Over two thousand inner London schools were invited to apply to rehome the BBC Studios Our Green Planet and RHS Bee Garden, designed by RHS gold medal winning garden designer and presenter Joe Swift. St George’s was chosen after a panel of judges heard about pupils’ enthusiasm for their weekly gardening classes and desire to develop their garden to serve wildlife and the local community. The bee garden will take pride of place near the school entrance for everyone to see, replacing old decking and some grassy plots.
The garden, with an eye-catching design centred around the silhouette of a bee’s wing, aims to inspire people to consider the needs of pollinators, especially bees, when they are choosing plants for their gardens and outdoor spaces. It features a variety of nectar-rich flowers, including scabious, geums and verbena, and will be in constant flower from February to October when bees are in flight.
Many of the plants feature on the RHS Plants for Pollinators list, which helps gardeners choose the plants that will be most beneficial to pollinators. The garden also contains bee hotels for the insects to overwinter, which will also live on at St George’s, and its shallow water feature will be swapped for even more pollinator plant favourites.
An Automated Pollinator Monitoring machine, known as a Polly, will monitor pollinator activity at the school including before and after the garden has been planted. The Polly will record and count pollinating insects as they visit flowers in the garden, as well as environmental data such as light and humidity levels. The RHS will be able to compare pollinator numbers to other sites in the region, showing just how much the bee garden is helping these essential insects.
The garden at Chelsea was built by Landform Consultants. The landscaping aspects will be dismantled and stored, ready to be installed at St George’s in September after the summer holidays. Plants will be from the same mix of species as those in the Chelsea bee garden, and they will be planted in time for autumn rains to help the plants settle into their new home. The school intend to host a planting party with the help of Joe Swift, where pupils and their families will be invited to help bed in the new plants.
Lizzie Jones, Schools and Groups programme manager for the RHS and one of the judges, said: “We are very excited to be rehoming the bee garden in Camberwell, ensuring it lives on, giving pollinators a new food source and the school children a chance to experience nature on their doorstep. We had lots of fantastic entries, but the passion shown by the pupils and teachers at St George’s really stood out and we are looking forward to seeing the garden take shape in its new home.”
Pascale Vassie, school governor and gardening club lead at St George’s Primary School, who submitted the application, said: “The children’s enthusiasm for nature and gardening has been wonderful. Receiving the Bee Garden will be a tremendous boost to our burgeoning gardening club and we are excited that the launch will bring in more parents and local residents to enjoy the garden and support the young gardeners.”
There are more than 250 species of wild bee in Britain, from large bumblebees to tiny solitary bees. Many of these species are in decline due to the ‘perfect storm’ of threats including habitat loss, a reduced food supply and farmland pesticides. Previous research by the RHS has shown that gardeners have an important role to play in helping pollinators, including butterflies, moths, hoverflies and beetles as well as bees, as 85% of nectar in urban areas is supplied by garden flowers.