Use roses as bee magnets for your veggie garden
Did you know that 70% of the food we eat depends on being pollinated by bees?
Summer squash like zucchini and gem squash, as well as cucumbers, particularly rely on bees to pollinate their flowers, as do tomatoes, peppers and brinjals.
Scientists have now found out that buzzing over a bloom, flapping their wings, makes a slight positive electrical charge and they sense the slight negative electrical charge of the bloom that needs pollinating. Once a bloom is pollinated it emits a no vacancy signal with a positive charge.
How do they find flowers and remain faithful to a specific plant species?
The bee’s senses are adapted to signals of the flowers – the colour and the scent. It is a reflection of ultraviolet light from the flowers they detect, but also the direction of the scent they are able detect with their antennae.
Bees remain faithful to a productive plant species until it stops flowering. That is important since there would be no fertilisation for a bee to fly from a rose bloom to a Calendula or a strawberry.
Observing bee activity amongst mixed rose bed is also interesting. They will land on half open hybrid tea blooms and desperately trying to find a way through the loosely folded petals to get to nectar and pollen. They might buzz over an older open bloom and then soon look for another. In some large, fresh open blooms one might find several bees actively moving around getting the pollen to stick to their legs.
In selecting bee-friendly plants for the garden, have you ever considered single or semi-double roses? White, yellow, and pale pink roses act as a magnet for bees and also attract butterflies. With their exposed stamens and pistels, the pollen is always fresh, and the bees love it.
Being repeat flowering modern roses, they have a long flowering season, which means that there are always flowers for the bees. It is also important to plant enough roses, close together, and in the vicinity of the vegetables so that bees don’t use up their energy hunting for pollen.
That doesn’t mean sacrificing growing space for vegetables. Train climbing or willowy shrub roses against a trellis on walls bordering the vegetable garden or use the rose-covered trellis as a flowering wall.
There is no reason why an edible garden can’t be beautiful. Frame the entrance with an archway and train a rose over it. Place an obelisk in the centre of a bed or as a focal point, with a rose trained around it. Line a garden pathway with low growing shrub roses, or place large rose-filled containers around the garden as features.
Roses and vegetables are good companions because they like the same growing conditions: fertile, well-drained soil and regular watering. Select disease resistant and naturally healthy Eco-chic roses and there is no need to spray.
Take your pick from these bee-friendly roses:
- ‘Mermaid’ is a vigorous climber, with pale yellow blooms and flowers repeatedly.
- ‘Ballerina’ produces large trusses of small, single flowers in shades of pink and white on arching, graceful stems.
- ‘Starry Eyed’ grows into a free-standing willowy shrub 2m high and 3m wide. It is ideal for training up pillars, over arches and onto walls.
- ‘Cocktail’ is a favourite, flowering throughout the season with bright orange-red blooms and a yellow eye.
- Simply Charming is a stately chest high shrub that is never without its charming five petalled blooms of a very interesting dappled pink with prominent stamens in the centre. It can be trained on a trellis.
- ‘Single White’ is a self-cleaning, low maintenance shrublet that produces clusters of single white flowers. It has a spreading growth and performs well in a large container too.
- Butterfly Kisses’ is a very healthy, free flowering rose that grows to hip height and attracts both butterflies and bees. It produces large sprays of 25 to 45 single blooms through to winter.
- ‘Pixie Hat’ has clusters of bright red small 5 petalled blooms that remind one of pixie hats. As the outer stems arch from the weight on blooms new stems take their place and the bush is covered in flowers well into winter. Grows about 1.1m high.
Try these in containers
- Johannesburg Garden Club’, a neat shrub, growing about 1.1m high, covered with delicate soft coral coloured blooms. A mutation (sport) of that rose is ‘Duncan’s Rose’ with deep pink single blooms.
- ‘Yellow Butterfly’ has blooms that look like a flock of butterflies on the bush. Is a neat little shrub, producing wave upon wave of blooms into winter. Excels in a container, or as a hedge.
Grows about 0.8m high.
- ‘Fortuna’ is a compact floribunda with unmatched flower power. The dense clusters of brilliant pink, five-petalled blooms weigh down the bush. The growth is slightly spreading
but very neat and below knee height.
Click here for a complete listing of our bee friendly roses. For your convenience we mark them with a bee symbol in the catalogue.