Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Make the garden a perfect space for pollinators

There are many pleasures gardening can offer the keen enthusiast, not least of which is watching wildlife go about their daily business.

Seeing as this is the case, why not try and optimise the ways in which your green space welcomes pollinating insects such as bees? This activity has a wide range of benefits – not just aesthetically, but also in terms of the environment.

A research group at the University of California asserts that there are good reasons to make a bee garden, citing factors such as the fact that the creatures are an essential part of the ecosystem.

Indeed, while the honeybee is undoubtedly the most commonly known variety of the species, there are 81 known varieties in Berkley alone.

There are many different factors that go into making a garden bee-friendly – it is not just about the flowers it contains. Research indicates that the diversity of flowers is more important than which specific types are present. Simple considerations such as light exposure also need to be taken into account.

Across the pond in the UK, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has launched a new guide on how you can make your garden perfect for pollinating insects. The charity explained that this is in response to increased interest.

A list of over 200 ideal plants has been assembled, which are broken down into potential naturally occurring habitats, as well as tips on how to recreate these conditions in a personal garden.

Ponds and wet soil areas are included, as well as three different forms of grassland areas, gravel-based soil, hedges and woodland edge.

Certain insect groups such as butterflies and bees have been in decline over the past 50 years. While several factors are contributing to this trend, the decline of wild flowers in nature is something that gardeners are ideally placed to address. Indeed, man-made gardens are being seen as an increasingly essential habitat to help nurture dwindling insect populations.

"Gardens are now increasingly recognised as important environments for maintaining biodiversity," explained director of horticulture at the RHS Jim Gardiner, adding: "By planting a broad diversity of plants gardeners can do a lot to encourage pollinating insects which – in turn – will bring in other forms of wildlife into their gardens such as birds and hedgehogs."

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has also offered some advice for gardeners

Adrian Thomas of the RSPB noted in a blog post for the organisation that the best way to attract more of these is by growing plants that flower at different times of the year.

If flowers sequence consistently from February to November, then bees will have something to pollinate throughout the year. Trees for bees are also worth bearing in mind. Mr Thomas said that it is easy to get so caught up in what is on the ground that people can forget some of the best plants for bees are overhead.

Similarly, potential nest sites also merit serious consideration. Different types of bee make use of different places, so warm banks of sandy soil, tussocky grass and soft mortar are all worth maintaining.

"Each species of bee has slightly different home needs to the next – for example, different species have different tongue lengths, making them suited to certain types of flower," Mr Thomas stated.

"The important thing is that all bees are nectar eaters and pollen drinkers and that means they're wonderful pollinators, helping turn many of our flowers into fruit and seeds," the expert commented, adding that his top five plants are "Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant', Cephalaria gigantean, Globe Thistle, Pulmonaria and Goat Willow (the latter two for early nectar)."