Pollinators

How plants depend on pollinators to reproduce

By Eden Project

Lavender, Outdoor Gardens (2020) by Eden ProjectEden Project

Because plants can’t move (much) they reproduce by luring insects – and sometimes other animals – to take their pollen from flower to flower. They use colour, scent, shape and the sweet reward of pollen and nectar, to do this. 

Some flowers even have ‘runway lines’ to guide pollinating insects in. Over a third of our food plants depend on pollinators to reproduce – providing us with fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables.

How pollination works (2020) by Eden ProjectEden Project

Watch this retro-arcade-style video to get a simple idea of how pollination works.

Bee Market In Holland by Thomas McavoyLIFE Photo Collection

UK honey bees are under threat from loss of habitat, climate change, pesticides and disease.

Giant Bee, Outdoor Gardens (2020) by Eden ProjectEden Project

What can we do?

- Create bee-friendly gardens with pollen and nectar-rich flowers that bloom throughout the year 
- Avoid using pesticides 
- Take up beekeeping, using native rather than imported bees. 
- Buy local, responsibly sourced honey 
- Help save our native black honey bee

Save the native dark honey bee (2020) by Eden ProjectEden Project

Watch Sir Tim Smit, the Eden Project's Co-founder, talk about the importance of the native black honey bee.

Wildflowers growing on the Outer Estate of the Eden Project (2020) by Eden ProjectEden Project

As home to the National Wildflower Centre, the Eden Project promotes the planting of wildflowers, which can help to encourage pollinating insects such as bees.

Wildflowers growing on the Outer Estate of the Eden Project (2020) by Eden ProjectEden Project

Tips on making your own wildflower meadow

You don’t need rolling acres of land: a patch of lawn in an open, sunny position can be transformed into a mini-meadow, providing cover and food for wildlife. The maintenance of a wildflower meadow is much easier than a traditional lawn and it will provide colour all year.

Successful meadows occur on nutrient-poor soils which prevent vigorous grasses from taking over. Before planting your flowers, stop using fertilisers and weed-killers, and keep the grass very short, removing all the clippings to prevent nutrients from returning to the soil

Sweet gum, Outdoor Gardens (2020) by Eden ProjectEden Project

Plant small plug-plants in autumn, and for a naturalistic appearance, plant in small drifts across the lawn. Make a small hole for each plant and add a little compost to the bottom of the hole to help the plant establish quickly. 

Monkey puzzle, Outdoor Gardens (2020) by Eden ProjectEden Project

After watering well, add some leaf-mould around each plant to deter competition. Don’t cut the grass until the end of summer to allow the wildflowers to set for the following year.

Wildflowers growing on the Outer Estate of the Eden Project (2020) by Eden ProjectEden Project

Alternatively, you can sow a wildflower meadow mix of seeds direct in autumn or early spring – if you have a heavy clay soil I would advise sowing in spring. You can buy a seed mix to suit your soil type or conditions and sow at a rate of 4 grams per square metre. 

Traditional hay meadow mixes contain both native grasses and wildflowers, but pictorial meadow mixes are 100% wildflower seed, and can be both native and non-native, with a range of colour schemes, heights and flowering periods.

Before sowing, fork over the soil and rake it, and then scatter the seed throughout. Lightly firm the soil with the back of the rake and keep an eye on the watering until germination has taken place.

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