A Quick Visit to the Garden Centre

Common carder bumblebee on Cirsium rivulare var atropurpureum

Dear Readers, regular followers of the blog will know that when I go to the garden centre, I am always led by the bees and what they’re feeding on. And on this lovely sunny day they were out in force. First up, the common carders were all over this rather lovely thistle, which as far as I know is only known by its Latin name – I’ve tried to grow it several times but it doesn’t like either my sunny front garden or my shady back garden, so I’ve given up for now. I am growing some melancholy thistles though, so let’s see how they do.

Mason bee (???) on Rosanne geranium

This little bee was something of a challenge – superficially it looks like a common carder but it’s rather less stocky in build. Species geraniums like ‘Rosanne’ are excellent for pollinators, as opposed to the cheap and cheerful red geraniums that dangle from balconies and are no use to bees at all. I would love to start a campaign to persuade pubs to change their hanging baskets and windowboxes from petunias and geraniums to something more bee-friendly but of course the plants would also have to be robust, drought-proof and long-flowering, so I do see the problem. Maybe this pub in Muswell Hill had the right idea….

Anyhow, back to the garden centre. Scabious is always a big favourite with the bees, and this bumblebee was thoroughly enjoying the nectar.


Someone mentioned Salvia as being their favourite plant family, and the garden centre was absolutely full of them – so many varieties, and so different! The bees always seem most attracted to the blue and purple ones in my experience, and this variety (new to me) was a particular magnet.

Salvia ‘Mystic Spires’


And finally, it was all happening by the Nemesia. I never think of it being particularly attractive to bees but clearly I was wrong – our little friend the four-banded flower bee was patrolling a huge patch of the flowers and defending them against bumblebees four times his size, very impressive. It might all appear to be idyllic in the garden but there are ferocious battles going on – this bee is hoping both to mate with any female four-banded flower bees who turn up, and to make sure that no interlopers take over his patch. It’s hard work when there’s so much to do in the way of reproduction, and so little time to get it done in.

Bee to the left of the central flower spike (in front of the wooden slat)

Bee taking a second away from guard duty to have a feed (centre, purple flower)

And so, dear Readers, you might be wondering what I bought, and you might be surprised that the answer is, on this occasion, absolutely nothing. And the reason is that shortly I will be off on an adventure (no, not a heart operation, no one is that quick), and I will be telling you all about it very soon. In the meantime, this was an admiration and reconnaissance visit only, and it took some self-control, I can tell you.

For those of you who live in North London, just a heads up that this is the Sunshine Garden Centre, not far from Bounds Green tube station, and a real delight – the staff are always so helpful, the range of plants is great, and for anyone over 60 you can get 10% off. Plus there’s a café which is always a bonus. Do drop in if you’re in the vicinity.

5 thoughts on “A Quick Visit to the Garden Centre

  1. sllgatsby

    I am happy to say that I have almost all of these in my garden, even the Mystic Spire! I’m missing the thistle and I haven’t gotten any nemesia this year. I went hog wild on a bunch of different salvias!

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      You are clearly the Salvia Queen! I would grow more, but not sure how they’ll do in a shady, north-facing garden. Any thoughts?

      1. sllgatsby

        I’ve heard good thigns about the purple version of salvia forskaohlei. Needs good draining soil, not too boggy.

      2. sllgatsby

        Pretty much anything called “woodland sage” is going to tolerate some shade. Might bloom a bit later and no be quite as vigorous. And I’d stick to purple. I just bought two of the same salvias, one in pink and one in purple and the purple is doing much better!

  2. Kathleen

    I have some vanilla scented nemesia by the back door. Lovely scent as we go out. I don’t see bees on it, but the hover flies seem to like it. I have to admit I have petunias in a pot out the front door, but they are the lovely ‘Night Sky’ variety that change the amount of colour depending on temperature so I try to buy some every year. At the moment the bees seem very happy with the poppies in the front garden!


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