> If you plant one thing February 07 2014

I was about to say, "If you plant one thing for your honeybees, plant crimson clover."

But I'm rethinking that already. We have a little land, and Jeff plowed about an acre of it in 2010 and sowed crimson clover seed. We have enjoyed this clover probably as much as the bees have. It's attractive, it's a great nectar source and it keeps other growth at bay.

But there are other plants just as easy that work for small patches of yard or for patios. One of my favorites is anise hyssop. A perennial herb, mine is in full sun and comes back each year. The foliage is a deep green, smelling of anise, and the flowers are a lovely lavender color that honeybees seem to fancy.

Lavender is another perennial that bees go crazy over, but it can be difficult to maintain in Tennessee's wet springs and humid summers. We have about 40 lavender plants that have thrived only because they are in full, baking sun and rocky soil. The same goes for rosemary — bees like the delicate blue-purple flowers, but rosemary likes well-drained soil and lots of sun!

If you're interested in building up the "backbone" of your landscape, and also want evergreens, hollies have almost imperceptible little white flowers in the spring that are a prolific nectar source. The same goes for privet and pittosporum.

All this to say, there's really no need to plant things for your bees. They will fly up to three miles from the hive, and they are designed to forage.

In fact, in much of the Southeast, it's quite easy to help provide for the bees — just put off mowing the lawn a few days. That's our excuse, at least. Ignoring the lawn will probably result in lots of white clover, something the bees really like.

So, I'm coming full circle here. I've gone from "if you plant one thing" to "if you ignore one thing."

See? It's that easy to make honeybees happy.



Wildseed Farms, a seed catalog that offers regional wildflower mixes. We sowed an acre with the southeast blend a few years ago, and many of the flowers, like cosmos and gallardia, have re-seeded themselves.

Feed the Bees, a Community Campaign — encourages sustainable bee populations by offering bee friendly planting ideas

The Honeybee Conservancy — lots of garden ideas, plus information about bees that burrow