As far as bees are concerned , it’s all about having a mix of flowers in your garden with something in bloom year-round. Many natives are long flowering and highly attractive to bees, but, if natives aren’t your thing there are lots of exotics that offer pollen and nectar.
When choosing plants, it’s good to keep in mind the design of the flowers, and therefore their accessibility to bees.
(Lavandula spp.) Lavenders are bee magnets and there are many species and varieties to ensure long flowering. For humid areas, grow spring-flowering French lavender (L. dentata); in cool zones, try summer-flowering English lavender (L. augustifolia). Cultivars of Italian lavender (L. stoechas) such as ‘Busy Bee’ flower in winter. Sun: Full. Soil: Slightly alkaline, well drained. Planting: Pots, garden. Size: 50cm or more. Flowers: Winter–summer.
(Ocimum basilicum) This is one of those plants that you’re taught to pinch the flowers off so it doesn’t bolt, but don’t! Let it grow and flower. When it flowers and drops seeds, these will sprout into new plants, making for an everlasting supply. Basil is an amazing bee attractor, with a sweet smell they find irresistible. Sun: Full to part shade. Soil: Rich, well drained. Planting: Pots, garden. Size: 50cm or more. Flowers: Summer–autumn.
(Lobularia maritima)This self-seeding annual produces white or purple flowers in a ground-cover style, which makes it a favourite stop-off for bees and butterflies. A common variety is ‘Carpet of Snow’, so called for the massive number of white flowers it produces when it’s in full bloom. Sun: Full to part shade. Soil: Well drained. Planting: Pots, garden. Size: Depending on variety. Flowers: Summer–winter.
(Echinacea spp.) With the flower head made up of multiple small f lorets in the centre, like multiple tiny f lowers, it’s a true insect magnet. It’s an autumn flowerer, so perfect for bees topping up their stores for winter. The leaves and f lower petals are edible, and all parts of the plant have been used in tinctures or other remedies and cold and flu treatments for centuries. Sun: Full. Soil: Well drained. Size: 60–100cm. Flowers: Autumn.
(Correa spp.) These bee- (and bird-) attracting evergreen shrubs are available in a variety of colours. Best grown in clumps of four or more to give a decent group of flowers for insects to forage. Sun: Does well in shady locations. Avoid in very dry or tropical areas. Soil: Reasonably well drained. Planting: Pots, garden — makes a fantastic low hedge. Size: Mostly bushy plants to 100cm. Flowers: Autumn–spring.
(Viola bederacea) This spreading native ground cover is great in rockeries or even as a lawn replacement. It has a carpet of small green leaves and lowers almost constantly during the warmer months. Sun: Shady, cool. Soil: Moist. Planting: Pots, garden. Size: Spreading ground cover 10cm tall. Flowers: Spring–autumn.
Extract from The Bee Friendly Garden: Easy ways to help the bees and make your garden grow. ($39.00 Murdoch Books).