Easy flower for bees

26 April 2013

Dead nettles (lamiums) are not the same family as stinging nettles – I guess the related names come from them having similar leaf shapes. They don’t sting, and are superb plants for bees. There are some that are usually classed as wild flowers, and some which have been developed from the original wild flowers to become “garden plants”. I grow four different sorts in my garden.

I’ve already written about red dead nettle, and how good it is as a very early nectar plant (4 April 2013). The next one which comes out in my garden is the white dead nettle, which I think is a very pretty plant; it spreads quite vigorously, but I don’t find it too difficult to keep under control. I sat out on the patio yesterday, trying (and failing) to get photos of blackcaps, when I noticed what I think was a red tailed bumblebee. It first tried the aubretia, but didn’t stay long, then it found a single spike of white dead nettle growing in a nicely sheltered spot between two pots, and spent quite a time working its way round the flowers. It then took off and did the round of various other flowers it came across: hyacinth (no interest), primrose (some interest), dandelion (some interest) and then came back to the white dead nettle for another go.

Left: white dead nettle. Right: Yellow Lamium

Left: white dead nettle. Right: Yellow Lamium

The yellow lamium in my garden has a variegated leaf, so it must be a cultivated variety of the wild yellow archangel. It can be very invasive: like most difficult plants, it is good in the right place – it will take shade and poor soil under trees, and if you can keep it contained it is a good plant; if you can’t, it’s a nightmare.

Lamium 'White Nancy'

Lamium ‘White Nancy’

The other lamium I’ve got is definitely a cultivated variety: lamium ‘White Nancy”. It also has variegated leaves, and the white of the flowers along with the silver in the leaves make it a lovely plant for a cool effect. I actually have some trouble keeping this going – it seems to do better if you root new plants regularly, as big plants can fade away (or be eaten?), or it could be that I just haven’t found the right place for it yet. I don’t seem to have taken a photo of it, which surprises me, but the one shown left is courtesy of www.findmeplants.co.uk, who I guess won’t mind the publicity!

This is a bee plant rather than a butterfly plant because of the shape of the flowers: bees can use it, but butterflies cannot. They are easy to grow and pretty – try some.

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