The friendly buzz: Planting a herb garden that's the bee's-knees
Posted by: scentandviolet March 31st, 2018
Bees and other pollinators like wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets are known to pack a punch with their stings. However, of the stinging insects, bees are truly "man's best friend." Why? Besides those of the Africanized variety, honey bees aren't quite as liberal with their stingers as others in its category. They're also the producers of that sweet liquid gold known as honey.
Most importantly, bees stand apart from the rest of the bunch because they are the best pollinators. With fuzzy "pollen-magnet" bodies, bees provide flowers a mode of transportation for their pollen. This ensures that plants can reproduce and ultimately go to seed.
Bees are responsible for one out of every three bites we eat. Without bees, the fresh fruit and veggies we enjoy would be a distant memory. Your grandma's fresh tomatoes would never make it past the blossoming stage.
So, what can we do in South Texas to give food to those buzzing buddies of ours? Consider growing bee-friendly herbs as well as your usual fruits and veggies. There are plenty of herbs that can help attract bees to your garden. Bees mean pollination, and pollination means great yields! After all, those prized habaneros won't pollinate themselves. Plus, your squash might taste drab without a little bit of basil or oregano in the skillet. Here's a few bee-friendly herbs that can be grown in South Texas. These herbs aren't just for bees; they're great for use around the home and kitchen!
Lavender has been a favorite herb of bees and human beings alike for thousands of years. The smell is divine, so intense that the ancient Romans used it to scent their bath water! It was such a common practice, in fact, that lavande, the Latin word for wash was also the word used to refer to the lavender flower. Lavender is an easy plant to grow in the heat and humidity of South Texas and attracts bees like nobody's business. The scent is prevalent in the leaves and flowers of both the fresh and dried plants, renown for its relaxing and therapeutic qualities. It's also a delicious culinary herb and brilliant purple decoration for the home.
Catnip isn't just for cats. It makes the neighborhood bees a little buzzed, too! All jokes aside, catnip is in the mint family and thus lives up to the reputation of mints being extremely successful; even to the point of frustration on the part of the gardener! Grow a single plant and soon you'll have bushels of catnip all over your garden. Their beautiful, furry white flower spikes are a wonderful attractant our flying friends. Catnip leaves and flowers can also be made into a relaxing tea that has been used for its anti-anxiety and healing properties since ancient times.
The true king of herbs. It's used widely in virtually every world cuisine, from Thai to Italian. Basil is a must have in any kitchen garden, especially in South Texas. Why? Basil loves heat. It also loves the humidity. It's the perfect summer plant! If you allow it to go to seed - which you should at least once in your life - it produces edible flowers that can be any shade from white to violet. These flowers attract bees like there's no tomorrow!
Beebalm (a.k.a. Horsemint)
It's all in the name! Beebalm is a herb found growing wild across Texas, including the Houston and greater South Texas areas. It's a popular herb for its taste as well as its stunning flowers! There are many varieties, one of the most popular being the Lemon Beebalm for its minty, citrusy smell and taste. It can be used by humans to make a tea as well as potpourri. In fact, it was used to make Oswego Tea, a substitute for black tea by the patriots after their rebellion in the famous Boston Bee Party - I mean, Tea Party. It was a hit with hives then and now.
At Scent and Violet, we work with the products of these important honey-producers every day. These powerful insects are part of what makes our flower arrangements a reality. What's your favorite herb on the list? Do you have any additional favorites that do well in our area? Be sure to let us know!