Even on vacation I am a bit obsessed with bees. I love spotting bees (both wild and honey), then determining which flowers are popular. I call these the bee flowers. Last summer (2017) my family and I took a trip to Sweden. It was a vacation, for sure, a chance to show Sweden to my children and to visit family and friends. But I was also stalking bees.
Sweden is an interesting place to observe bees. Swedes love nature and add lots of flowers to public and private spaces. Despite their northern latitude, there is a great diversity of flowers. They are also more careful about not using herbicides and pesticides in their gardens–organic gardening is the norm. One public garden we visited was The Linnaeus Garden and Museum in Uppsala, Sweden. Yes, we saw the early summer bee flowers that we often see here in the States, such as salvia, catmint, and thyme. But there were other bee flowers, not commonly seen here in the States, that the bees seemed to love. Consider them for your own yard.
Sambucus ebulus, Dwarf Elder, Dwarf Elderberry
Elderberry is normally a large plant (at about 8 ft. ) A great plant for all pollinators, but not everybody has room for it. Here is a shorter version of elderberry, at about 3-4 ft. The bees were loving all of those tiny flowers. Birds love its eventual berries. It grows in semi-shade to full sun. Zones 4-8.
Allium fistulosum, Welsh onion
Alliums make the short list of flowers that are great for bees. Whether the plant is ornamental or culinary (or both), all alliums seem to be loved by bees. This one, with its Dr. Seuss-like flowers, really stopped me short. The leaves are edible and are said to make a good replacement for chives or leeks. I found this plant at the organic nursery, Goodwin Creek Nursery.
Phlomis tuberosa, Jerusalem Sage
This tall (3-5′ high) stunner has pink flowers and deep red stems. Bees, butterflies and birds love it. Best grown in organically rich, fertile, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates light shade. Performs well in sandy loam. Plants tolerate some dry soil conditions. Avoid wet soils. Zones 4-9. You can find plants at Digging Dog Nursery.
Echium plantagineum ‘Blue Bedder’, Viper’s Bugloss
Add this annual to your garden. This flower was not labelled, but I believe it is Echium ‘Blue Bedder’. Unlike the species Echium vulgare (which is also a great bee plant), Blue Bedder is compact and makes a great bedding plant in full sun. A hardy annual, Blue Bedder will bloom until frost. I found plants at Annie’s and the seeds at Outsidepride. I will be growing these seeds this year.
Centaurea scabiosa, Greater knapweed
A relative of the cornflower, this flower is native to Europe, though grows wild in parts of the U.S. This perennial likes full sun. Flowers from July to September and grows well from seed. Can work in a range of soils. Hardy.
Veronica sibirica, Speedwell
V. sibirica is the star in my feature photograph. Veronicas like moist soil, with ideally some afternoon shade. If you can’t find Veronica sibirica, look for other Veronicas. Zones 3-8.
Telekia speciosa, Ox-Eye Daisy
Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in part shade. Tolerates full sun as long as soils are kept consistently moist. Easily grown from seed and may self-seed in the garden in good growing conditions. A good choice for naturalizing. Zones 3 to 7.
Isn’t this flower gorgeous up close? We saw Astrantia all over Sweden. They range in colors from white, to pink, to wine, and are about two feet tall. This variety closely matches ‘Buckland’. Astrantia may have the pickiest culture requirements of the flowers in this post, but it will bloom all summer if happy. They prefer cool summer locations. Astrantia prefers dappled shade with moist soil, yet will tolerate full sun if the soil is moist. They will spread, yet are non-invasive. Zones 4 to 7.
All photos taken by Christine R. Nelson.