Bee-friendly Gardening: flowers, ideas and tips

Get your garden BUZZING!


In the UK over the past fifty years or so we have lost approximately 98% of our rich wild-flower meadows, as well as many hedgerows, ponds and wildlife habitats.

This has meant our bees, bumblebees and pollinating insects have become increasingly dependent on gardens and urban waste-grounds to find the year-round pollen and nectar food sources they need, as well as suitable habitats for nesting and hibernation. Over 2/3rds of our bees and pollinating insects are currently under threat.

We can help our honeybees, bumblebees, wild bees and pollinating insects by making our gardens even more ‘Bee-and Pollinator Friendly’ at this time.

There are several things we can do if we have a garden – or even if we have only a sunny backyard or window boxes:



  • Growing ‘Bee-Friendly’ flowers:

Without a wide range of forage flowers throughout the year, our different types of bees and pollinators cannot survive. In order to breed successfully and maintain good immunity against disease and parasites they need a broad and varied diet of pollen and nectar-rich flowers from early spring to late autumn (a bit like the 5-a-day recommended for us to eat).



  • Look for bee-friendly labels in garden centres and seed catalogues.


  • Broadly speaking, some of the best bee and pollinator-friendly garden plants have single daisy or cottage garden type flowers:

Calendula, Aster, Foxglove, Poppies, Cornflowers, Aquilegia, Cosmos, Sunflowers, Wallfowers, Hardy single Geraniums, single Dahlias, Centaurea, Hellebores, Aubretia, Leopard’s Bane, Borage, Pulmonaria, Yarrow, Goldenrod, Hollyhocks, Snapdragons, Linaria, Campanula, Salvia, single flowered Clarkia, Geum, Sweet William, Dictamnus, Echinops, Echinacea, Candytuft, Scabious, Mallow, Ox eye Daisy, Bergamot, Penstemon, Evening Primrose, Verbascum (Mullein), Verbena, Autumn Anenome etc…



  • Bees and other pollinating insects love the flowers of almost all kitchen herb plants (remember to let them go to flower and only prune back after flowering)

Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Marjoram, Oregano, Basil, Mint, Fennel, Savory, Chives, Lavender, Curry Plant, Angelica, Catmint ….



  • Even in a small sunny yard or patio you can grow several containers of dwarf pillar fruit trees, kitchen herbs and climbing runner beans.

Bees also love the blossom of all fruit trees and bushes, strawberries and wild strawberries, as well as ornamental single cherries, crab apples, flowering currants, plus garden peas, beans, courgettes



  • Bee-friendly wildflower or annual seed mixes can be also sown in pots and tubs and look really beautiful in flower.

When planting bee friendly plants, trees and shrubs, choose the sunniest, most sheltered spots in your garden. Bees and many pollinating insects generally go for pollen and nectar-rich plants in the warmest spots (only bumblebees can cope with cooler weather conditions when foraging).



  • Plant your ‘bee-friendly’ flowers in drifts of large clumps as pollinating insects will always go for the largest, warmest areas of flowers as this is the fastest, most energy efficient way for them to feed.



  • There are many shrubs and trees that provide large amounts of pollen and nectar at different times of the year:

Flowering Quince, Viburnum, Ceanothus, Holly, Willow, Heathers, Mahonia, Sarcococca, Buddleia, Single Cherries, Crab Apples, Hebe, Privet, single Roses, Rowan, Whitebeam, Lime, Hawthorn, Weigela, Ivy ….



  • Many bulbs provide valuable pollen and nectar, especially in early spring:

Crocus, Scilla (Siberian or Spring Squill), Single Snowdrops, Winter Aconite, Grape Hyacinth, Star of Bethlehem, Alliums, Autumn Crocus ….

The RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) has a ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ plant list on their website that you can download and print out. This is a very useful starting point when looking for which plants will provide the most pollen and nectar year-round. This list is made up of those plants which scored highest in RHS trials to determine the most pollen and nectar-rich plants:



  • Allow tussocky grass, nettles, dandelions and wildflowers to grow in sunny corners.

Wildflowers are a vital source of pollen and nectar for bees and pollinating insects and we need to make friends with the ‘weeds’ in our gardens…..

If you have a large garden, leave areas of wildflowers and long grass or create new wildflower and widlife areas. Bumblebees and some solitary bees need tussocky grass and dry banks for nesting and hibernating.



  • Set your mower blades higher and only mow your lawns every 3-4 weeks, to allow daisies and ‘lawn-weeds’ to flower.



  • Provide a source of water for bees to drink or wash – a flat dish with pebbles or a wildlife pond with shallow edges.

  • Make habitat piles from leaves, twigs and logs, for bees and insects to nest and hibernate in.

  • Make or buy insect houses – Hang them in your garden in sunny, sheltered spots.

  • Leave dead stalks over winter – save garden tidying until Spring (April onwards).

  • Avoid using pesticides – especially neo-nicotinoids.

The wonderful thing about creating a bee and wildlife friendly garden is how you increasingly begin to notice and watch for the insects and wildlife that appear in the garden and the fascination and wonder that comes from observing and learning more of these incredible creatures that we co-exist with. We need them and they need us at this time……


Page created by Rose Titchener

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