a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

New bee plants in the garden


Last March we bought some plants for the garden from a beekeeper, Jacky Borie, in the Dordogne who also sells a variety of trees and plants known for their production of nectar and honey.  At this time I had not realised the difference from buying your plants from a sure source like this or buying one from a nursery nicely marked with a label showing a bee or butterfly.  The difference, I found out later, is that the nursery plant could quite well have been treated with neonicotinamide pesticides despite its pretty label.  Professor Dave Goulson appealed for funds and surpassed his target to enable an attempt to see how pollinator friendly plants are treated.  For a better explanation see https://walacea.com/campaigns/pesticides-neonics-and-bees-keeping-bees-safe-in-our-gardens/


I shall start with a partial success with the Lycium barbarum, partial, as the poor plants caught mildew.  Nevertheless, they survived which is more than most of ours and our neighbours tomatoes did.  No Goji berries despite the bees intervention but it is early days yet as these are just little plants.


All the plants I received did very well and the Baccharis, in the middle of the picture, has shot up and is in flower at the moment.  I am wondering if it could be Baccharis dracunculifolia, but I have no species name.


It is an evergreen and should reach 2-3 metres tall, which sounds good to me but so far the bees have passed it by.  The insignificant white flowers that are open at the moment are not attracting the notice of any bees or other pollinators.


This is my Le Leonure which is reputed to make very good honey.  My three plants have had a vigorous start and I will try to group them together for next year but I’ll have to be quick about it as the shoots are lost in winter, to regrow from the base.  Here I am even lost for a genus name but perhaps things will become clearer next year.


I think the most successful has been the Elsholtzia stauntonii (full Latin name!).  They shot up, one in the shade and one in the hot afternoon sun.


I even have seen bees on the flowers which last for a long time.


I did buy three but the third one was little and quickly succumbed.  However, I was delighted to see a new shoot appear from the base and I have been carefully watering it until I notice today that it has a little pink (?) flower at its summit.  On closer inspection the leaves do not match and it looks quite possible that I have been nurturing a weed for the past few months.

I have been pleased with my purchases and I am already perusing his catalogue to order another batch of his young plants which are a very reasonable price.


I am also pleased that my,  Physostegia virginiana, or Obedient plant attracts the bees.


In fact, they disappear completely inside them for several seconds.

The name Obedient plant struck me as odd until Sue at Back Yard Biology explained that you can manually twist the flower head and it will stay in its new position!  I rushed straight out to see if it did and it works.  I like the idea of a poseable plant.  The young flower heads are malleable and will stay in place but the old heads that are heavy and going to seed are passed it to play with.




Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

31 thoughts on “New bee plants in the garden

  1. I have been growing goji bushes for four years now, they are scruffy, sprawly, have some flowers that the bees like but virtually no fruit at all . I am thinking of digging them up . I would be interested to hear how yours produce.


    • I believe they are pretty scraggy in growth form. My friend Michel was saying the same as you. However, the common Lyciet will grow on stony ground and has a remarkable resistance to drought. I have a very tricky, stony spot in ful sun in the garden and I was thinking of putting them there. If you have a problem area perhaps you could try them out there first? Amelia


  2. I think your unknown plant might be Siberian motherwort (Leonurus sibiricus) which is also called honey weed. The bees should love it with a name like that!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. ha ha. I’m glad it worked — or it might have been just one of those old wives’ tales.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I contacted our local nursery to ask about neonics. They told me they didnt use any themselves on plants but they couldnt be sure about their suppliers and it would take too long to find out that information!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think these days many “nurseries” are more like supermarkets and do not actually grow any plants themselves. Many plants are grown in Europe using intensive methods to produce very large quantities for export. Amelia


  5. Earlier this year I re-blogged a post about the treatment of supposedly bee friendly plants, we need to be vigilant when buying plants for the garden, you are lucky to have found a reliable source.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I wasn’t aware of the treatment with neonics – it’s appalling, and I don’t see how it can be within the law to sell something as pollinator-friendly if it is treated with them. Baffling.
    Bees may possibly self-medicate. Dr Hauke Koch at Kew/Wakehurst in the UK is doing research into bumble bees’ foraging habits to study this – thyme, for example, may well be a medicinal herb for them. I think a truly diverse herb garden is possibly the best source of food for insects, and many herbs can be propagated by the gardener either from cuttings (rosemary etc) or from saved seeds (basil, parsley, rocket etc).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. For fungal problems with plants, I heard from a beekeeper today that spraying a diluted tincture of propolis may be effective. Never tried it – but it might be worth trying.


    • This is only our second year and we have not collected a lot of propolis. It is very difficult to dissolve even in alcohol but the tincture is used for different applications, even for spraying inside new beehives. Amelia


  8. This is such a depressing problem Amelia, if only man would wake up and realise what we are doing to this planet and respect the insects that serve us or have served us so well for thousands of years. Its really hard over here to find suppliers willing to produce plants without spraying and following the brexit vote its likely we will have even less protective legislation. In my own garden I grow from organically produced seed but apart from campaigning for change I cannot control what goes on beyond my own plot. But as gardeners we can do lots to help and hopefully help to provide green neonic free corridors. Despite a hot dry summer there have been far fewer insects here, even annoying house flies have hardly made an appearance. Hopefully we can make a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: New bee plants in the garden | a french garden – WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

  10. If only the wider public were as careful about where plants are sourced.


  11. You wouldn’t be the first to lovingly nurture a world class weed! I, too, am always upgrading my bee plants. If you hear of any that boast a high protein pollen, give a shout.


    • I have been trying to give them a variety of plants that I am able to grow and will also attract the wild bees. I have not been concentrating on protein and some of the high protein yielding like Echium vulgare (Viper’s bugloss) are difficult to grow in large quantities in a garden. Linden trees are noted to be excellent but I have only got two although trees can produce a lot more pollen than if you plant a few perennials. White clover is excellent but there again difficult in the garden. Gorse is considered a good source and luckily there s a lot around us as it is not something I would bring into the garden. Phacelia is also supposed to have higher than average protein and that I have been planting at different times in the vegetable garden and then digging it in as a green manure after the flowers finish. We have a much longer growing season here too. If I do here about any special plant I will let you know 🙂 Amelia


  12. Hello Amelia,
    An interesting post. I wonder whether, with your Baccharis, it needs to have a few more flowers on it first…ie get bigger? I’ve found over several years, that plants which don’t seem to appeal to anything initially, do begin to, once they reach a certain critical mass, in terms of size or flower numbers – I suppose in gardens like yours with lots of great nectar /pollen sources, the bees/whatever will go to the most productive/easiest sources first, and that will in part depend on sheer numbers of flowers?
    Best wishes


    • Honey bees usually go for numbers and have less of a tendency to forage here and there on different flowers. The bumbles and Carpenters are more opportunistic foragers and I did not even see a bumble on these very accessible flowers. I wonder also if a plant takes time to set “quality” flowers. Over here I notice the competition effect and the Baccharis had to compete with the Ivy. The ivy over here is huge and it goes on for a long time as the plants growing in the sun flower before those in the shade. It grows very high into the trees here and all I can do is smell the flowers and hear the bees, but of course, it attracts a lot of other pollinators too. I agree with you that the larger number of flowers attracts more bees. I started to plant years ago by planting something here and something there where I had some soil that was ready for planting. Now I would want to group the flowers together so I will need to move some things. However, garden design is not my forte, although it is so important. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Good tip, I’m trying to be more careful with how I source plants for my garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Indeed, it’s wake up time. Thanks for sharing this, Amelia!
    Sunny greetings from the North,

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: A Pollinator Garden Abstract – stbarbebaker

  16. Pingback: Bee Love: Planting a Bee Garden | The Barefoot Aya

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s