Author Archives: Helen Rogers

6 Bee Friendly plants that are flowering now in North London

When you plan a garden to support pollinators, it’s essential to focus on flowers for early spring and late autumn. These are pinch points in the year. In the spring colonies need to build up – they need plenty of food to feed their young. In the autumn they are building up their winter reserves so that they can survive until the spring. Here are 6 plants that are flowing now in our garden. They should all keep flowing until we get a frost – for us that can be well into November.

Calendula

Cosmos

This is such a favourite of mine. Years ago I sowed some seeds in our garden and ever since they have seeded themselves around. They start flowering in the late spring and keep going until the frosts. They are officially annuals, so should only last a year, but we have several in our garden that overwinter in sheltered spots. It’s important to pick “single” varieties, otherwise, the bees can’t forage on them.

Autumn Raspberries

Cosmos

This year our summer raspberries were dismal – probably because it was too hot and dry for them. Our autumn raspberries have been far more productive and the canes are still putting out more flowers – there are nearly always a few bees foraging on them every time I walk past. The bonus of these is, of course, the delicious fruit!

Cosmos

Cosmos

I grew these from seed this year and they have been brilliant. I picked a short variety because I wanted them to grow under our washing line – I’ve fallen foul of too tall vegetables getting mixed up in our sheets before. They somehow survived being completely neglected through the super dry summer and since the beginning of September have been continually flowering.

Snapdragons

Cosmos

Again, I grew these from seed this year and they have been flowing since the end of July. If anything, they are flowering more now than they did over the summer months. I love watching bees wrestling to get into these flowers to forage. These are a great colourful alternative to lots of the bedding plants that don’t produce anything worth foraging on (such as Busy Lizzies).

Hebe

Cosmos

The hebe family is absolutely brilliant because there is a member of the family that is in flower more or less at all times of the year. They are evergreen shrubs of various sizes and flowers can be a range of colours. My mother gave me this one. I’m definitely going to add some more varieties to our garden because they are so easy to look after.

Geranium

Cosmos

Like the hebe family, the geranium family is vast and generally pollinator friendly. This particular variety is called Rozanne and is especially good because it flowers continuously from late spring until the frosts. They are great at being neglected and are really reliable. I bought some lovely plants from https://www.rosybee.com/ I really recommend that website too – it has loads of interesting information about planting for bees.

I hope that this has inspired you to plant some pollinator friendly plants in your garden. Now is a great time to plan for next year – if we all make an effort to increase the amount of forage for bees and other pollinators it’ll make a big difference. If you are interested in finding out more about which pollinator friendly plants to grow where then take a look at our book “80 Flowers for Bees”

4 terrific reasons why honey lovers should support the first National Honey Day on 21st October

The British Beekeeping Association (BBKA) is trying to encourage the public to appreciate the benefits of British honey. As part of their campaign they have set up National Honey Day. This will be an annual event, the first will be in just over a week on the 21st of October. This is a great thing for small-scale beekeepers like us. We’ve put together 4 reasons why you should support this special day.

1. A great deal of “honey” that is imported into this country isn’t real honey

Honey is said to be one of the most adulterated foods in the world. Unscrupulous sellers have been found to cut honey with things like corn or rice syrup to make it go further. There is an excellent episode in the series called Rotton available on Netflix about this shady business. Buying directly from your local beekeeper means that you can ask them in person about how their honey is produced.

2. Honey is poorly labelled

At present, the rules about labeling honey for sale mean that the country of origin can be a complete mystery. Putting a jar of honey in a shop with a label that says “A blend of EU and non-EU honey” is perfectly acceptable. This gives no information about where the honey originally came from. The BBKA has started a petition to try and get honey labeling changed. You can sign it here: /https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/honeycake_67599

3. Learn to taste unblended honey

A lot of commercially produced honey is a mixture of honey from various places. The goal of these companies is to produce a consistant product. If you buy a jar of honey of theirs from anywhere in the country it’ll look and taste the same.

I think that this is such a shame – one of the great delights of honey is noticing the variation of flavours, textures, and colours from hive to hive and season to season. I always think that it’d be like collecting all the grapes in France to make “French Wine”. It would be crazy, yet this is exactly what happens with honey.

If you buy honey from a local producer it is likely that you are buying honey that has been made locally. You can always ask them where the honey is from. Lots of small-scale beekeepers now put the postcode of where the hives are situated on their labels, so you can see for yourself.

4. Support a small business

For National Honey Day the BBKA is encouraging everyone to buy a jar of local honey from the UK. If you do this, you will be supporting UK beekeepers, many are small businesses that will be so happy to introduce you to your local honey.

Honey and Apple Tradition for Rosh Hashanah

The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah is coming up at the end of September. Traditionally, various symbolic foods are eaten over the two day holiday. One of these is apple slices dipped in honey – symbolizing hope for a sweet year ahead.

I’ve read many theories why honey and apples are used – I suspect the true reasons have been lost in the mists of time. It is an important reminder that honey was really the only availibale sweetener for thousends of years. It was available long before sugar and maple syrup was discovered. This is one of the reasons that honey was very highly valued.

Many people also have honey cake as part of their celebrations. There are numerous recipies available, but one of my favourites is this: James Martin’s Honey Cake

We have been supplying honey to our local Jewish community for many years, and are always so pleased when people choose our honey as part of their celebrations.

If you would like to buy some of our honey, which is all produced in North London, it is avaliable from our website shop here

Apples and honey

Introducing our All Natural Beekeeper’s Soap Range

IMG_5777

In our family we have several people with very sensitive skin. Finding soap that doesn’t irritate their skin has been a challenge for years. We also aren’t keen on heavily scented products, especially the sort where the aroma sticks around for far too long.

We decided to try making our own, completely unscented soap, using all natural ingredients. The result was wonderful – a soap that lathers beautifully and cleans well.

We loved it so much, that we thought that you might enjoy it too. We’ve created three types of soap – all use beeswax from our own hives. The All Natural Beekeeper’s Soap and The All Natural Beekeeper’s Soap with Oats also use our own honey. We’ve avoided using any palm oil and any added scents.

In line with our minimal packaging ethos, we’ve avoided packing them in plastic and just use a simple paper label.

They are available to buy from our website shop here.

IMG_5784

Planning your garden to best help bees

It’s the time of the year when all the seed and bedding plant catalogues arrive through our letter boxes. It’s so easy to get carried away by all the bright colours and glossy pages!

Unfortunately many bedding plants have very little or any nutritional value for bees. They have been bred to appeal to our senses and not to feed pollinators. Over the years of intensive breeding, most of these annual bedding plants are now sterile and can’t produce any pollen or nectar. They are raised in vast factories of hydroponics and are so far removed from nature. They are completely useless to bees.

If we are serious about helping bees to thrive, it is vitally important that we pick our plants wisely. Don’t forget, that without pollinators our diets will be severely restricted.

Plants to avoid

If you would like to find out more about the best plants to pick to benefit bees, then take a look at our book – 80 Flowers for Bees. Available here.

IMG_0811 IMG_0809

Introducing our new project #2022inbloom

If you follow us on instagram, you may have seen that this year we have partnered up with Shilpa Agashe for a fun project for the year.

The idea is that we post pictures of the flowers that we see while we go about our business each day. Shilpa is a wonderful artist and she often draws what she sees. We are focusing on flowers that are particularly beneficial for bees.

We’d love it if you join in and post what you see. We’ve already had people joining in from some very far flung places – Singapore, Switzerland and Scotland. It’s been very interesting to see what’s flowering where.

If you’d like to take a look, then search for #2022inbloom. Our instagram is here: www.instagram.com/highgatehoney and Shilpa is here: www.instagram.com/agasheshilpa

If you would like to take part, then please use #2022inbloom and tag us, so we don’t miss your post. (@highgatehoney and @agasheshilpa).

20220113_094134_0000

f:Entrepreneur #ialso100

Pollen blanket Print

This year has started with the very exciting news that Helen was named as one of the UK’s most inspirational and dynamic female entrepreneurs by the f:Entrepreneur ‘#ialso100’ campaign 2022.

Delivered by Small Business Britain – the leading champion of small businesses in the UK –  f:Entrepreneur was launched in 2017 to highlight the stories of amazing female business owners and help provide inspiration and role models across the wider small business community. Now in its fifth year, the campaign offers a host of events and training and networking opportunities to boost skills, capability and confidence.

Helen was chosen because of her work at Highgate Honey, her engineering expertise on cantilever stone stairs, championing UK honey in her honey tasting workshops and her book “80 Flowers for Bees”.

Both f:Entrepreneur and Small Business Britain were founded by Michelle Ovens CBE, who is also the director of Small Business Saturday UK.

“Congratulations to Helen Rogers of Highgate Honey,  and all of the brilliant female entrepreneurs featured in this year’s #ialso100,” said Michelle Ovens. 

“It is so vital that we recognize and celebrate the phenomenal contribution that women running businesses are making across the UK, and the far-reaching, positive impact they are having, not just on the economy, but on wider communities too. The last few years have been hugely challenging for small businesses, yet despite this female entrepreneurship continues to grow and flourish in the UK, and is very much at the heart of the UK’s recovery.”

To see the full line-up of the 100 amazing women featured in this year’s f:entrepreneur #ialso100 campaign  visit https://f-entrepreneur.com/ialso-100-2022/

Favourite Books of the Year

I love to read and I get through a lot of books of all different genres. It’s fun to look back over the year and reflect on which books have stayed with me. Interestingly, some that I didn’t particularly rate while I was reading them keep popping back into my head and have changed how I think about things.

If I had to pick my favourite I’d have a tough choice between these two:

and

Both are very nature based, both are written by women who are scientists and both are beautifully written – weaving their lives and the work that they do together. I devoured each of them in a few days. They have both impacted the way that I look at the world and constantly pop into my head. I can’t recommend them enough!

This book was interesting too – it is a day by day diary of the seasons in the UK over 2020. It compares the changes in nature to the 72 mini seasons defined in Japanese culture. The author is a bird watcher, so it focuses mainly on which birds are around and what is in flower. Beekeepers tend to pay close attention to weather patterns as they affect our bees – so this was interesting to me. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I’d read it over a year, reading the relevant chapter to match the actual date.

Very occasionally I read a novel that is so completely unlike any other novel that I’ve ever read. Piranesi is one of those books. It is dark, other wordly and extraordinary.

Somehow I only recently discovered that Tove Jansson, the writer of the Moomin books, also wrote for grown ups. I’ve been savouring them ever since! This is a short novel about a grandmother and her granddaughter, spending the summer on a remote island off Finland. It is absolutely delightful, witty and wise.

I’d love to know which books you have enjoyed this year – leave a comment below!

Transparency time – if you end up buying using the links in this post I will receive a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you.

Pollen Blanket

About a year ago I had an idea to make a crochet blanket based on the colours of pollen that I see stored in the honeycombs of our hives. Honey bees collect pollen to feed to their young – it is full of protein and forms the base of “bee bread” which is essential food for bee larvae.

Pollen blanket Pollen blanket

Different flowers produce different colours of pollen. When you look inside a hive you can see which flowers the bees have been foraging on. They appear to store different types of pollen into different cells of the comb. This creates a beautiful stained glass effect.

Pollen blanket Pollen blanket Pollen blanket Pollen blanket

This has been a stop-start project. When it was hot in the summer it got abandoned for several months – it was just too uncomfortable sitting with most of a blanket over my lap. The recent colder temperatures have meant perfect blanket making weather, and I’m glad to finish it at last.

Pollen blanket

Free Webinar 20th May

To celebrate World Bee Day next Thursday, I’m partnering with Capital Gardens to bring you a free webinar called “Bees in the Garden – Planting Flowers to Attract Bees”. Colin Campbell-Preston and I will be talking about all things bee and will be giving lots of tips on selecting the best plants to provide quality forage and habitat for bees.

It will be taking place on 20th May at 12:30pm. It is completely free, but you do need to register. Sign up here

Lots of the plants that we will discuss are covered in my book “80 Flowers for Bees” – available to buy here

Edit: if you missed the live webinar, you can watch the recording here.