Bee garden ideas – 8 expert tips to create a bee sanctuary in your garden

We show you how to help save Britain's bees by making a bee garden. From including bee-friendly plants to a bee hotel, there are lots of things we can do.
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  • Help save the bees by creating a bee garden with lots of great ideas from bee-friendly plants to building a bee hotel.

    Britain’s declining bee population has become an increasing worry – these poor little creatures have lost 97% of their grassland habitats in the past 60 years. With so many gardeners incorporating wildlife garden ideas in their gardens, it’s prime time that we focus on our bees.

    Gardening expert, Matt Jordan at The Greenhouse People explains, ‘Bees play a critical role as part of the food chain and are hugely beneficial to the ecosystem – it’s estimated a third of all food we eat relies on pollinators. Without them, British-grown fruits such as apples and strawberries could become extinct within 25 years.’

    ‘Native plants and wildflowers rich in pollen and nectar are the best for enticing bees, providing a floral buffet for them to feast on.’

    ‘Supplying bees with a variety of flowers will also boost your garden’s growing potential. As more bees flock to your garden, they will fertilise your plants and ensure seeds are produced.’

    In order to help save the bees try these simple ideas that will help save Britain’s bee population.

    Bee garden ideas

    Bee pollinating blue flower garden

    Image credit: Dobbies

    1. Plant flowers year round

    There are lots of jobs to do in the garden when it gets colder and one of them should be to sew Mahonia and Honeysuckle seeds. You’ll spot the honeybee on the Mahonia and Honeysuckle plants during the winter months.

    When you are doing your planting remember to provide them with nectar and pollen rich flowering plants (which will be needed for the bees to build strong colonies in the Spring).

    Extend the flowering season by having something always in bloom from February to October.

    Wool carder bees are one of the UK’s largest solitary bees. They get their name because they collect hairs from plant leaves and stems for their nests. Provide hairy plants for them by including Lambs’ ears and Mullein as garden edging ideas.

    garden with edging and fence filled with flowers

    Image credit: Mark Bolton

    2. Grow plants with nectar and pollen

    This may seem pretty obvious but it’s important to grow a range of plants that will provide continuous flowering, especially from March to September.

    It’s worth planting plenty of single flowers too, as many plants make the pollen and nectar hard to get to for bees and other pollinators.

    Richard Petrie from Thomas Sanderson says, ‘Filling your garden with plants which are high in nectar or pollen is important as they are important food sources for many species including bees.’

    ‘Herb plants like lavender are high in nectar and entice bees with their fragrance. Also, it’s thought bees can see the colour purple the most clearly so not only will your garden look and smell great, it will be more appealing to bees too.’

    These ten herbs are specifically known to attract bees so create a little herb garden and watch them flock.

    ceramic bumble bee mammal nester in a garden - natural collection

    Image credit: Natural Collection

    3. Create a bee nest

    A bundle of hollow canes could make a great home for bees. Some bumblebee species will take up residence in bird boxes, or an upturned plant pot (with holes) located in a secure, shady area.

    This ceramic nester, £24.99 from Natural Collection has excellent frost resistant properties, so even when temperatures get completely inhospitable this makes an ideal home for a vole, mouse or a bumble bee.

    Even though you are unlikely to be able to make a home for the honeybee colonies keep an eye out for other solitary bees that you could accommodate in your garden.

    man weeding in the garden

    Image credit: Roundup

    4. Don’t use pesticides

    Avoid using chemical pesticides in the garden if you can. To help save the bees try natural methods of pest control – such as putting up bird boxes, blasting aphids with water and getting rid of wasps safely.

    Richard explains, ‘Pesticides can be great at keeping unwanted pests away from bee hives but they can also kill bees at the same time therefore as a general rule it is advised you do not use them in your garden.’

    ‘If you need to use pesticides, it is advised that you do your research into which is best for you and that you use them in the evening hours.’

    bee hotel in a garden with plants - Amazon

    Image credit: Amazon

    5. Build a bee hotel

    Investing in a bee hotel, like this one from Naturais at Amazon is a great way to boost bee diversity in your garden, by attracting solitary species. Position bee hotels in full sun and over time, solitary bees will  lay their eggs in bee hotel cavities. The eggs then hatch and larvae emerge from the hotel. Find out more on how to make a bee hotel.

    Gardening expert, Matt Jordan at The Greenhouse People says, ‘To invite more bees into your garden, you could also install bee hotels. Although we typically think of bees as part of a hive, some bees are solitary and will lay their eggs alone in tunnel-like nests. Bee hotels are simple to make or can be bought for under £10.’

    Richard Petrie adds, ‘Whilst some bees nest in thick grass, others make nests in bird boxes or trees. It’s easy to create a bee hotel in your garden, all you need is a wooden box open on one side. Fix it securely to a fence or wall and fill it with either blocks of wood or sticks.’

    garden tools hanging up in a garden

    Image credit: Spike Powell

    6. Don’t weed too much

    It may come as a surprise but many plants we consider weeds are actually great for wildlife. Dandelions, clovers and daisies attract bees and provide pollen and nectar so try to relax on the weeding. Or at least leave areas of the garden untouched to let nature do its thing.

    Richard Petrie from Thomas Sanderson says, ‘Weeding is a job many people dislike so some might be glad to hear that weeds are good for bees. Buttercups, daisies and clover are all fantastic plants for pollinators but are regularly destroyed by a lawnmower.’

    ‘You could leave an area of your garden natural so these weeds have the chance to flower and not only will it save you time and effort, it will also provide food for bees.’

    a water feature in a garden

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    7. Give water

    Providing water in your garden not only quenches the thirst of birds, bats and other mammals. It will also help the bees in your garden too.

    Richard Petrie from Thomas Sanderson says, ‘All living things need water to survive and bees are no exception. As well as drinking water, it is often used for controlling the humidity of a hive.’

    ‘You can help by providing fresh, clean water in a container along with twigs and leaves which prevent bees from drowning. Also, If you see a tired bee, a simple solution of sugar and water will help revive it.’

    Garden shade idea with flowering trellis above a patio

    Image credit: Simon Scarboro

    8. Provide shade for bees

    We mentioned earlier to set a bee hotel in your garden in full sun but it’s also thought that honey bees prefer warm shade. Take note of these garden shade ideas to keep both you and honeybees in a lovely shady spot.

    Richard Petrie explains, ‘Many beehives are in the sun but it is thought that honey bees in particular love the shade where they can still feel the warmth but are not in direct sunlight. It’s important to have the right balance of shade and sun in your garden if you want bees to stick around.’

    What do you put in a bee garden?

    To make a bee garden bee-friendly, incorporate as many plants that bees love in your garden scheme. Try herbs like marjoram, thyme, chives , sage or creeping rosemary in a pot.
    If you have more space to play with plant a rosemary shrub and a lavender bush.
    To help kickstart bumblebees’ revival, Liam Lapping from Flowercard has revealed the best bee-friendly flowers you can plant in your garden, as well as the time of year in which they flower:
    • Spring: Snowdrops, California Lilac, Crocus, Dicentra and Pieris
    • Summer: Geraniums, Lavender, Wild Strawberries, Foxgloves and Monkshood
    • Autumn:  Sunflowers, Cosmos, Honeysuckle, Verbena and Ground Ivy

    Liam adds, ‘Although most bumblebee species do not appear until spring, occasionally some might emerge in winter and as such it is advisable to have some early flowering plants such as snowdrops in your garden.’

    ‘Flowers such as geraniums, lavender and vipers bugloss are also plants that thrive in sunny areas and provide feed for bumblebees.’
    ‘Many people believe that once we reach autumn almost all flowers will die off, but this is not the case. There are many plants that flower in autumn that can help sustain the tail end of a bumblebee colony’s active lifespan.’

    What is a bee garden used for?

    The purpose of a bee garden is to help in the conservation and reproduction of bees by creating a welcoming habitat.
    You can make a bee garden by using a careful selection of plants. These include trees, shrubs, and flowers that provide a source of nectar and pollen. As well as adding a fresh water source, lots of sun and shade and a lovely place for them to nest. And creating a bee garden will also assist other insect pollinators. 
    Melissa Richardson from JamJar Flowers explains more, ‘Since World War II, we have lost 97% of our wildflower meadows in the UK.’
    ‘Without flowers, we lose our insect population; not just the bees but all flying and creeping creatures. Insect depletion impacts on our native and migratory birds who feast on the pollinators as well the grasslands, hedgerows and water meadows they inhabit.’

    Is it good to have bees in your garden?

    Bees are beneficial to the environment as a whole. They pollinate wild flowers which enhances the biodiversity and beauty in landscapes and gardens. Wild flowers also provide food to a wide variety of insects, birds and animals that constitute nature.
    Not only do bees pollinate flowers and food crops, many trees are pollinated by bees too (and other pollinating insects). Without wild plants and trees, these animals would disappear. And there would be no milk, meat and other important foods we get directly from animals and birds. We would also lack oxygen as plants give out oxygen to the atmosphere and take in carbon dioxide.
    Bees also produce honey that has antibacterial properties and has a vast amount of health benefits when eaten.

    Richard Petrie adds, ‘Bees are vital to the planet as they pollinate both the food we need to survive and some medicinal items needed for our health.’

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