Creating a Giving Garden
Hello lovelies, so March is almost upon us and no doubt, like us all here at HBB, you are happily embracing the much welcomed signs that Spring is finally on its way. You have most likely noticed the lighter evenings, the unmistakable building of bird song in the mornings, the sprouting of snowdrops— those brave pure white pioneers nosing through the cold February ground, accompanied in places by the spattering emergence of purple crocuses.
Out in the countryside on our hedgerows we may soon see clusters of the tiny white flowers of the spiny, shrubby Blackthorn tree, fields teaming with pregnant ewes, little ponds coming to life will soon be filled with jelly like globules of frogspawn – promises of new life and the milder weather to come.
Come March, in our gardens, on our walks, or in parks, we may be able to spot one of the earliest active bumblebees – the buff tailed bumblebee, the early ‘bombus’ bumblebee and solitary bee early risers. Have you identified any of these early spring bees? Have a look at this link for a how-to guide: https://www.discoverwildlife.com/howto/identify-wildlife/how-to-identify-spring-bees/
And, what about the Honeybee?
At this time of year us beekeepers will check the food sources in the hive (on days above 12C in order to prevent the temperature of the hive dropping too low) and add any emergency supplies if needed.
Did you know that we always strive to work in harmony with our bees by ensuring we leave plenty of honey for them to feed on over the winter months (if anything we overestimate) and not take it all for our products. This is one of the reasons why we are proud to keep our business small – so our bees can flourish alongside us.
Even if we do not keep bees, read on for more on how we can help them in our very own back gardens!
Gardening Glory or Gardening Gripe?
With these indications of spring in the air many of us start to think about rolling up our sleeves and turning a trowel to our own gardens or outdoor spaces in preparation for the coming season.
So, read on as we discuss how your garden can give to the environment and you – we' ll be unearthing tips on planting for bees, providing pointers for creating an eco friendly garden, and hopefully along the way offering some fresh insights and purse friendly ideas to help you get the most out of your outdoor areas, the planet and pollinator pleasing way.
To Garden or not to Garden…..
Planting for Bees
One of the most popular questions we are asked is how to encourage more bees to visit our gardens, so first off let’s share our advice on how to plan your bee-friendly garden.
1. Planting Diversity
2. Plant Wildflowers and Native Species
3. Bees Love Trees
If you are lucky enough to have the space and a leafy garden is more your thing then plant trees and shrubs to please yourself and the bees. These will provide forage on a much larger scale to help honeybee colonies.
Did you know honeybee live in large colonies of up to 50,000? That spells the necessity for vast amounts of nectar and pollen!
Opt for apple, cherry, lime, eucalyptus, hazel and willow trees, heather, tree peony, St. John’s wort and honeysuckle make great choices of shrubs/bushes.
Oh, and have you seen how bees adore the cotoneaster shrub? -an absolute joy to see in your garden or on country walks.
4. Pesticides Poison Pollinators
5. Build a Bee House
6. Wondrous Weeds
Our Top 10 Bee Friendly Wildflowers
These stunningly blue, bell shaped perennials not only smell sweet and look spectacular but provide a great spring feast for bees – opt for true native British bluebells for maximum pollinator attraction!
A tall, hardy biennial classic, these pinky purple trumpets are loved by the longue-tongued garden bumblebee.
This perennial is greatly suited to any damp places in your garden - it will pretty much grow anywhere! (That’s a phew from us!) Bees profit from it’s long flowering period (May – August) and it can even be used to make a natural fertiliser.
Wonderfully wild, in summer both red and white clovers will be abuzz with the harmonious hum of bees.
Tremendous thistle-like wildflower produces masses of large vibrant purple inflorescences that act as magnets to pollinating insects – did you know that bees have ultra-violet vision so are particularly attracted to blue and purple flowers?
6. Field forget-me-not
With bright grey-blue saucer shaped flowers these low to short plants are softly textured with hairy stems allowing the bees a place to rest and to easily manoeuvre around them.
7. Corn Poppy
Next up is the perky poppy! Despite the fact they lack inflorescences bees love poppies for their abundance of pollen which is easily accessible to them on the long filaments and exposed pollen-laden anthers of the flower. If you pass a corn poppy, peak inside and you’ll notice there are many of these hairy filaments and anthers (the stamen that contains the pollen) and you will likely spot a feasting bee too!
8. Corn Marigold
Once abundant in cornfields throughout Britain this sunny, bright beauty glows with gloriously golden- yellow disc flowers and prominent ray florets.
Did you know that a study discovered that particular types of marigolds boast scientific data attesting to their tremendous value for bees? The findings (https://www.buzzaboutbees.net/do-bees-like-marigolds.html) show that it is the corn marigold who scores highest in the group in its provision of nectar rewards for bees. Additionally, corn marigold has a good level of longevity, meaning it provides more days of foraging opportunities for bees and other pollinators.
9. Wild Marjoram
This is the herb many of us liberally sprinkle on our pizzas – yep, also known as oregano! You would be forgiven for thinking it only grows around the Mediterranean region, but did you know it is actually native to the UK? With aromatic leaves and tiny nectar-rich white to purplish pink flowers it is a magnet for bees, butterflies and other pollinators - sure to be a hotspot of activity in your garden.
10. Lady’s Bedstraw
A readily growing perennial with gay golden- yellow flowers, Lady’s Bedstraw is Britain’s only yellow flowered bedstraw (not to be confused with Crosswort), blooming from June until September. Adored by bees, butterflies and moths, unsurprisingly as some say the aroma of the flowers is strongly reminiscent to that of honey!
Keen to know more?
For more detailed information on how to plant for bees we would recommend reading ‘Planting for Honey Bees’ by Sarah Wyndham Lewis or checking out the regular free talks given by Brigit Strawbridge who has a wealth of knowledge on the matter by clicking this LINK. Perfect preparation inspiration to curl up with until the weather warms up.
Or, why not watch the recording of our very own free live chat, ‘Planting for Bees’, for some great professional advice from Nigel Madge of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. We were lucky enough to share some invaluable tips and ask questions submitted by our lovely customers during this one off webinar. To access the video click HERE.
Grow these Flowers the Easy Way!
Share the Wildflower Love
Do you have a gifting occasion coming up? Now is the perfect time to include one of our eco friendly seeded gift tags, comprising of averagely 25 bee friendly seeds, for a loved one to plant now ready for pollinators this summer. For more info take a peak HERE.
No Garden? No Problem!
Vegetable Garden only?
Perhaps your garden passion centres on vibrant vegetable patches rather than lush borders and flower beds aplenty. However, it is still important to attract bees to you garden to help pollinate your veg, ensuring you are provided with a hearty crop of home grown organic goodies. Without plenty of pollinators you may find the plants in your vegetable garden growing huge with tons of flowers but hardly producing any vegetables. Try these tips:
- Intermix pollinator friendly annual plants into your vegetable garden, they will be over at the same time as your vegetable plants in the autumn, making them easy to pull out, prepare the beds and replant every year with your veg crop.
- Would you prefer to plant herbs near your vegetable plot instead of flowers? These will also work perfectly to entice bees to pollinate your veggies and serve to season your delights when they are ready for tasting should you so wish! Bees adore the pollen and nectar from herbs such as thyme, rosemary, borage, sage and oregano which provide many medicinal properties to keep the colony fit and healthy (which is why mono herbal honies are particularly medicinal for humnas too!)
- Plant flowers in groupings to create bunches of colourful flowers with your veggies, making it easier for bees to find you garden.
Garden Jobs for February & Early March
2. Prepare vegetable seed beds
3. Plant garlic
4. Protect any fruit tree blossom from frost
5. Tidy paths and walkways
6. Divide bulbs such as snowdrops and plant those that need planting ‘in the green’ (when the bulb still has leaves)
7. Sow any chillies, aubergine and sweet peppers inside under a heat propagator (if you don’t have one save the expensive by using a seed tray, tomato or mushroom punnets and cling film or old freezer bags fixed with elastic bands or sellotape to cover) Unsure how to sow your seeds correctly? Click HERE for Alan Titchmarsh’s explanatory guide.
8. Plant Lupins and Violas
9. Plant out any hardy perennials such as Japanese anemones and hardy geraniums
10. Plant Lilly bulbs now for fantastic summer flowers if you have well drained soil
11. Make fat balls for your bird feeders – click HERE for a recipe!
How do Deal with Garden Overwhelm
Take a deep breath and accept that there will always be as much work to be done in the garden as you can find time for. Accept that you can’t do everything and that is OK.
If it’s hot, then watering is the most important task to maintain what you already have. Or, at this time of year perhaps seed sowing or transplanting may take priority. Ask yourself what is most important to you? If it is ensuring there are plenty of flowers for pollinators come summer then it’s time to start sowing your seeds. What would you miss seeing most in your garden if it didn’t grow or what would you love to sit out and see? Prioritise ensuring these plants/flowers flourish in your garden.
Write a ‘To Do’ list of 10 items, the first things that come into your head. Stop at 10. Pick one item – the quickest, the most important or the most fun – and do that. It may be all you do for one day but it is a launch into action and will feel satisfying to tick off your list.
Are there ways to make life easier? Can you ask a neighbour if they may have any spare young plants so that you can reduce your time on the sowing/thinning/potting on and planting out? If buying plants, support local and eco by scouring farmers markets for young plants. If sowing seeds consider buying ones that are ready mixed for your particular wants and can be planted straight into the soil – like our specially selected ‘seeds for bees’. Simply lightly water the soil, hand scatter, tread over lightly to ensure contact with the soil and voila! For tips on how to simplify your garden have a look at Julieanne’s blog -Gwenfar's Garden and other musings – Notes on growing ornamentals and edibles, and musings on other matters that interest me. (gwenfarsgarden.info) - she discusses gardening with ME but her advice is relevant to all of us that have more on our ‘garden to-do list’ than we feel we can manage.
5. Participate in Community Plant Swaps
Gather advice and soak up enthusiasm from other gardeners whilst saving money on new plants by sharing seeds, cuttings and transplants with others by participating in community plant swaps. Some plant exchange events take place online where seeds and plants can be exchanged via mail or local pick-up. Have a look HERE.
6. Cut Back Elsewhere
As the evenings get longer and the weather warmer, prioritise taking yourself out in the garden for some beneficial sunlight and exercise and you may be amazed what you can get done if you cut back on spending time on other evening tasks. So what if the housework takes a back seat for a while? Or maybe lengthy dinners can be substituted for soups, fresh salads or a stir fry to allow yourself time to prioritise your garden.
7. The 15 Minute Rule
Spend exactly 15 minutes on one garden task. Walk away when the 15 minutes are up to work on something fresh or have a cuppa – if the task isn’t complete repeat again either later that day or another day. This is also a good tip for avoiding back or knee pain in the garden by reducing time spent on jobs that require prolonged kneeling and bending. You may be surprised by how much you can get done when you break your time down into 15 minute chunks rather than resigning yourself to ‘having to spend hours’ on a garden task.
8. Ask for help
Most of us have a caring friend or relative who are gardening enthusiasts and would no doubt be more than happy to be asked to share their expertise with us. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – most people love to talk about their passions and help others where they can. Perhaps friends and family could provide a fun way to help you tackle your garden in return for a cuppa and chat? Or why not treat your willing helper (or yourself!) to our Garden Bee box as a thank you?
9. Embrace ‘the Wild’
Turn your garden into a natural haven rather than strive for organised perfection - not only will nature and the local pollinators and wildlife thank you but also you will be helping yourself by keeping your garden lower maintenance.
Consider opting for shrubs which are easy to plant through a weed suppressing membrane if you so wish, and once established in beds are unlikely to require regular watering. Let the grass grow, leave areas unmown between March and September - add aesthetic interest and food for pollinators by introducing wildflowers into the sward.
Wild looking, lower maintenance, sustainable gardens have definitely seen an increase in popularity over recent years with last years Chelsea flower show featuring planet-friendly gardening designs showcased alongside the more traditional manicured gardens.
Members of the prestigious Society of Garden Designers (www.livingetc.com) note how, “wild meadows have replaced formal beds” with “rewilding becoming one of the biggest garden trends in recent years, with more and more gardeners opting for wildflower meadows, instead of neatly manicured lawns, and looser, more relaxed planting schemes that seem a million years away from the neat borders our parents would have praised.”
So, don’t stress about those ‘weeds’ - did you know in fact that last year the Royal Horticultural Society awarded a gold medal to a garden full of ragwort and other weeds, praised for its incredible source of nectar for pollinators. (Biodiversity bonanza! Why it is time to let weeds go wild in our gardens | Gardens | The Guardian.)
If your garden is looking rather on the ‘wild’ side, be proud, not only are you bang on trend, most importantly of all you are providing a planet-kind haven for pollinators and wildlife, whilst saving yourself garden chores!
Remember, the definition of 'weed' is a "wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants".
Let's stop calling them weeds and instead call them 'wanted' wild plants!
8 Tips for Cultivating an Eco-friendly Garden
Now you are armed with ideas for pollinator pleasing plants , garden jobs to commence, along with some tips to help motivate you, how else can you make your garden eco-friendly and a little lighter on your finances?
1. Practice Sustainable Gardening
The Ecosystem Gardener recommends being “mindful of environmental costs” by not purchasing reams of materials, fertilisers or tools that you do not need, refraining from “maintaining your garden using fossil fuel powered mowers, blowers and trimmers,” and by designating your own composting area for leaves and other organic materials.
2. Reuse and Relove
Feeling keen for a creative project during the evenings while we await the warmer weather? Why not make your own budget friendly planter out of fallen wood in your garden or any that you may come across on country walks – big or small depending on how enterprising you are feeling!
Last year team HBB had fun making a couple of our own planters above with bits of fallen tree from Llangybi woods - a couple of which now lend to brighten up our office here.
However, due to food legislation, we cannot reuse your honey jars so, at this time of year, how about repurposing them for seeds in your greenhouse or using them upturned over seedlings as mini ‘cloches’ to keep the soil warm for growth? If you don’t have any outdoor areas they also lend themselves to making these cute little terranium-esque homes for plants.
Perhaps you have lots of our scrub/cleansing balm wooden spoons going spare? Here at HBB we have found they come in particularly handing for labelling our seeds!
4. Soil Support
Try recycling green waste and make your own compost which costs nothing and will save money on bagged compost and soil conditioner from the garden centre. One tip is to leave those fallen leaves in your garden and spread them through your garden beds and let Mother Nature break them down to add organic matter to your soil.
5. Be Water Wise
6. Choose Eco- Friendly Plants
In an eco-friendly garden the best plants will provide food and shelter, creating perfect habitats for beneficial wildlife. Choose lots of local berry-producing plants and trees, such as hawthorn. Favour hedges instead of walls or grow climbers – ivy is particularly good, providing both protection and a rich source of nectar in the colder months. Be sure to check what conditions your plants require and plant in the shade or a sunnier area accordingly allowing them to thrive naturally. This will also help to keep garden maintenance time to a minimum.
7. Cut Chemicals
- Make your own Spray. Repurpose a household spray bottle and full with a mixture of tap water and dash of washing up liquid for an easy deterrent that can be applied directly to plants affected by greenfly and aphids without causing the plant harm.
Barrier repellents. Stop pest attacks effectively by denying them access. Piling straw around the base of plants will block a creepy crawly’s way up to the leaves. Cooper tape placed around the rim of containers will prevent slugs and crumbled eggshells spread around plants or the use of beer traps (you will have to share the Stella) will serve to stop slugs and snails in their tracks.
Welcome wildlife. Surrounded by natural allies in our gardens, birds, frogs, hedgehogs and insects are on our side in the fight against garden pests. Hang bird feeders to attract our feathered friends and if you can create a small water area for frogs.
Get hands on. Perhaps not fo the faint- hearted but a quick, cheap and easy method of pest control is simply plucking up the critters as you see them. After a spot of rain is a great time for a recce of the garden for picking out slugs, snails ad caterpillars!
8. Oh, Honey!
Elizabeth Waddington, Green Living Consultant and author of ‘Rural Sprout’ recommends using a quality, raw honey for top nutritional benefit for your garden- although I’m not sure there would ever be any left over in our house!
Intrigued? She suggests trying it as a rooting hormone when growing plants from cuttings as its antibacterial and antifungal properties save cuttings from rot and infection and provide a safe environment for growing roots.
In need of a fertiliser for fruiting annuals? Well, hello honey! Providing an excellent source of nutrients – not just for us, but for plants too, honey is a source of many essential plant elements - phosphorus and potassium - as well as nutrients like zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium. Simply mix a tablespoon or two of gently heated honey with 7 cups of water stir well, leave to cool and then use the mixture to water your flowering or fruiting plants.
Another way honey can come in handy for gardeners is in helping to preserve fresh fruits without the use of processed sugar – use in your jams, preserves and canning syrups. Check out our very own delicious raw Welsh honey HERE.
A Garden that Gives to the Environment and You
It is common knowledge that getting out in the garden is good for us – the dose of vitamin D, the exercise, along with the immersion in nature serve to improve our health, with the NHS now included gardening in their social prescribing as a method of healthcare.
Certainly the benefits of being in the garden run much deeper than just exercise, in '12 Reasons Why Gardening is Good for You’ Kate Middleton discusses how gardening can help you enter “an altered state of consciousness where you enter a magical and spiritual place where you can experience the best of who you are.”
Your Garden as a Spiritual Sanctuary
Let your garden provide you with an outlet for relieving stress and anxiety - a place where you can become still and mindful by consciously breathing and being in the present. Choose your favourite serene spot where you can take time out to clear your head - garden meditation “can help to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, improve brain function and lessen pain and inflammation” (www.naturespath.com)
Once you have chosen a little spot in your garden or back yard , set about creating your own meditation garden or ‘quiet spot’ just for you. Put in a small bench, hammock, or a simple yoga mat.
Next add a water feature for cleansing and calming; perhaps a bird bath or a simple ornamental bowl. You may like to add wind chimes for gentle sound or some meditation bells.
You may think about adding some rocks, large pebbles or stones to offer a sense of grounding and calm to your quiet place. Perhaps you would like to add sculptures of spiritual figures who are important to you – this garden space should feel personal and be simple, natural and low maintenance where you can escape from the busyness of daily life and reflect on the simplicity of nature. How about memorialising a loved person or pet that has passed on from this life with a thoughtful stone or ornament dedicated to them for reflection on loving memories you shared.
Enshroud your special space with your favourite pollinator friendly plants, grasses and evergreens, to create the feeling of a protective safe haven around you. Opt for fragrant, relaxing lavender, or try the citrusy musky bouquet of tulsi basil (easy to grow from seed) and widely used in Ayurvedic medicine to reduce the impact of worry on the body with several research studies having validated its value in the management of stress and anxiety (www.growveg.co.uk/guides/grow-calming-herbs-for-you-and-your-garden/)
For further aromatherapeutic relaxation why not roll on our natural essential oil Relieve Bee Remedy on your pulse points whilst you enjoy the peace of your garden? This essential oil blend has ben carefully designed following extensive research by our small Welsh team to include the very best plant oils to support tension and stress relief – for more info on this CLICK HERE
Relax with a Book
Enjoy winding down in your garden or backyard with your favourite book – to really immerse yourself in the spirit of the garden, for all you bee and nature lovers, we would fully recommend delving into Brigit Strawbridge Howard’s book ‘Dancing with Bees’. Bridgit’s fascinating account of the lives of flora and fauna that have filled her days with wonder and delight is flowing with passion and infectious enthusiasm for the majesty of the natural world and the humble bee – the perfect irresistible garden read to enjoy amongst the rejuvenating effects of nature.
Reap the Rewards
Take pleasure in how you are helping the bees with your pollinator friendly planting and eco garden environment. Treat yourself to your local, raw honey, knowing that your garden has played a pivotal role in its production. One of the most rewarding things for us is when our very local customers tell us how lovely it is that the honey in their HBB skincare products has come from nectar they provided in their own garden – what a lovely happy feeling.
But what if you don’t have any outside space at all?
Peace Lilly Another recommended indoor beauty is the peace lily -she works hard to remove chemicals from the atmosphere and is even capable of removing airborne mould that can be alleviating to allergy and asthma sufferers.
Snake Plant What about the sensational snake plant? This one really is the Queen Bee of air cleaners with, ‘the ability to absorb excessive amounts of carbon monoxide, filter toxins such as benzene and trichloroethylene (The Healing Power Of Houseplants - Peace With The Wild) – try popping it in your bedroom to regulate airflow as its super power is converting carbon dioxide into oxygen at night!
How does your Garden GLOW?
For all you natural skincare lovers have you thought about growing your favourite skincare scents and ingredients in your garden? Do you already recognise some of HBB’s plant-based skincare components in your own gardens or out in the countryside? Let’s feel inspired by some common garden plants beloved in skincare:
How do we use it at HBB?
Update: Look out for this ingredient in our brand new Sensitive Bee Spritz/Toner – testing so far has been very positive so we will be progressing to formal safety assessments next.
For gardeners our Garden Bee Foot & Hand Scrub contains a generous helping of rosemary essential oil to clean dry, rough skin and soothe cracked heels, hands or elbows.
Lavender oil is popular in beauty products as it is packed full of antioxidants, is gentle on the skin, and soothes eczema prone dry skins and is THE best oil to bring calm. The bees, bumbles and butterflies adore it too!
But, perhaps most popular of all, find it in our award winning soothing and healing Nurse Bee Universal Balm - see what our customers say about it HERE.
Gardener’s Skincare Saviours
We’ve pinpointed skin concerns shared with us by our customers, drawn on our own experiences and scoured the advice of dermatologists to compile a list of tips to keep your skin ‘bee-utifully’ soft throughout the gardening season and beyond.
- A moisturising soap is a must
Try our natural hand creams, luxuriously rich with beeswax and honey to gentle soothe, protect, attract and lock in moisture. From hard-working to heavenly scented hands, choose from punchy lavender & lime or revitalising rose & frankincense.
- Love Gloves
- Slather the sunscreen.
- Shower and Clean clothes
- Post- Gardening Pamper
For sloughing away dead skin why not have try of our Garden Bee Hand & Foot Scrub which acts as a natural swarfega gently removing mud, dirt and rough skin with olive oil infused himalayan pink salts and uplifting scents of rosemary and lemon to revive and refresh. Great for dry heels and elbows, the scrub also works well to exfoliate hands – helping them to better absorb hand creams and reveal a brighter, younger skin to the surface.
Follow the scrub with smidge of our Garden Bee Universal Balm which will soothe and repair dry, cracked skin on hands and feet with raw honey, pure beeswax and propolis and say a thank you to the bees for what they provide.
It is caused by exposure to furocoumarins, a type of chemical found on plant surfaces. The chemical can become activated by UVA rays through the process of photosynthesis. If your skin comes into contact with the chemical and the chemical becomes activated, a reaction can occur. Contact with this activated substance, even briefly, can cause skin reactions in some people. The symptoms of phytophotodermatitis vary based on the cycle of the reaction. At first, you may experience blister-like patches across the skin. These are often itchy and irregularly shaped. These patches appear wherever your skin is exposed to the plant substance. The most commonly affected areas are the legs, hands and arms. If it sounds like you may be a sufferer click here for a rundown of the most likely plant suspects and on how to manage them:
Phytophotodermatitis - Plants That Cause It, How to Treat It (commonsensehome.com)
She reminds us not to spend time worrying about our gardening mistakes, "gardening is all about failing. It's a creative experience. It takes you out of yourself,” and to enjoy our time in garden. To listen to her awe inspiring podcast click the following link: Gardening Against The Odds - BBC Gardeners World Magazine