Planting for the Bees in a Permaculture Garden

London pride on the steps at Bealtaine Cottage

London Pride ready to open flower on the steps at Bealtaine Cottage.

Years of pushing and shoving by these delicate looking little plants have finally eradicated the creeping buttercup in the heavy clay soil.

Bees at Bealtaine Cottage

It’s at this time of year that bees are working hard and sometimes gardens are bereft of food for the bees.

Not here!

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I have a policy that is enshrined in Bealtaine cottage gardens…plant for the bees, the birds and then myself, always in that order!

Cordyline at Bealtaine Cottage IrelandOne of the plants that was so severely damaged by frost several years ago has made a comeback!

This is the tropical Cordyline, growing here thanks to the Gulf Stream.

That means an early start to the growing year and bees follow the same pattern, sometimes emerging as early as late February! 017

So food at the ready is vital for them!

Ribes, or flowering currant, is a wonderful source of nectar for the hungry bees!

Missy and the wind spiral

The smallest bit of sunshine and the garden starts to look like paradise!

Missy passes a lush looking Comfrey.

Bee on Nasturtium flower at Bealtaine Cottage

The flowers of the Comfrey plant are truly Bee-Loved, as are the flowers of the humble and easy to grow Nasturtium!

The leaves of the Comfrey will be cut and scattered around the apple trees, creating a source of liquid feed as the rain falls…as it does frequently here in the West of Ireland!

Apple trees in blossom at Bealtaine Cottage permaculture orchard

These trees never disappoint, year after year, with heavy blossom and heavy crops of perfect apples that have never been sprayed…never!

The bees are busy into the night around the orchards.

So plant fruit trees for the bees too!

Apple tree underplanted with Blackcurrants in permaculture gardens of Bealtaine CottageThere are over 40 fruit trees planted throughout the permaculture gardens.

And here you can see the apple under-planted with blackcurrants…much Bee-Loved!

Honesty underplanted in the orchards of Bealtaine Cottage permaculture gardensVarious flowers are planted beneath these.

Here you can see Honesty in flower under the Blackcurrants…a delight for the bees and sweet-smelling too!

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I plant for bees and this is why there are consistently abundant crops here at Bealtaine Cottage.

In the case of the Cotoneaster above, food for the bees and the birds! 008

The trick is to ensure there is succession planting for the bees.

Bee on Lunaria flower at Bealtaine Cottage

Hungry bees won’t hang around hungry gardens!

Do have a lovely weekend!


  1. Thanks so much for this post, I want to plant up a small shrubbery/semi-wild area for the back of the garden this autumn and it’s lovely to have some inspiring ideas! I’m not allowed to plant trees in this (rented) garden but there’s nothing in the tenancy about large shrubs haha!

  2. We should all be planting for the bees and birds especially as humans have taken away so much of their habitats and continue to do so. Thank you for this post Colette xx

  3. Your garden is so lovely. I dream of someday having a spot of my own again. For the moment I have to settle for everything grown in large pots.So for now I enjoy the beauty and diversity of your garden.
    You speak frequently of the bees and I wondered if you are seeing any problems with the dying off of honey bees in Ireland. Here on this side of the pond we have the problem of the killer bees wiping out colonies of honey bees. It has become a very serious problem for ALL crops. I can’t help but wonder if the treatment of plants with chemicals in the commercial growing world hasn’t helped that along. Will the world listen before it is too late! bj

    • Some bee keepers here in Roscommon have had their colonies wiped out.
      One in particular lost all their bees, but the same people cut down a very old hedgerow!
      I am of the opinion that we are guilty of both starving the bees and treating them as yet another resource to be mined, used, extracted and cast aside!
      From the perspective of Bealtaine Cottage, there appears to be an extravagance of bees…but then I plant for them.
      Many garden centres sell gaudy, over-dressed flowers that are pumped full of chemicals! Enough said!

  4. Lovely photographs! Very spring-like. I love the idea of fruit trees under planted with the currant bushes, though we have done our fruit trees in a more ‘formal’ orchard format with grass for the geese underneath. Our currants are in our “Jam and Jerusalem” hedge (actually ‘Jam and Chutney’ but the nickname stuck!)

  5. What is your secret in never having to spray the apple trees? Mine are instantly attacked the second the bloom is done. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • As much diversity in plants, trees and shrubs as you can pack in…that’s my secret I suppose. The more bio-diversity, the more Nature controls the environment and controls pests.

  6. Lovely! I’m getting ready to plant a bee-friendly mix of flowers in front of our house next week after another delivery of mulch, and the bees’ enjoyment of our abundant dandelions are tempering the overwhelm of keeping up with them.

    I admire your persistence is transforming your blank slate of land from the beginning until now. We are at the very beginning stages of establishing raised beds and building weed-free soil via thick layers of wood mulch in what used to be complete overgrowth of maples and a hodgepodge of non-edible trees. It’s now a wild meadow in town (putting it kindly) with stumps and all manner of as yet unidentified growth.

    Right now, it’s quite a daunting task to view this as beautiful, productive land, but I take heart knowing others have made similar journeys and are now living in paradise. This week, I’ve added forsythia bushes, yarrow, purple cone flower, feverfew, fall asters, forget-me-nots, black-eyed Susan’s, and flowering herbs. Sunflowers will come soon, too. Perhaps they will all duke it out with the dandelions. In the meantime, the bees seem very pleased with their selection, and I have a freezer full of flowers for dandelion wine and jelly, plus plenty of dandelion green smoothies and buds for pickling. It’s a dandelion bonanza, but I am imagining it with much more beauty and diversity. Thanks for the inspiration! ~Laura

Your comments are welcome!