Tomorrow, (20.08.21) BBC Radio 2’s Big Bee Challenge Garden is launched and I’m proper buzzin’ to have been involved. Bees are so important in our gardens, for pollination – flowers, plants, fruit and veg all need them – they are an essential part of our eco-system!
Here’s some simple tips when designing a bee friendly garden:
- I’ll start with the obvious, pollinating plants, shrubs and flowers:
- that are nectar rich throughout the seasons, so we’ve got winter hellebores, pulmonaria that flowers really early spring, summer is sorted and Michaelmas daisies, which are fab come late autumn
- use of native wildflowers and certain varieties for specific bees, like foxgloves for bees with long-tongues
- A space that’s born to be wild, where stuff like dandelions and white & red clover are left to grow
- Lots of different types of habitats – there’s 5* boutique bee & bug hotels and another thing that’s fab, is holes in walls for solitary bees, those kind of details give bees a buzz
- A water source for a drink – I’m a bit potty about ponds, but a plate or bowl would do the trick
- DON’T USE PESTICIDES – it’s in capitals and bold, so you get the message!
- Ways in which the garden can be shared, with the food we grow – so, we grow purple sprouting broccoli for example. Come March time, we harvest some to scoff and then we leave the rest to go to seed, the bees are absolutely crazy for their yellow flowers, when there’s not much else around. I’ve seen this done with other veg like parsnip. Oh and herbs, don’t forget herbs, the bees are mad for chives and mum puts the rest in potato salad! So for me, it’s about designs that show us how to share our gardens with wildlife, it’s win win then.
Here’s what we do in our garden…..
We have plants, shrubs and flowers that provide rich nectar throughout the seasons:
- Michaelmas daisies ‘purple in the border’ (my fav harvest hymn at primary school!)
- Verbena – they self-seed, so have sprung up in other parts of the garden
- Lavender – smells and looks beautiful, great for butterflies too
- Buddleia – we have 2 different varieties in our garden – white and purple – the white one usually flowers longer than the purple. Both can be absolutely covered in butterflies too
- Foxgloves – we haven’t got many, we intend to get more for the top bit of our garden. Great for height
- Chive flowers – absolutely great for bees and of course for cooking! (we use them in new potato salad)
- Honeysuckle – great for moths too. This summer our honeysuckle is the best it’s ever been, I love its sweet smell, especially in the evening
- Berberis – orange flowers literally buzzing with bees in spring, then the blackbirds eat the purple berries. Ours took a bit of a battering from the Beast from the East this year, so it hasn’t flowered quite as much
- Verbenum – this was a gift from the RHS when I was made an Ambassador, we had to move it as it was getting ‘crowded out’ by the buddleia
- Comfrey – makes a great plant feed, it’s great for bees and Mum’s sore feet
- Scabiosa – great small flower for insects
- Rambling rose – the leaf cutter bees really love this – they line their homes with the leaves
- Phlox – we got a clump from my Grandma’s friend, Meg and it flowers late
Over this years we’ve taken photos of some of these:
Check out this list from the RHS perfect for pollinators for seasonal flowering plants
Make a home for bees
Bees need a places to live, different bees live in different places – some like to drill into the ground, others build holes in tunnels. This summer, mining bees, tried to make their home in the banks of the pond, but it didn’t appear to work as they seemed to disappear (maybe ‘cos we were working there, maybe ‘cos of ants??).
Mason bees, really like the cracks in the stonework, where they can make their nests.
The pond provides a place for bees to drink too
Of course, if this isn’t possible, you can always build a bug hotel ! I’ve built loads of these at school, scouts and at home over the years. This picture was took at RSPB Arne, where the bees were going crazy in their kitchen garden.
Although our garden is practically a huge bug hotel as there’s pipes and canes everywhere!
It’s really important that you don’t use any herbicides or pesticides, as it could potentially kill bees – we don’t and never have.
Protecting all our insects is really important, now more than ever.
My Dad showed me an article in the paper that described the decline as an
So, come on folks what are you waiting for, get buzzin’ in your garden, ‘cos bees’ have needs too!