Create a Nectar Cafe

Insects are vital  in the garden. The hoverfly young often feed off aphids, making them particularly useful as pest control, whilst many insects help ensure you have seeds or fruit from your plants. Even if they did not provide a useful function we would miss the hum of bees and the beauty of butterflies and moths fluttering from flower to flower. Who hasn’t sat on a sunny day gently drifting to the symphony of insect chatter?

Buff Tailed Bumble Bee by Vicky Nall

Buff Tailed Bumble Bee by Vicky Nall

The gardener is getting a wonderful service from all these creatures and all we need to do is provide them with a little bit of nectar as a reward. So  creating a nectar cafe is an easy and rewarding way of achieving this. To start chose a sheltered, sunny spot in the garden and chose some beautiful plants to encourage a wide variety of insects in.

It helps the insects if plants are placed in drifts together so that they can easily find the plants. One useful tip for creating natural drifts whilst still being able to spot unwanted plants (ok weeds if you will) is to plant your seeds in lines in one direction and then plant seeds in lines crossing the previously planted lines. This way you end up with lovely, natural looking, drifts of plants without getting your seedlings confused with weeds.

Forget some of the modern cultivated double flowers in this garden – they are not rewarding to your garden friends at all, many do not provide nectar! Concentrate on the old cottage varieties and make sure there are some night scented varieties such as night scented stocks to encourage the moths in.

Cottage Garden L Maiden

Cottage Garden L Maiden

Also make sure there is a good long season. With our strange weather and increasingly confused seasons it is important to ensure there are flowers early and late on in the year. As I write this we have gone through an extremely warm November and I am seeing bees and red admirals seeking out food.

Having a herb garden is also useful to both insects and yourself, so try and incorporate one into your planting scheme.

In order to help you plan a wonderful garden the RHS and Wildlife Trusts have come up with this great list of plants.

Planting suggestions

Early-season nectar plants

Aubretia (Aubretia)
English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)
Flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum)
Grape hyacinth (Muscari botryoides)
Lungwort (Pulmonaria spp)
Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
Sweet violet (Viola odorata)
Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)
Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa)
Yellow alyssum (Alyssum saxitile)

Mid-season nectar plants

Buddleia (Buddleja davidii)
Heather (Calluna vulgaris)
Lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum)
Lavender (Lavendula spp)
Mallow (Lavatera spp)
Purple toadflax (Linaria purpurea)
Rock cress (Arabis caucasica)
Sea holly (Eryngium maritimum)
Verbena (Verbena bonariensis)
Wallflower (Erysimum cheiri)

Late-season nectar plants

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
French marigold (Tagetes spp)
Golden rod (Solidago candensis)
Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp)
Ice plant (Sedum spectabile)
Ivy (Hedera helix)
Meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale)
Michaelmas daisies (Aster novi-belgii)
Perennial sunflower (Helianthus spp)
Red valerian (Centranthus rubra)

Herbs

Angelica (Angelica spp)
Borage (Borago officinalis)
Catmint (Nepeta spp)
Chives (Allium shoenoprasam)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
Mint (Mentha spp)
Rosemary (Rosmarimus officinalis)
Thyme (Thymus spp)
Wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare)