacelia campanularia), California Bluebells, (A) (this is a new flower for me)
- Calendula, Pacific Beauty Blend (A)
- Cosmos, Sensation Blend and Sea Shells Blend (A)
- Cupplant (P)
- Gaillardia, Mesa Yellow (P)
- Hollyhock, Indian Spring (B)
- Hyacinth Bean, Ruby Moon (A)
- Hyssop, Lavender Hyssop (P)
- Hyssop, True Hyssop (2) (P)
- Marigold, a French variety ‘Naughty Marietta’ (A)
- Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Irresistible Blend (P) (2)
- Morning Glory, Heavenly Blue (A)
- Nasturtium, Jewel Blend (A)
- Orlaya, White Lace (A) (this is a new flower for me)
- Penstemon, Dazzler Blend (P)
- Poppy, Breadseed, Hungarian Blue (A)
- Purple Prairie Clover (P)
- Scabiosa, Pincushion Flower (P)
- Sunflowers, Lemon Queen (A) (2)
- Talinum, Jewels of Opar (A) (If you are not familiar with this flower, you can see a photo of it in my post Great Organic Gardening at Tower Hill + Best Bee Flowers. It also has edible leaves.)
- Verbena, Brazilian Vervain, (A perennial in Zones 7-10, otherwise grown as an annual)
- Zinnia, California Giants and Northern Lights Blend (A)
A=Annual, P=Perennial, T=Tender Perennial, B=Biennial
Not as crazy as I and want to plant less? Zinnias, Cosmos, and Sunflowers are probably the top three flowers that I would recommend to feed the bees and pollinators. Also consider the bee and pollinator Flower Mixes found at Botanical Interests.
My Herb Choices
Don’t forget the herbs! Most flowering herbs offer superior nutrition for bees and pollinators. I have a large amount of perennial herbs in my yard, but here are the bee friendly annuals that I will grow this year.
- Dill, Bouquet
- Basil, Dolce Vita Blend
- Holy Basil, Tulsi
What are you planting this year?