How to bee kind to our bees.
This year has been like a crash course in interior design for lots of people wanting to make their house a haven from all that has been going on in the world. Never before have balconies received so much love and care from us city-dwellers, who have grown to appreciate that slither of outdoor space which we can call our own.
In Amsterdam, we appreciate the outdoors, and those little fluffy, stripey guys that buzz around the flowerpots in the Spring, make honey and fertilise those beautiful Springtime tulips that the city is so famous for. In most cities bee populations are declining, but in Amsterdam honey bee populations have increased 45% since 2000 because of the wildflowers left to grow around the city by the council.
This approach shines such a positive light on our city, and anybody with any outdoor space can bolster this lovely statistic by creating their very own bee-paradise. All it takes is a few plants.
Not everything that smells good also tastes good to the bees. This is why it’s helpful to know which plants cater to their discerning little bee palettes. Some of these plants are also really good for humans to eat, and taste fantastic too! Imagine being able to cook with your very own, homegrown herbs, pollinated by our stripey friends. Bees can see purple better than any other colour so plants that bear purple flowers are sure to attract lots of little bees to your balcony.
Lavender is fantastic for attracting several species of bees, including honey bees and bumblebees, who can’t get enough of its delicious nectar. Flowers will start to appear from June to August and then you can enjoy the fantastic aroma, which is said to be a brilliant sleep aid too.
Thyme is another great, bee-friendly herb that will attract several different species. Common thyme flowers in the Summer too, and when those beautiful purple flowers begin to bloom, you’ll have plenty of gentle little bees buzzing around the balcony.
Sage plants begin to flower in late Spring and they look amazing on balconies, but they are sensitive to cold, so it’s best to cover them on those chilly Amsterdam evenings, until the beautiful flowers begin to bloom. Sage is a fantastic herb to have on hand because its health benefits are many, including the reduction of inflammation. Plus, it’s full of vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy, as well as keeping the bees happy.
Another plant that flowers in the Summer is mint, and we all know how to use mint – margaritas! Need we say more? Mint will grow pretty quickly more or less anywhere, so make sure to prune it back or you will end up with a balcony full of mint.
Borage is so beautiful when it’s in bloom, and the bees love it too! It’s known as the starflower because of the striking shape of its flowers, and although it’s not used a great deal in cooking, it has its uses. You can eat both the leaves and the flowers in salads, or add them to cocktails to add a lovely sweet flavour and impress visitors with beautiful presentation.
Rosemary is one of the hardiest, if not the hardiest herb that you can grow. It will withstand frost, rain and it might even forgive you if you forget to water it. Tiny purple flowers grow all over the plant and bees adore them. Rosemary is such a versatile herb, but we love to throw a couple of sprigs into the roasting tin when we’re roasting potatoes, a cut of meat or some delicious vegetarian protein.
7. Lemon Balm
The scent from the lemon balm leaves alone will have your balcony smelling divine and once its tiny white flowers appear in Summer the bees will begin buzzing around it for some tasty nectar. It’s a fantastic accompaniment to fish, and tastes great in cocktails too, especially those with a tangy or sour taste.
Hyssop is one of the lesser-known herbs and it isn’t used a great deal in cooking, but it’s fantastic for attracting and feeding bees, and it has some lovely qualities. It has a licorice-like taste and should be used in moderation because it can be overpowering. For this reason, it’s great to use in teas, on its own or mixed with other herbs. You can also pair it with very gamey meats like lamb.