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To Bee or Not to Bee

How to make your garden pollinator friendly 

I spent my childhood years on a farm so I’ve always loved being outdoors. There’s something about spending time outside and connecting with nature that is just great for the soul, and it’s still one of the ways I draw inspiration for new ideas and recipes today.

Today the JAN Garden in Nice is one of my favourite spots to unwind and connect with the outdoors, and learning about gardening practices has been a big part of my sustainability journey as I try to make an effort to be kinder to the Earth wherever I can.  One of the more important responsibilities I’ve learnt about recently is promoting pollination. Around 90% of wild flowering plants need pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds to transfer pollen for reproduction. This process is critical for our natural ecosystems and supporting food production, and it affects each of us directly as a result.

Today pollinators are at risk thanks to climate change, the destruction of natural habitats and pesticides, but there are small changes garden owners can make to their own space to show some kindness to these important little creatures.

Go for variety

Did you know that a foraging honeybee visits up to 100 flowers per foraging trip? That’s a lot of flowers. Variety is the spice of life and that’s true for us and our winged friends in the garden. Pollinator-friendly gardens should ideally have a minimum of three or four different species flowering throughout the year in a variety of shapes and sizes to attract insects and birds. A mix of indigenous and exotic plants is also good to ensure flowering and nectar production year-round, but make sure to do your research before introducing exotic plants that might, for example, be more water demanding than what a sustainable garden should have.

One needs a hint of colour

Some good news for people wanting to balance aesthetics and sustainability, pollinators love colourful plants and flowers too! A pollinator-friendly garden can have yellow, white, blue and purple flowers, as well as plants like borage, felicia, gazania, lavender, protea, rosemary, sage, sunflower, watermelons, cucumbers, pumpkin and thyme – as examples. Try to plant each of these in their own clumps or in layers to create a pollinator paradise.

A spot of water

Pollinating is thirsty business and the insects and birds at work will be grateful if you have a shallow water source year-round for them to visit. Shallow is the key word here since you don’t want them at risk of drowning, and you can even throw in some small stones to act as landing pads for the winged visitors.

Forget chemicals

Avoid pesticides or fungicides where possible as most are toxic for these creatures. 


Mix in some companion plants

Nature thrives off symbiotic relationships and the same can be said for pollinator-friendly gardens. There are some plant pairings you can introduce in your garden to naturally repel pests and attract pollinators. For example, dill and basil planted among tomatoes will protect them from hornworms, borage sweetens strawberries and tomatoes, and basil produces spikes of flowers that will attract bees to the plants you want. 

 Don’t rush spring cleaning

If you’re a green thumb you probably can’t wait to visit your garden when the weather starts getting warmer so you can get rid of dead plants you think are serving no purpose or are less attractive to look at. What you might not know is that many insects hibernate for the winter and are waiting for spring to emerge and breed. Your dead plants and branches might be acting as home to hibernating pollinators and other helpful insects. It’s best to wait for the weather to really heat up before you do your cutting to allow for the overwintering insects like bees and butterflies.

Learn more about the secret lives of butterflies in JAN the Journal Volume 9