Bee on Echinacea

Plants To Entice Bees To Your Garden


Rudbeckia, sedums and grass

*** It’s very important to have flowers all season long, from February to frost, to satisfy the early Masons right through to the late season foragers. Plant several of each, as bees like to ensconce themselves in a big patch of their favourite flowers and just hang out, gathering pollen and sipping nectar in the sun.

***Bees are classified according to their tongue length! A variety of flower shapes from flat daisies to large convoluted and tubular blossoms will keep them all happy.

***Let your herbs and veggies (especially brassicas) go to flower; all kinds of bees and beneficial insects will thank you.

***Try to keep all pollinator plants watered in times of drought. They may survive well without water, but their nectar supply dwindles, dries up without regular water, depriving the bees of an important source of carbohydrate.

***Bees and all insects need a source of water. Bird baths are good, but the pollinators all need a perch to stand on, put a large flat rock in with the water. Even the smaller birds will find this helpful. An interesting fact is that conifers planted in the garden hold the morning dew amongst their needles, providing a drink for the smaller critters.

The list below is far from a comprehensive list, but highlights of some of the best.


Oregon Grape (Mahonia); our native Mason bees, bumble bees

Pieris; all varieties flower early, loved by Mason bees

Red-flowering currant (Ribes) important source for Masons

Winter heathers (Erica); often seen swarming with bumbles and honey bees here at the nursery

Sweetbox (Sarcococca); shrub, flowers early and loved by emerging bumblebees

Clover in the lawn, allowed to flower, attracts many bees. Wear shoes!

Bluebells; while somewhat weedy, they are great for long-tongued bees

Foxgloves (Digitalis); big clumsy bumbles love them, also Masons and others

Camas; important early source of pollen for queen bumblebees

Shooting star (Dodecatheon); native, bees hang upside down to access nectar and pollen; an important bumble bee plant


Shasta and bee

Shasta and bee


Blanket flower (Gaillardia) has 32% sugar content in nectar, a stellar bee plant

Gayfeather (Liatris); late blooming honey plant; large swath for best effect

Hyssop (Agastache); special value to native bees, and significant to bumblebees

Lavender; another plant that is always swarmed at the nursery

Coneflower (Echinacea) attracts many different bees with its vibrant colour petals

Sunflower; one of the best for all summer bees, attracting from a long distance

Ocean Spray (Holodiscus); native shrub, good for butterfly larvae and native bees

Russian Sage (Perovskia); purple colour loved by honey bees and bumble Queens

Catmint (Nepeta); honey bees and bumble bees collect both pollen and nectar

Goldenrod (Solidago) draws native bees and bumblebees, acid yellow colour

Vine Maple (Acer Circinatum) native tree for native bees, host for Swallowtail

Wild rose (Rosa nutkana) loved by leafcutter bees, host for many butterflies.

Aster; fall source of pollen and nectar, a very important plant for bees

Sneezeweed (Helenium); always covered in honeybees!

Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium); fall honey plant, also native bees and butterflies

Sedum, especially Autumn Joy, is covered with honey bees in late summer and fall

To really see which plants are pollinator favourites, just walk through the nursery at any time of year. The bees will tell you!









fresh new beans in August 6 scaled

The Magical Bean

By Faye

Fortex beans in August

Fortex beans in August

For the snap and crunch of a perfect green bean, nothing comes close to the bean you grow yourself. Those hollow, stringy supermarket beans should be banned!

Beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow; the perfect crop for a beginner. They even make their own fertilizer! Beans are legumes, and all legumes convert nitrogen found in the air to a usable form, evident by small white nodules on their roots.  Legumes have a relationship with Rhizobia bacteria in the soil, which enables the nitrogen-fixing process. All they ask is regular moisture, warm sunshine, and a moderate amount of organic material in the soil. Don’t add manure, and don’t over fertilize. Excessive nitrogen in the soil will produce a large plant with poor pod set and delayed maturity. A bean crop that has lots of flowers but few pods may have a zinc deficiency, which can be remedied by foliar feeding with liquid seaweed. Because beans have a relatively light nutrient demand on the soil, crop rotation for fertility needs is less important than for some other crops. They grow happily with other veggies except for onions, which they dislike.

Scarlet Runner Bean root after 1 week

Scarlet Runner Bean root after 1 week

PLANTING:  Warmth is essential for germination; cold soil will result in rot and sporadic germination, so wait until at least mid-May if direct-sowing.  For this reason, pre-sprouting in a warm room in damp vermiculite has been my habit for both peas and beans, using a well-draining tray and dense sowing of seeds. They root in less than a week, with 100% germination and no critter predation. Harden off, and plant outside when weather permits.

Talk about the magic of the bean; look at those roots!

The vision of a bean seed’s emerging root at one end, and a leaf at the other end, is surely one of gardening’s wonders, and reason enough to try the vermiculite.



*Indeterminate: Will need tall poles to climb around.
*Produce over a longer period, yielding more beans in a smaller area.
*Can be grown in a large container, but keeping soil adequately moist can be difficult. Smaller yield.
*If using a ‘teepee’ of poles, plant 5-6 beans at each pole base.
*Limited sun? ‘Purple Peacock’ is a variety suitable for cooler areas with less than full sun.
*Pick often, don’t let the pods get old, tough and lumpy. Eat while young and tender. Once pods get full and start to ripen off, the plant shuts down production to make seed.


*Determinate, usually about 2 ½ feet tall.
*Produce a large crop quickly, within a couple of weeks or so.
*Successive sowing from mid-May to late June, every 2-3 weeks, will provide a longer yield.

Runner Beans germinating in vermiculite

Runner Beans germinating in vermiculite


*Botanically distinct from Bush and Pole beans. While all beans are legumes, these belong to a different species.
*Pollinated by bees and hummingbirds, a bonus! Other beans are self-fertile.
*Prefer cool summer weather, needing more moisture and cool roots.


*Shelling bean.
*Plant in October for early spring eating, or in February/March for summer eating.
*Allow bean to fill out and harden in the pod, then shell when dry.


*Edamame, the best known soya bean, has been cultivated in China and Korea since 5000 BC, and is now a staple in Japanese cuisine.
*Not suitable for containers.
*Never soak the seed before planting.
*Must be cooked, and pod not edible.

Whether eaten raw or cooked, the green bean has earned a place of honour at our summer table. For its high nutritional kick, beauty in the garden and ease of growing, this magical bean deserves a star.


basil starts in jiffy pelle

Potting On The Tomato And Basil Seedlings

First published May 8, 2011 – It’s early May, and the tomatoes are now well established in the seeding trays, ready to move into larger pots.

They have been ready to move for at least three weeks now, but it’s funny how bad weather outside makes one not believe the reality that spring is coming, and even some indoor garden chores get neglected.

Tomato seedlings on right were moved out to greenhouse earlier than the ones on the left.

Most of the tomatoes have remained in the laundry room under the lights until now. However, this does make them lanky and weak. The one variety that I did move out to the greenhouse earlier looks shorter and stronger than the ones in the house. As this was my first try at “tough love” with the seedlings, I was hesitant to move all of them out at once.

This is my main lesson learned this spring—pot the seedlings on earlier; get them into real soil as soon as possible, where they will grow sturdy and strong.

I started some of the tomatoes and all of the basil in the Jiffy Pellets, as mentioned in my blog on April 3.  The basil is better than previous crops; it has remained short and healthy, not leggy. I think the mix in the Jiffy Pellets may be well suited to its needs. They too are ready for larger pots and real soil.

Basil starts in Jiffy pellets.

The tomatoes grown in the Jiffy Pellets seem to have a smaller root mass than those started in starter mix, yet the tops are significantly bigger. This was a surprise. The clean and easy process of growing in these pellets may well make the slower root growth worth it, but the final product is all that matters, so I’ll let you know.

Remember, each time you pot your tomatoes up to a larger pot, strip off lower leaves and bury the plant a little deeper.  The soil mix for the 4” pot stage can be just sterilized potting soil, but Linda’s book Backyard Bounty gives a recipe you can make yourself; 1 part each finished compost (either home-grown or purchased), perlite or vermiculite, coir or peat, and the best garden soil you have; (home-grown or purchased). I must confess that the mix I used was simply the Growell bagged garden soil we sell at the nursery, amended liberally with the seed starting mix, which is primarily the other ingredients anyway.  I will fertilize weekly, alternating half strength solutions of liquid seaweed with liquid fish.

Don’t be too eager to move your newly potted seedlings outside, they must be hardened off slowly; bringing them in each night until the minimum temperature is reliably 12 degrees or above. This year, it may be July!!!  An unheated greenhouse or cold frame is the best place for them now,  but be careful to leave the door open when (or if!) there is any sun, it can very quickly get too hot. Plants need to get used to sunshine and wind just as much as they need to get used to the cold.

It’s still too cold outside for the basil, so while they will benefit from the better soil and more room in a 4” pot, keep them inside under the lights until it warms up and eventually pot them up into larger containers; I find basil just doesn’t do well in the ground.

Around the May long weekend, or early June this year, the tomatoes should be tough enough to be planted outside; I’ll write more about this later, but you want to get them as big and strong as possible before this move.

For those looking for seedlings to purchase, now is a good time to buy them in 4” pots or the 6 pack, and follow the potting up routine above.  Summer will come, even if late, and you don’t want to miss those juicy red fruits along with basil, good bread, balsamic……….



Waking Up The Mason Bees

Cleaned trays put back in the house.

With the hope that spring has arrived, and the promise of all that luscious fruit from your trees and bushes, it’s time to think about releasing your mason bees from their refrigerated snooze.  Check out our webpage for more details on Mason Bee Releasing.

If you do have an orchard with trees that blossom at different times and lots of mason bee cocoons, put out a batch now and follow up with the rest later, timing subsequent releases to coincide with the swelling of the buds on the fruit trees.

My release box is just a little cardboard box that jewellery came in, with a hole cut for the bees to crawl out. You can actually see some of the cocoons inside. When I place it inside the bee house, I recess it a bit, so there is a platform for the bees to rest before flying off. Some people actually put the cocoons back inside the bee house, making sure to put the female cocoons towards the back, as the males crawl out first. Any small container is fine. Don’t make the holes too big, or predators could get in.
It could be placed beside the house, on top of the house, etc, but I find the little extra space on top of the bee trays to be perfectly safe, and the bees seem to like it too.