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create A BUZZ; June is a tough time for bees, as gardens wait for summer blooms to burst into colour, so plan ahead to keep the humble bumblebee afloat.

Byline: CAROL KLEIN

Beekeepers and gardeners both use the term June Gap - although they approach the problem from different perspectives.

It refers to the dearth of blooms between the demise of spring flowers - many of them shade-loving plants, hedgerow shrubs and early-flowering trees - and the emergence of early perennials, annuals and summer shrubs.

For gardeners, it tends to be a green lull between periods of colour.

For bees and other pollinating insects, it can mean a prolonged and desperate search for pollen and nectar, vital for survival.

Hives are busy now and populations have increased - there are more hungry mouths to feed.

More and more of us gardeners are recognising the responsibility we bear to wildlife in general. We share our gardens with a host of creatures - some visible, many unseen.

We are all part of the same chain. And though the part we choose to play is a question of individual conscience, the great majority of us realise our actions have consequences.

We know that gardening organically leaves a lighter footprint on the earth compared to relying on chemicals and using them on every possible occasion.

Botanists, biologists and beekeepers often remind us just how important it is to try to have something in bloom in most, if not every, month. There are bees on the wing visiting snowdrops, pulmonarias and hellebores in February and occasionally even January. So what can we grow to stock our bee cafes in June? Looking round the garden, it is easy to spot flowers that are doing their thing now. We have multitudes of geraniums here and they are all popular with winged visitors.

There are geraniums - or to give them their colloquial title, cranesbills - that are happy in every kind of habitat.

Whether your garden is in deepest shade or brightest sun, on heavy clay or free-draining sand, there will be a selection that will thrive and provide much-needed sustenance.

It is always fascinating to watch a flotilla of tiny bumblebees visiting Geranium phaeum, the mourning widow cranesbill.

No doubt they visit other flowers but at the moment they seem to obsess about this one. There is a white form, too, and a lovely lavender variety for those not into gothic flowers.

Geranium phaeum loves shade and joining it underneath the trees are two other woodlanders, Geranium maculatum and Geranium sylvaticum.

In our heavy-clay soil, we can grow them out in the open and sunshine helps pollen flow more freely.

Our native cranesbill, Geranium pratense, starts to flower now, accompanying the vivid magenta blooms of Geranium psilostemon.

In the same borders, umbels arrive to help save the day. This huge family of plants, now known as apiaceae, (apis is the Latin for bee), have their flowers arranged in plateaux, making a convenient landing pad for insects.

Sometimes several bees, hoverflies and an occasional butterfly visit concurrently, gorging on nectar.

Cow parsley, including Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing', has branching stems loaded with heads of fluffy flowers and a pink form of a British native, Pimpinella major 'Rosea' comes into its own in June.

It mingles with astrantias, which also belong to the same family and are great insect plants.

Foxgloves are favourites with bees and whether you are a little child or a great big grown-up, it's hilarious to watch big fat bumblebees zoom into their pendulous bells and struggle out backwards. Any of the forms of our native foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, including apricot and pure white varieties, are full of pollen and nectar.

The more natives you can include, the better. Go for single flowers that are the richest source of food and simple, open, shapes - try single roses and daisies of all descriptions. Wherever you can, use flowers that will offer refreshment and sustenance through the June Gap.

HIVES ARE BUSY AND POPULATIONS INCREASING, THERE ARE MORE HUNGRY MOUTHS TO FEED - SO WE HAVE TO STOCK OUR BEE CAFES NOW

CAPTION(S):

JUST THE STING Carol with bee friendly Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'

WINGING IT Bees love Geranium pratense, or cranesbill, left. Above, foxgloves are another pollen favourite
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 14, 2015
Words:675
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