Get The Buzz – Planting for Bees

There are many reasons why bees are so very important to us, but one fact really stands out to us and makes us appreciate how hugely important our buzzy friends are:

 “It is estimated that one third of the food that we consume each day relies on pollination, mainly by bees, and it is often said that if bees died out, humans would follow just four years later.”
Wow! There you have it. So now do we have your attention?
The bees loving the echinops in our garden

The bees loving the echinops in our garden

Now we know you have heard lots of times that bees are on the decline and we are not here to bore you with the whys and whatnots of that. We simply want to share with you our Top Ten bee friendly plants to include in your garden which look great, are easy to look after and importantly, bees just LOVE. So next time you are down the garden centre or browsing online why not get yourself some of these beauties and know that you are doing your bit to keep the food on your plate?
First of all bees love diversity so make sure you have a few different options for them and also ones which are flowering at different times of the year to encourage them to keep coming back.  Secondly, go for native plants wherever you can and ones which will thrive in your conditions. The more bees you attract into your garden the better your garden will grow too as many plants and vegetables rely on pollination.

1. Lavender

A favourite with so many of our clients. It loves dry, sunny positions so if you don’t have the correct sort of soil in your borders consider having a pretty pot filled with lavender on a sunny corner of our patio where you can enjoy the
sights, smells and buzzy sounds from it!

2. Catmint

Nepeta is loved by cats and bees alike! It is similar to lavender with its pretty flowers and silvery blue leaves and gives off a lovely aromatic scent as you brush past.

3. Verbena

We love verbena, particularly verbena bonariensis. It grows really easily, even in our heavy clay soil and gives statuesque height to the border. You may need to give the plant a bit of support if your garden catches the wind and be warned, this plant does like to self seed. It provides beautiful winter interest if it’s not cut down in Autumn.

4. Sedum

Another favourite in our garden and one which grows really easily and provides great structure to a mixed border. We love the dark red colour which appears late Autumn when the garden is starting to need a little bit of a boost and
continues to provide interest through the winter.  It’s easy to split and create new plants so if you know a friend who has some then go ask for a piece now!

5. Eryngium

Bees love all thistle-like plants and it’s hard to choose from the array of wonderful, architectural plants. We love eryngium big blue but there are many beautiful varieties to choose from. Eryngium is another great plant for winter
interest if you don’t cut it down after it has flowered.

Bees on eryngium

6. Buddleja

Probably best known for attracting butterflies but bees are also partial to a buddleja. The long cone-like flowers prove too irresistible for them.

7. Sunflowers

Now, who can resist the big yellow smiley face of a sun flower? It’s the perfect plant to get kids involved in gardening. Get them to have a competition with their friends to see who can grow the tallest plant and use it to explain to them the importance of encouraging bees into the garden.

8. Hebe

Hebes are a great structural shrub which can be a lovely alternative to buxus in your garden if you are looking for a rounded shape to provide an interesting form. But bees love their flowers too making it a well rounded (excuse the pun) plant for the garden.

A bee on sedum

A bee on sedum

9. Foxgloves

We regularly see foxgloves growing profusely at the sides of the road so it shows just how easy they are to grow. They will self seed furiously so once you have them you will get free plants forever. Bees just love snuggling up inside one
of the bell like flowers and having a nice big feed. 

10. Heathers

Again, a plant we often see growing in the wild in Scotland and if you have acidic soil in your garden you will be able to grow these well and keep our fuzzy friends happy.

If we have whetted your appetite, then there are literally THOUSANDS of plants* which bees will love and there will be plenty to suit your garden and soil. The perfect for pollinators list published by the RHS gives you more information than you could ever wish for.

If you want any advice on creating a bee or wildlife friendly garden please get in touch.
Happy planting!
Lulu & Tilda xx
* Honourable mentions also go to echinops and fennel. Both of these statuesque plants are magnets to bees as well as being stunning plants to add some height and structure to a garden.

The Plight of the Bumblebee

Hopefully all the yummy crops in your garden are growing well and you can start to see berries, fruit and veg appearing on your plants. If you can, it is likely that pollinating insects like bumblebees have been out and about in your garden.  Bumblebees look really cute and with big bodies and tiny wings don’t look like they should able to fly. Like me they aren’t happy being told what they can’t do so they do fly just to spite the mathematician boffins! I thought I’d find out a bit more about them and how they help in our gardens and what we can do to help them in return.

Read on to find out what I'm making.....

Read on to find out what I’m making…..

Bumblebee facts

How Bumblebees help us

Bumblebees drink the sugary juice called nectar that’s in flowers and they collect yellow dust called pollen to feed to their babies.  When they do this they “pollinate” the flowers and that lets them turn into fruit and veg. They are faster pollinators than honeybees as they can visit twice as many plants every minute and all their hairs means nectar sticks all over them.  Being bigger they can carry more pollen and so can go on longer foraging trips. They are hardy insects, not put off by drizzle or winds- perfect for Scotland. They are happily active at temperatures down to 10°C. They aren’t as scared of enclosed spaces such as greenhouses as honeybees are, so do more of the pollinating on indoor crops. In fact some bumblebees are grown just to pollinate crops such as tomatoes, courgettes, strawberries and peppers grown by farmers inside greenhouses. In the UK bumblebees, solitary bees and hoverflies also pollinate 97% of our wild flowers.

Helping bumblebees

Two types of bumble bee have disappeared from our gardens in the last 80 years. If we don’t want to lose any more types we can grow their favourite plants in our gardens. Wild flowers such as foxgloves, daisies and buttercups have lots of nectar and pollen.  Our countryside used to be filled with wild flower meadows but these have been disappearing. We can plant these in our garden.  Or we can plant tasty herbs such as rosemary, chives, thyme, sage and marjoram to feed bumblebees and us.

Remember to try to plant different flowers that bloom from Spring through to Autumn- we’d not be happy if we could only eat in June and July! Also, different types bumblebees have shorter or longer tongues so need flowers of different sizes too so they can find their perfect fit- just like Goldilocks and the 3 bears! Some bees manage get around this problem by nibbling a teeny hole in the base the flower so they can still get access to the nectar- how smart are they?!

Learn how bumblebee friendly your garden is by finding out your Bee kind score and then you’ll get help picking other favourite bumblebee flowers to plant alongside those you already have.  My garden got a score of 2604, not too bad as the average in Scotland is 2061.

If you ever come across a bumblebee lying on the ground looking tired/unwell you can try to help by feeding them a mixture of 1 teaspoon of sugar in 1 teaspoon of water and placing that near the bee’s head. It should then stick out its really, really long tongue, lap up the sugary water and then use the energy to fly off.  Never try to keep a bumblebee inside, they need to be outside foraging, building a nest or hibernating.

Identifying bumblebees

It’s fun to learn what types of bumblebee you have in your garden. You need to begin by making sure it is a bumblebee and not a honey bee. Bumblebees are normally bigger and hairier than honeybees or solitary bees. Next work out what colour its tail is and how many bands it has on its body. Finally look to see if there is a ball of pollen (or a shiny surface ready cover with pollen) on its back legs.  You can even get involved in the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Bee Watch survey.  You just need to take a photograph of the bumblebees that you see and then upload it to their webpage telling them the date and time the photo was taken.  The tools help you work out the type of bumblebee (don’t worry an expert bumblebee identifier -what a cool job – will check your answer later) and your bumblebee will become part of their survey results.  All the results will help brainy people check on what types of bumblebees are found where and how many of them there are just in case any types need extra special help from us.

Bumblebee craft

Here’s a great way to use old jars of plastic bottles and turn them into a fun craft project and game.

You’ll need:

To make:

  1. Start by covering the outside of your jar with glue.
Gluing on the black body- be extra careful when holding glass jars

Gluing on the black body- be extra careful when holding glass jars

2. Wrap a piece of black paper around the jar.

3. Cut the yellow paper into strips

4. Glue a couple of yellow strips around the black jar to make bumblebee stripes.

This bumblebee will have almost as many yellow stripes on his tummy as me!

This bumblebee will have almost as many yellow stripes on his tummy as me!

5. Stick on googly eyes near the top of jar.

6. Make antennas out of pipe cleaners and slip this in between paper and jar.

7. Draw on a face.

8. Cut out some wings from white card and glue these onto back of jar.

9. Write numbers on the front to tell everyone how many points you’ll get for throwing the cone into that bumblebee.

My hungry bumblebee family

My hungry bumblebee family

Now you have a fun game where you can take turns to throw the pinecone “pollen” into the hungry bumblebee’s tummy.  See who can score the most points!

Remember, if you enjoy eating tomatoes and strawberries or looking at pretty wild flowers as much as I do, please help out in the plight of the bumblebees and grow a few more bee friendly plants in your garden.

Big hugs

Euan xx

Take A Walk On The Wild Side…

Do you fancy being a wildlife warden in your own nature reserve?  If you go about creating a wildlife garden correctly (and not just leaving a bit of your garden to go wild) you will be rewarded with countless visits by new birds, insects, animals and amphibians. You might even get an increase in crop yield from your veg and fruit. And helping out wildlife doesn’t mean you have to compromise on design either.

A wildlife garden doesn't need to compromise on style

A wildlife garden doesn’t need to compromise on style

Why should we encourage wildlife into our gardens?

Lots of indigenous creatures like hedgehogs, sparrows, stag beetles and song thrushes are continuing to struggle in the UK. But with more than 16 million gardens in the UK, imagine the difference we could make if we all did a little bit more in our gardens to help.

We have recently redesigned the gardens at Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre for the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It’s been incredibly rewarding seeing how our designs can make a real difference to wildlife on that reclaimed industrial wasteland and look beautiful at the same time. Whether you are thinking of a whole new garden design that centres around wildlife or if you have an area you could designate for them, there are lots of ways you can really make a difference.

The new Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre which Vialii designed features funky bug hotels as well as a pond and living walls

The new Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre which Vialii designed features funky bug hotels as well as a pond and living walls

Before you embark on your wildlife garden…

If you’re looking at a new garden design, you first need to determine just what you want to use your garden for and who will be using it. Once you have the basic structure of patios, seating areas, paths, veg areas, borders and lawns sorted you can then start thinking about the smaller creatures who also enjoy hanging out in your garden (wildlife that is, hopefully you’ve already thought about children and pets!)

The pond we built in this Edinburgh garden is a haven for wildlife

The pond we built in this Edinburgh garden is a haven for wildlife

Things to consider in a wildlife garden


The single most beneficial item you can introduce in your wildlife garden design is a pond. Ideally don’t add fish as they will eat visiting wildlife which kind of defeats the purpose! Make sure one side of the pond has a more gradual sloping side to allow creatures easy access.


By being intelligent with the choice of flowers you can provide pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. That has the added benefit of helping with any pollination in your veg and fruit plots. Pick a range of flowers so that nectar and pollen is available from spring (e.g crocuses) through to autumn (e.g. Michaelmas daisies). Also ensure you have a mix of trees and shrubs.  Larger trees are great at providing food and shelter for a range of wildlife. Also, 96% of our native wildflower meadows have been lost in the last 60 years so by including one in your garden you can help restore the balance. They are relatively low maintenance and you can even mow a path through it to add intrigue and encourage exploration in your garden design.

View across the lower pond

A stunning garden pond we created

Wood piles

Decaying wood is increasingly rare in the countryside so by leaving a pile of dead wood you’ll benefit stag and bark beetles and their grub as well as many fungi.   You can be creative with the structure of the pile and can make it look quite architectural or funky.

Create alternative habitats

Another more rustic idea is to make a rock garden that will attract important flying insects such as mason bees.  During their 6-8 week life they will help pollinate your fruit trees. They need a source of mud but with our climate in Scotland this is not normally a problem! They also need a shelter.  Mason bees’ nesting holes are ideally 5mm diameter and 15cm deep.  You can provide paper straws or bamboo tubes in these dimensions and perhaps tuck them in an upturned flowerpot or buy a commercially available option.

Solutions for smaller spaces

If you’re short on space or can’t commit to a complete garden design, you can still help out wildlife.  You could plant up a hanging basket with ox-eye daisies, lavender, wild pansies and honeysuckle to encourage bees and butterflies. Or just fill a planter with wildflower seeds rather than having a full meadow area.

A bee on sedum

The correct planting will help encourage wildlife into your garden

If you hanker after a pond but think you’ve not got the space you could create a pond in a pot. You just need a water tight container – how about up-cycling an old Belfast sink with the hole plugged? Place 2-4cm of peat-free compost in the bottom and cover with gravel. Fill the container with water (rainwater is ideal but if using tap water leave for 2-3 days). Then plant up once the water has cleared. Use oxygenating plants which will survive in water.  You can make a little shelf and plant marginals. All you need to do then is keep the water levels topped up (again using rainwater to reduce likelihood of algal blooms) and enjoy the new wildlife.

Think about your boundaries

Another option for a small wildlife garden is to make a functional item such as a fence into a living boundary by covering them with wildlife friendly flowering and berry producing plants. Honeysuckle bark makes good nest building material for birds and the flowers attract a plethora of insects. Clematis plants provide burst of colour for us and attract insects and provide shelter for birds. Ivy is another excellent option as the flowers provide autumn nectar for honey bees and red admiral butterflies, birds love the berries and lots of wildlife can use the plant for shelter.

If you are interested in creating a wildlife garden and need some help, contact us for a free design consultation.

Thanks for reading,

All at Vialii

The Bees Knees

Hi, it’s me, Lulu, The Secret Blogger again! So, the bees knees. What a funny saying. I mean, do bees even have knees? And if so, why are they so good? Anyway, knees or not, bees are very good things. And not just because I can say the word “bee” very well plus I can do a good impression of a buzzy bee! We need bees for lots of reasons…

Bees on eryngium

Bees on eryngium

Why Bees Are Important

Bees pollinate a wide range of crops, vegetables, fruits and plants

It’s important we encourage bees into our garden. There are lots more plants that bees like and M&D have listed their top ten favourites here. If we all plant a few of these in our gardens it will make a huge difference and that will be the “bees knees” 😉
Echinacea is popular with bees

Echinacea is popular with bees


To celebrate the humble bumble why don’t you ask your mummy and daddy to help you make your own bumble bee? I love this project as it’s suitable for kids of all ages:

Fingerprint Bumblebees

You will need:
How to make your bumble bee:
Make a bumble bee from finger prints

Make a bumble bee from finger prints


So, even when you are indoors you can have your very own cheery bumble bee! Thanks to the crafty people at DLTK for this idea.

I will leave the last word to a man called Albert Einstein. He was very clever, just like my Mummy.
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
1. I have a lot of friends who like their food a LOT and they wouldn’t be happy if there wasn’t enough to go round. Mentioning no names. Euan 😉

Do You Do Room Service?

Everyone likes a nice, comfy home and bugs are no different from the rest of us. Many are happy to set up home under a pile of leaves or logs. But why not go a step further and create your own bug version of Gleneagles in your very own back garden with a 5 Star Bug Hotel? Here’s how to make a bug hotel…

A stunning bug hotel from the Chelsea Flower Show

A stunning bug hotel from the Chelsea Flower Show

Many of us like to have a neat and tidy garden and by doing so we often eradicate the natural habitats bugs can call home. Or in a new garden with lots of hard landscaping and container planting there may be limited places for invertebrates to set up home. Bug hotels are purpose built structures which can be as simple or grand as you like.

A bug hotel on Seil Island with a green roof

A bug hotel on Seil Island with a green roof

Designing A Bug Hotel

The first rule of creating a bug hotel is to incorporate a variety of materials and different shapes and sizes of nooks and crannies. Different bugs have different requirements so in order to be diverse and encourage as much wildlife as possible into your garden make sure you use a wide array of materials.  Offer everything from single rooms up to penthouse suites with a spa thrown in for good measure!

[[image:blog/blog-roomservice-3.jpg=A stunning bug hotel from the Chelsea Flower Show using lots of different materials]]

If you can, do a rough design of what you want your bug hotel to look like. Most bug hotels are made from reclaimed material thus making them cheap and easy to build as well as good for the environment. You could use some old pallets which are easy to get hold of to create the different layers of your bug hotel. Or if you are feeling adventurous you could create a real focal point in your garden by building a tower similar to the fantastic work of art at the Chelsea Flower Show a few years ago.

Building A Bug Hotel

Building a bug hotel is a wonderful project to build with children and you can encourage them to collect the materials you are going to use. Many of these you will have lying around the house and you can ask friends and family to donate to your hotel. Ideal materials include:

Pack the various materials into different sections of your “hotel” and soon you will have created a home which looks interesting and will have wide appeal.

A pallet incorporating a bug hotel at RHS Cardiff Show

A pallet incorporating a bug hotel at RHS Cardiff Show

Bug Central

So what sort of bugs might pack their bags and move into their new home? Well , common sights include mason bees, woodlice, ladybirds, spiders, beetles and centipedes. By encouraging these bugs into your garden they will help you combat the pests which eat your plants and ruin your grass. Great guests to have and ones which always be welcome back! Wonder if you get Trip Advisor for beetles…

Lots of bamboo canes make an ideal home

Lots of bamboo canes make an ideal home

If you want advice on building a bug hotel or other ways of turning your garden into a haven for wildlife please get in touch.

For more information on making your own bug hotel please visit our blogs Make Your Own Bug Hotel and How To Make A Bug Hotel.

All at Vialii