At Sunshine Garden Centre – What Do The Bees Like?

Dear Readers, you might remember that when I’m at the garden centre (in this case the brilliant Sunshine Garden Centre in Bounds Green), I am always inclined to let the pollinators, in particular the bumblebees and hoverflies, tell me what they are enjoying, and today was no exception. So, to start with, here are some bumbles on  the perennial wallflower – I nearly always have a Bowles Mauve variety somewhere in the garden, but the yellow one above seemed to be doing rather nicely too.

I had never thought of candytuft (Iberis) as being particularly good for bees, but these bumbles seemed to have formed a different opinion. One bumblebee was so in love with the plant that she nearly got in the car with us. And who knew that the plant was yet another member of the cabbage family? I suppose those four-petalled flowers should have given it away.

I am seeing a lot of unusual varieties of foxglove about this year, such as this golden one. I am wondering if it’s a perennial – it always seems a bit cheeky to sell ‘ordinary’ foxgloves in flower, as of course they are biennial and will finish once they’ve flowered. On the other hand, they might self-seed, which is always nice. Foxgloves are always a favourite with bumblebees, and these were positively a-buzz with them.

Apologies for the terrible photo, but bees of all kinds adore thistles, and this Cirsium atropurpurea is always a favourite. When they grew in my garden, I used to find bumblebees which seemed to have fallen asleep in the flowers. Sadly, I’ve found them very short-lived, although I do love them.

It’s a real shame that there isn’t a ‘crap insect photos’ Facebook page, to match the ‘crap bird photos’ page that already exists. Nonetheless, this seems to be a red-tailed bumblebee (my second this week) on an astrantia, another favourite and one that is fairly shade-tolerant.

The Mexican fleabane is much-loved by smaller bees and hoverflies. I’ve bought some for my south-facing windowboxes, so let’s see how it gets on. In case you’re wondering, there is a honeybee right at the bottom, just right of centre.

And Delosperma is another plant for the windowbox, and another plant that i had to prise away from the optimistic hooky feet of a bumblebee as big as my thumb joint. Let’s hope that the bees in East Finchley like it as much as the bees in Bounds Green do. It’s a succulent and so it should be fairly tolerant of the sun-baked conditions.

There are some rather gorgeous bright orange geums around at the garden centre, very striking and popular with the smaller bees.

There are some new varieties of perennial cornflower this year, including these white and magenta versions. All of them were much visited by bees of all kinds.

And finally, there was scabious – this has got to be the most popular plant of all. The wild version of the plant, field scabious, is an absolute boon for polllinators of all kinds, and I have a few from last year just coming back in my window boxes. I couldn’t resist getting one large plant, covered in buds, for the big pot at the front of the house though. This one is ‘Mariposa Blue’, and very stately it looks too.

So I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and for once I was a tiny bit restrained. Sunshine Garden Centre is my favourite garden centre ever – it has a great cafe, an amazing variety of plants, and incredibly helpful and cheerful staff. If you’re ever at a loose end in North London, I really recommend it. And they deliver if you live locally-ish, so you don’t have to stagger onto the bus with an entire greenhouse under your arm. Plus they do a discount for over-60s. What’s not to like?

3 thoughts on “At Sunshine Garden Centre – What Do The Bees Like?

  1. Sharon

    A few years back we consulted the bumblebees at a garden centre as to what they particularly recommended. “This white-flowered bush here.” They replied most definitely. “It’s delicious.”
    We looked at the ‘size’ on the label, 1.5×1.5m, alas, too big for the garden area we had then, and went for something they also recommended, but a lot smaller.

    Now we have a larger garden. Just can’t remember what that delicious, white-flowered shrub was! Saw some of those purple flowered perennial cornflowers at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and Arboretum the other week, and the orange Geums. We have Mrs Bradshaw, she’s quite bright enough!

    And you know how the People Who Know say that salvias are good for longer-tongued bumblebees? We had a Hot Lips in our previous garden, the local bumblebees nipped straight round the side of the corolla tube and chomped their way through to the nectaries. We could hear them doing it if we listened.


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