Whilst many of our native plants have now ceased blooming, many North American plants are coming into their peak flowering period right now. These plants originate on the great plains of North America where the summers are long and hot and they flower in the late summer and autumn after the wet summer storms have drenched the soil. When planted here in the UK they maintain their late season flowering. North American prairie species make colourful and dramatic additions to the autumn garden and extend the flowering season providing food for our pollinators. Coming from a temperate environment which experiences climatic extremes, many are also very hardy and can tolerate drought and cold temperatures. This makes them suitable for growing in most UK gardens and a good choice when planting your gardens to be resilient amidst climate change.
Helenium Autumnal have spectacular flowers
Other great autumn plants for attracting bees into our gardens include Sedum ‘Spectable’ and Sedum ‘Purple Emperor,’ Saffron Crocus, Japanese Anemones, Hebe ‘Autumn Joy,’ and Symphyotrichum novi-belgii. Helenium Autumnal is a magnet for bees, very easy to grow and will tolerate most soils as long as they are not too dry. They are very easy to propagate by dividing the crown in winter and planting on the divisions.
Sunflowers look fantastic and are a great food source for both insects and birds
Annual sunflowers provide fantastic autumn forage for bees. They produce plenty of nectar and their nutritious pollen has been proven to bolster the honey bees’ immune system helping them fight off infections which might otherwise make them sick and cause dysentery during the winter. Choose your sunflowers wisely though, shorter-stemmed varieties popular as cut flowers contain little pollen so are of less use to bees whereas the classic tall varieties are better. In addition to being great for bees, sunflower seeds will provide valuable winter food for greenfinches, chaffinch and sparrows.
Now is also the time to plant spring bulbs which will bloom from late winter through to mid spring. Some of the best spring bulbs for bees include Crocus, Anenemone blanda, Muscari, Tulips, Winter aconite and blue bells. Aliums, Camassia, Eremus and Pineapple Lily are also great later in the season. Plant bulbs about twice as deep as they are tall in moist but free-draining soil. Look out for bulb suppliers do not routinely use neonic pesticides on their bulb farms.