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Designing A Clever Bee Garden

Written by Sue Langley —

Find out what to plant, how to preserve and how to decorate a bee-themed garden.  Bees are our favorite motif in the garden!  We, as gardeners, want bees in our gardens, We know that bees the world over have been struggling lately, so we are more and more interested in promoting them in the place where we have some control,…our own gardens!

Becky Norris's mosaiced bee stepping stone

For fruit and vegetable gardeners, inviting nature’s most productive pollinator into the yard can provide an impressive increase in yields and better-tasting produce.

Bee garden by Golly Bard

Avoid using pesticides and other chemicals in your garden and provide some water in a shallow dish that will hold a bit of water from sprinklers if you garden in a hot, dry climate.

Decorating your Bee Garden

Sue Jordan and her grandkids, painted smooth stones to 'bee' bees!

Since we love to shop at Flea Markets, as well, and craft things, our busiest gardeners will show how to add bee-themed garden art to decorate your bee garden.

Annie Grossart-Steen's bee embroidered accent pillow

Ammie Peters made bees out of wooden eggs.

Ammie Peters‎'s wooden egg bees

Ammie's 'flying' bee makes us smile!

Attracting birds, beneficials and pollinators to your garden

Among the many joys of gardening is the chance to observe the abundance of wildlife—the industrious bee, the fleeting butterfly, hovering hummingbirds and more. Of course there are other, less-welcome visitors—the hungry rabbit or mischievous raccoon—but still, most of us would agree that a garden without wildlife seems static and even sterile. Join us for our free garden talk this Saturday morning to learn more about how to bring your garden to life with nature’s little helpers.

Honey bee on Asters in Sue Langley's garden

Bees flock to the sunflowrs in Christy Morrow's garden

Constance Ann McAlpin's birdbath also provides bees with much needed water

Tips for Bee Gardens:

  • Provide Year-round Pollen & Nectar Rich Plants
  • Plant in Groups so bees can find our garden
  • Include Wildflowers to attract native bees
  • Create a Wildflower Meadow
  • Provide Water and Mud! Some bees use mud to build nests
  • Make Space for Herbs
  • Teach your kids about bee gardens

 

Sue Jordan's photo of a carpenter bee on her wisteria

Linda Gladman's bee on a Zinnia

Nell Stelzer's bees

Crafting Bees!

Plant bee attracting plants and mix with some inventive garden crafts

 

Sue Jordan's painted flower pot bees bees

Guess what these will be?

Myra Glandon's bobbin bee

Myra Glandon says, “I’m guessing they call these beehive bobbins due to the shape. They sort of resemble a bee skep…you have to really use your imagination to see it though!  I happened to get this one when I searched for some of the long bobbins from which I make dragonflies.  I’ve been wanting to make a bee out of it, but couldn’t really figure out what to make wings out of, and while making the owls recently, I realized the veggie steamer ‘fins’ might make good wings.”

Jeanne’s Mason bee hotel

Solitary bees, like Mason bees are excellent pollinators, but they sometimes struggle to find nesting sites. A home-made nest looks attractive and provides them with a home, as well as ensuring bumper vegetable harvests. Hang your bee hotel in the shade and in an out of the way spot.

Materials for Jeanne's Bee Hotel

Jeanne Sammons made a Bee Hotel with an old terra cotta pot, old bamboo I cut up using a band saw, play dough and a roll of florist wire and a cute little ‘fairy’ from Hobby Lobby.  You can get the bamboo canes at hardware stores or gardening.
She pressed the play dough (or you can use modeling clay) into the bottom of the pot.  She cut the bamboo to size and press each one into the clay.

Jeanne Sammons‎ stuffed short pieces of bamboo into a basket

She says, “I wrapped some florist wire around the pot and to hang it … I also threaded a piece of long plain wire before I started thru the pots bottom hole and around to the outside to make a loop so it would hang a bit downward.”

Jeanne's Mason bee house

“I hung the ‘bee hotel’ near my garden shed garden this afternoon …on a rusty shepherds hook near the rhododendron that’s started blooming! Bees usually love it, so hopefully they’ll see the hotel.”

Natural bee hives and swarms

Linda Gladman says, “One of my husband’s friends cut down a tree and found this hive inside. We thought it was so interesting.  I should mention he relocated the dormant hive.”

Linda Gladman found a bee hive in a hollow log

Bee swarms are common in Spring,…the hives become too large and split…a new queen is chosen. The bees when landing on something are sluggish and not interested in stinging. If you can leave them alone, do so, I’d think.
If you can find a beekeeper, he would come out and gather the bees slowly into a box for transport. It’s an interesting natural process.

Watch for butterfly swarms, too,…usually end of May.

Making Bee Skeps

Christy Morrow says, “My bee skep is covered in approximately 125 feet of rope. I had to “think outside of the box” and taped several things together to make the shape, and then glued the rope over them. I designed the birdhouse and the crate, and hubby made them. Then I finish them with paint, sanding and “aging”. If I can ever find some very small fake bees, I will glue them on to the skep. All these things will go out in the garden when spring arrives!”

Christy Morrow's bee skep

Christy tells us,”in early days beekeepers kept their bees in bee skeps which were made of straw. However, in order to harvest the honey they had to destroy the skep. These days, skeps are no longer used, but I love how they look in the garden. Older ones are very expensive, so I decided to make one to use as a decoration in my garden. The hole is painted on, so no bees can actually use it.

Laura Litten Goines I made this  bee skep from old rope

Laura also made bee skeps from hypertufa, a lightweight concrete with straw

Plants that attract bees!

Set out a bee smörgåsbord!

Laura Goines says, Snow drops are important here for bees

Christy Morrow, an avid plantswoman, offers her list of plants that especially attract bees.  If you know any, please comment below:
Herbs: Lavender, Borage, Catmint, Sage, Cilantro, Thyme, Fennel
Perennials: Crocus, Daffodils, Asters, Hollyhocks, Anemones, Snow Drops, Geraniums, Bee Balm
Annuals: Calendulas, Poppies, Sunflowers, Zinnias, Cleomes, Heliotropes

Jeanne Sammons's Rhodenderon

 

Chelsea Flower Show exhibit Bee Garden

Bee Mosaic Stepping Stones

Bee Garden- featured

For her charming bee stepping stones, Becky Norris used purchased stepping stones. “All you need is the thin set and the grout sealer is all I needed and a small bucket to mix it in and the decorative ‘bean-sized’ rocks which I found at the dollar tree for a dollar a sack and also some of the smallest ones I needed were 2.99 for a sack of them at Hobby Lobby.”

Becky 4

She says, “I mixed the thin set till it was about like brownie batter and spread it on the purchased block with a paint stick and then just added the rocks one at a time as quickly as she could.

Becky 3

 

Becky 5

Becky pressed fern leaves into her design

Becky 6

Becky says, “Then I went back over them pressing gently to get them seated in the thin set material.  I let them dry thoroughly and then sealed them with a grout sealer which I sprayed on and let dry. They are now ready to be set in the walkway.”

Becky Norris's mosaiced bee stepping stone

 

Becky made four different motifs on stepping stones

Try making some ‘bee’ stepping stones for your Bee Garden!

 

Grow these, save bees

Identify your bees!

Is the bee you see, a honey bee, a carpenter bee or a bumble bee?  Find out here.

Thinking of keeping bees?

Clare from Curbstone Valley Farm has the prettiest bee hive garden and learned from scratch how to keep bees in California.  I highly recommend reading her blog about how she started..

You can find a wealth of interesting ideas for your garden at http://www.fleamarketgardening.org/

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