Book Review: The Bee-Friendly Garden

The Bee-Friendly Garden, by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/10 Speed Press in exchange for an honest review.]

As someone who reads a fair amount of books on gardening [1], there are a few things I look for when I think about gardens or ponder any future gardening efforts of my own. I like quirky and attractive but low-maintenance gardens, wish to support native animal life, and enjoy edible plants that will enliven my dinner table, herbs and vegetables and the like. I value a combination of practicality as well as aesthetic appeal when it comes to plants, and people for that matter, with a certain core set of spiritual concerns that support life, abundant life even. This book is one designed for a wide audience across the United States and focuses on annuals, perennials, hedges, and trees that support bees, hummingbirds, and other beneficial life. The authors have a strong interest in native plants, and have gorgeous photography filling the pages of this book, all of which greatly improve the book’s visual appeal.

In terms of its structure and contents, the book is organized in a sensible way. The book begins with a preface and introduction that seek to convince the reader of the benefits of a bee-friendly garden in terms of plant health and variety. After this, the authors have a chapter that shows the many ways that bees are friends to mankind by virtue of their efforts at pollinating a wide variety of plants, especially those that are native or that are beneficial as food crops or beautiful from an aesthetic perspective. Then the authors talk about plants across the United States that are suitable for bee-friendly gardens and then give a brief but practical chapter on which edible plants are beloved by bees. Then there is a discussion on the basics of bee gardens, some discussion on how to design a bee garden, focusing on avoiding a surfeit of hardscaping as well as a clever use of perimeter spaces to provide food for bees and other beneficial insects and birds, and a final chapter that encourages readers to become activists for the well-being of bees through collaborating with others. After the main material of the book is complete there are some resources and regional plant lists, and also photography credits that are well-earned.

This is, make no mistake, a political book. The authors talk about a few bogus concepts like co-evolution, and in the main, are very open and honest about their ambitions for the reader, and about the point they are seeking to convey: “Understanding the relationship between plants and their pollinating visitors is to see into another world and helps us form an attachment to it. We cannot look at either the plants or the bees in the same way after the experience of observing them together (168).” It is fortunate, though, that what is good for bees is often good for humans as well, and so creating bee friendly gardens serve a variety of aims simultaneously–often bees enjoy gardens that contain long seasons of flowering, as do humans, enjoy edible plants, herbs and fruit, just like people, eat the sort of plants that house other beneficial insects that kill undesirable pests like aphids, and enjoy gardens that may require only a couple of hours a month of maintenance that do not require boring tasks like cutting grass, which means that one can be a fairly lazy gardener of bee friendly plants if one chooses, which sounds like the best of all possible worlds–gardens that support robust life, are extremely easy to maintain, and gardens that provide visual appeal as well as practical benefit for one’s food supply. What is not to like about that?

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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