Plant of the Month: October 23

This year we are asking our followers to ensure their gardens can help bee populations thrive – encouraging both diverse plant life and a variety of bee species to visit. With 25 species of bumblebee and more than 250 species of solitary bee, there are many bees that can be encouraged into your garden if you choose your plants carefully.

The Royal Horticultural Society has helped us look beyond summer favourites such as lavender and borage. Longer autumns and milder winters mean that bees such as the buff-tailed bumblebee can be active all year round. They need garden plants to help them through.

So, without further ado, October’s plant is Ivy (Hedera).

Producing copious yellow-green flowers in rounded clusters, mature ivy is a vital resource for a wide range of insects on the wing in autumn.

As the name suggests, the ivy mining bee (Colletes hederae) is a specialist. The last of the solitary bees to emerge, this 1cm-long, yellow and black bee can be seen from late August and remains active into November.

It nests below groundin sparsely vegetated patches including lawns, often with large numbers in small areas. Don’t be alarmed – theyre harmless and only active for a few weeks. First spotted in Dorset in 2001 it has rapidly spread through most of Southern Britain.

Others to try include:
• Devils bit scabious (succisa pratensis) – good for damp soils in sun or partial shade.
• Bistort (Bistorta officinalis) – a native perennial suitable for moist ground in sun or part shade.
• Perennial Wallflower (such as Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ agm) – these evergreens need full sun on a neutral to alkaline soil.
• Strawberry tree (Arbutus unendo) – small evergreen tree good on humus-rich soil in a sunny, sheltered garden.