Updated: 26th April 2021
There are many resources on
this website to assist you in planting a bee friendly garden, with a variety of flower lists and handy tips. To supplement this information, I have created a 'Bee Friendly Gardening' Poster set, which is a downloadable PDF file, consisting of 3 pages of tips.
It can be printed and shared with garden clubs, schools and allotment societies. See 'Planting A Bee Friendly Garden' downloadable PDF.
(Please note, the link opens a new window - may need a little time depending on your computer).
This page raises a few points you may wish to consider in your design, but firstly, let's expel a few myths about wildlife and bee friendly gardening generally.
I will now expand on these points below:
I have learned this from experience: be realistic and practical,
otherwise you may find yourself going to the pointless expense and effort of
changing it later.
If, for example, you have young children who run around in open toed sandals in summer time, you may think twice about a flowering lawn attractive to bees, as tiny toes could accidentally get stung. If your garden is sufficiently large to enable you to dedicate a separate area to a flowering lawn, then obviously, that’s a different matter.
Also, it's no use creating a garden you and your family cannot enjoy, and there is no need to do so.
I recommend creating a list to help you be clear from the outset.
For example, needs and wants could include:
Your constraints might include some of these points:
A personal experience....
Some years ago, I unsuccessfully tried to convert our small back garden into a mini-meadow. After a couple of years, we had little floral variety, and a garden that we ourselves gained little enjoyment from. There were very few pollinator visitors. Eventually, we redesigned the garden to include 2 flower borders, with wildflower varieties within the borders, fruit, a greenhouse, soft fruit patch and some vegetables, and a makeover of the pond and patio area. We now get far more species of pollinators than we did before, and we enjoy our garden!
I recommend you do some research into local species, and the kinds of plants they need. This is a great opportunity to provide forage for species that need to revive population numbers, and is especially interesting for the conservation minded.
To find out about species local to you, do some investigation online. Your local environment agency or conservation organisations may be a good place to start.
A few years ago, I decided I wanted to attract hairy footed flower bees, so I planted pulmonaria. I began to see this species of bee 2 years later. I am working on increasing my patch of pulmonaria. You may or may not have to wait so long for your target species to appear, but take a long term view, and ensure you can provide for the species adequately.
I also wanted to attract wool carder bees, so I planted lamb’s ear. I had to wait longer for this species to show up – about 4 years, despite having 3 good sized patches of this flower type, but other bees have enjoyed foraging on the plant in the meantime.
If you are planting for specific species, divide your plants and giving them away to neighbors, in order to ensure there are plenty of ‘feeding stations’ for these bees. The same plant will reach its peak flowering and nectar secretion stage at slightly different times, in other people's gardens, depending on the aspect and growing conditions, thus potential extending the availability of forage.
Research the local area and your own planting conditions. How can you best meet the needs and plug any 'planting gaps' for the bees you could attract?
Take a walk around the area, and ensure you do so through the year. Make a note of vegetation that is already supplied in ample quantity, such that this need for bees has already been met.
Make a note of any gaps you would like to fill in order to help the bees.
Example: I know there are many gardens with ceanothus in my area, and there is a lot of comfrey around locally, so I don't include them in my garden.
Draw out your plan, taking into account positions of plants, variety, and flowering season.
This could vary from a rough sketch, to a carefully measured scale drawing.
Here are my tips:
In summary: plant a bee friendly garden you and your loved ones can also enjoy, and no doubt you'll feel encouraged to spend time outdoors, observing nature close up.
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