by Marco van Belzen (Breda, Netherlands)
father and I share the love for nature, wild flowers and basically the whole
circle of life. I had been reading about gardening for wildlife but many books
I read displayed gardens the size of a county and most of us are not so
fortunate to have huge gardens.
When I moved to my current house, I started to convert the
existing garden into a lovely wildlife garden. The garden is not big, about 110
square metres, but buzzing with life! Often native shrubs and trees are much
more valuable as they feed more insects compared to non native trees:
hawthorns, birches, willows and oak support more than 200 species of insects
and mites whereas American oak only 12 (according to the University of
The season starts with Crocus tommasinianus of which I have planted several
hundred. Crocus offers both nectar and pollen and is great for bees after their
Goat willow is great too and can be coppiced if becoming too big: the male offer pollen, the female nectar. The pollen of goat willow is of good quality as it contains the majority of amino acids.
Other native plants that are very good at attracting bees in my garden are alder buckthorns which continues to flower for months. I have several of these in my garden. I try to plant these in groups which makes foraging easier. Wild privet, hawthorns, barberry and small-leaved limes are also great. Sweet briar is also a beautiful, native rose offering both nectar and pollen.
When you create a wildlife garden for bees, try to offer plants all year round and never use pesticides: in my garden it is never used and everything I grow is grown using my own compost and leaf mould. Here are some pictures of my modest bee garden.
Last note: Do not think that your own small garden will not have any effect. Every garden is like a stepping stone and the more we have the better!
Site owner's comment: I agree with you Marco! Even small spaces help to create feeding stations for bees! Imagine if everyone who lived in an apartment block decorated their balconies with containers and pots full of plants for bees! We'd have high-rise pollinator walls! Certainly, we need as many 'pollinator feeding stations' as possible, to avoid the risk of fragmented habitats. Fragmented habitats are bad for wild bees, as they can result in in-breeding, thus accelerating extinctions.
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