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How to Create a Garden That Helps the Bee Population Flourish

Gardens in South Africa are home to many bee species, here’s how you can help them survive and thrive

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By House & Garden | January 23, 2024 | Gardens

The bee population in SA is declining quickly, and some species of the insect are even on the endangered list. We turn to seasoned professionals to find out the best ways to look after the bees in our gardens

According to the environmental campaign group, Friends of The Earth, 35 UK species of bee are currently under threat of extinction, and conservation specialists Buglife have estimated that the UK’s flying insect populations are reducing by 34 per cent every decade. The fact is, bees are actually an essential part of any garden, and friend to any keen gardeners and farmers.

As pollinators, Bees are essential for the growth of our plants and crops, though they’re often put in the same box as other flying bugs and pests. 'The majority of crops and plants worldwide rely on pollination by bees,' explains garden designer Charlotte Rowe, member of The List by House & Garden, 'we really encourage our clients to allow us to plant species in their garden which attract bees - they also create a wonderful environment to enjoy right through the summer, the sound alone is just so alluring'.

Charlie Hawkes, winner of the 2022 House & Garden Rising Star award for garden design, reminds us that bees are 'key elements to making any garden have a sense of place and aliveness', without which, our gardens may become rather desolate. It’s important, therefore, to nurture any species of bee which may decide to settle amongst your flowers. Going further, we should be attracting them to our gardens. The most recognisable species of bee, the honey bee, doesn’t hibernate, and therefore needs nurturing throughout the winter too. It’s important to bear this in mind when planning your garden - plants which flower in winter will provide them with sustenance and shelter.

Tips on turning your garden into the most appealing landing spot for bees.

The majority of crops and plants worldwide rely on pollination by bees. Image via Pexels.

Plant for all seasons

There are a wide variety of species of plants which attract bees, and are particularly pretty and smell lovely. Charlotte recommends Lavender, Veronicastrum, Verbena, Buddleia and Hydrangea. Don’t forget that some species of bee don’t hibernate. Plants which flower throughout the winter, such as winter flowering Clematis, Clematis cirrhosa and Christmas Box, Sarcococca and Hellebores (known as the Christmas rose) are all good options. Not only will they attract bees but they’ll also ensure your garden looks bright and vibrant throughout the cold months.

Think about bee-friendly trees

As well as plants, there are also varieties of trees which attract bees when they’re in blossom. This includes 'all the fruit trees', as Charlotte says, as well as some more unusual varieties, such as the Eleagnus, which 'literally hums with masses of bees gorging on the blossom.'

Plant fruit trees in your garden, which attract bees when they’re in blossom. Image via Pexels.

Create as diverse an ecosystem as possible

Charlie Hawkes recommends using a mix of native and non-native plants to create a long flowering season. The native Bell Heather (Erica cinerea) mixed with the non-native Bergenia for example, is a good option, as neither are double-petaled, meaning there’s easy access for the bees. For more options, refer to this very handy planting guide from the RHS.

Avoid pesticides

'The key danger to bees are pesticides' explains Charlotte, and it’s important to educate ourselves on these harmful substances. Pesticides called neonicotinoids are permitted for use on sugar crops in the UK, which is being met with resistance from conservation societies such as Seedball. There is currently a petition in place to overturn the decision to permit them, which, all being well, should help to nurture our essential bee population.

Different bees will nest in different ways, but an undisturbed, sheltered site will provide protection and warmth. Image via Pexels.

Provide sheltered nest sites for bees

Different bees will nest in different ways, but an undisturbed, sheltered site will provide protection and warmth. A ‘Bee B&B’ from the Royal Horticultural Society is designed to house solitary bees and wasps.

This story originally appeared on House & Garden UK.