A Passion for Bees by Kevin Line

Passion flower. Photo Kevin Line

I have always found myself constantly transfixed in wonderment at the sight of bees escorting each other around the amazing structure of the flower heads of passion flower (Passiflora), busily going about their work picking up nectar as a food source, and transporting pollen.

The open structure of these incredible flowers comprise fine white filaments and anthers (male reproductive organs) and the tripartite stigma (female reproductive organs) which protrudes from the centre of the flower head. Honey bees are drawn into these landing pads; a magnetic force of nature. 

Passiflora are native to South America and introduced throughout the tropics. Although non-native, diversification can be a positive thing for wildlife. This subject area between planting native and non-native species can become too complicated for words.

I have just planted Passiflora caerulea into our newly developing flower border which is sited south/west, against an attractive wooden trellis as a means of support for climbers. 

Passiflora caerulea is a hardy species of Passion flower, some species are better suited for cultivating within conservatories. Passiflora will thrive in full sun to part shade, but it's important not to let the soil dry out. Cultivation requirements are so important in terms of getting the very best from every climber, shrub, perennial, annual which may be geared for attracting wildlife into the garden. If we fall short on that important part, we fall short on wildlife. I think its a simple guide to remind ourselves. 

I will cover the pruning technique of Passiflora next spring to achieve maximum flowers for maximum bees to visit these flowering gems. 

It may seem hard to believe when you plant a climber such as this in the month of May that it will produce any flowers at all in the first season! But keep moist, feed with liquid seaweed feed (organic and wildlife friendly) once a week, at the base into the roots, and you'll be surprised at the results  nature will reward you with. Stand back and wait for the bees to arrive, they love it!

Passiflora will keep the bees happy from mid to late summer, even into autumn with the remarkable flowering displays. If lucky, Passiflora will reward you with edible decorative egg shaped fruits with the colour tones of orange/gold. Expect some  of these fallen fruits to be pecked at from the birds which visit the garden.

Kevin Line is a Plantsperson, Head Gardener, and Conservationist, who has worked in horticulture for a lifetime. Kevin's background includes:

  • Glasshouse crop production
  • Freelance gardener
  • Undergardener, Buscot Park, National Trust, Oxfordshire
  • Assistant Head Gardener, BBC Gardeners World Garden, Stratford Upon Avon
  • Head Gardener, North Cotswolds, (National Gardens Scheme)
  • Plantsperson, currently developing two country house hotel gardens, one of which is the Ryebeck Hotel, Bowness On Windermere, developing a wildlife garden and opening it for the National Gardens Scheme.

Kevin is a member of Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation, RSPB, Hardy Plant Society, International Lilac Society (USA), Royal Horticultural Society, National Trust. 
Volunteer Gardener for the National Health Service, 2017, ongoing.

Kevin has contributed articles for the past 11 years for specialist and populist gardening magazines and journals, he has been the stand-in writer on Plant Focus features for the industry magazine Horticulture Week since 2013. Kevin currently contributes to the National Grow Your Own magazine on the concept of Vegan Gardening.

Kevin Line

Kevin Line