Why bees are set to be the stars of the Chelsea Flower Show

There’s such a buzz about the Chelsea Flower Show’s RHS Bee Garden, designed by famous gardener and TV presenter Joe Swift – here's why

bee inside a purple foxglove
(Image credit: Paul Biggin/Alamy Stock Photo)

Expect to learn a lot more about how to attract bees, butterflies and birds to your garden this year, as ‘sustainability’ is the theme of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, with the RHS Bee Garden as a major centrepiece. 

We’re used to seeing regular BBC TV presenter Joe Swift interview other gardeners about their Chelsea Flower Show projects, but this year the garden designer and RHS Chelsea gold medal winner has created his own garden to show us all how to attract bees to our own outdoor space.

Joe is collaborating with the BBC and the RHS to create this very special project. Officially called the BBC Studios Our Green Planet and RHS Bee Garden, it sets the tone for what visitors and TV viewers can expect from the Chelsea Flower Show 2022. 

The design of the RHS Bee Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show

mock up of the BBC Studios Our Green Planet and RHS Bee Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show 2022

Design for the BBC Studios Our Green Planet and RHS Bee Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show 2022

(Image credit: RHS)

Joe Swift says the vision for his design, featuring the silhouette of a bee wing in two shades of pink stone, bee houses and a water feature and pond with mud to make nests, was formed by nature. 

'The main inspiration came from a bee’s wing,' he says. 'As a designer I’m always looking for interesting shapes that relate to the narrative that can be turned into three-dimensional forms. 

'I looked at the anatomy of a bee and the wing sat nicely on the page with some areas I could turn into seating, some into paved areas and others into water with soft planting all the way around.'

Picking pollinating plants

purple flowers of the hardy Geranium 'Rozanne'

Geranium Rozanne

(Image credit: John Richmond/Alamy Stock Photo)

With our British bee population in decline, the garden aims to highlight the many ways we can all do our bit to improve their natural habitats. Opting for nectar-rich planting is key to the survival of bees, but it can also aid lots of other pollinating insects too.

In the garden you can expect to see traditional cottage garden plants such as lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), white foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea 'Alba') and cranesbill geraniums (Geranium Rozanne) thriving happily alongside ‘wild’ plants such as the plume thistle (Cirsium 'Trevor’s blue wonder'), tickseed (Coreopsis moonbeam sub Baptisia Vanilla Cream) and Baltic parsley (Cenopholium denudatum), all known for being great bee-friendly plants.

A lasting legacy

Gardener and TV presenter Joe Swift

Gardener and TV presenter Joe Swift

(Image credit: Mark Thomas/Alamy Stock Photo)

As Joe’s garden is a special Chelsea project it will be exempt from judging. After the show, apart from the pond and water feature, it’s heading for a London school. The RHS launched a Chelsea Bee Garden competition to gift the garden with the aim of helping children learn about nature, and the winner will be announced soon.

We're sure this stunning RHS Bee Garden with its many plants for pollinators is going to inspire others to help the bee population and encourage even more wildlife to our plots. 

Jayne Dowle
Freelance writer

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning gardening, homes and property writer who writes for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. She was awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021.