Peter Dowdall: Why Gaisce's Bulbs for Bees is creating a buzz

Whether you're a gardening beginner or expert, Irish Examiner columnist Peter Dowdall has the answer to your questions
Peter Dowdall: Why Gaisce's Bulbs for Bees is creating a buzz

Caoimhe Martin from Carlow, baby Penelope, Philly McMahon (Dublin GAA) and Joel Osaghae from Jobstown.

As individual garden owners, we have a unique opportunity to do our bit.

Many across the world could only dream of having a patch of green that they can call their own. Individual efforts will make a change and thus growing plants in our garden which are not intensively hybridised and which do provide food for pollinators is vital now.

“We are profoundly aware that the future of humanity is dependent on pollinators, which are so vital to the creation and maintaining of the habitats and ecosystems on which many animals rely,” says President Michael D Higgins.

“Maintaining and supporting the conditions that make the work of pollinators possible has now become an urgent challenge, requiring an ethical response from citizens across the globe.”

Irish Examiner gardening columnist Peter Dowdall. Picture: John Allen
Irish Examiner gardening columnist Peter Dowdall. Picture: John Allen

President Higgins was speaking in support of Gaisce’s Bulbs for Bees campaign. Gaisce — The President’s Award is Ireland’s leading self-empowerment and development programme for young people aged 14-25 and it is marking its 35th anniversary by launching Ireland’s biggest-ever pollination campaign.

It’s time to plant bulbs but did you know that not all bulbs are equal when it comes to sustaining bees. Anemones, winter aconite, crocus and muscari are well-known and popular garden bulbs that will have a huge benefit. The snakeshead fritillary or Fritillaria meleagris is a beautiful plant and along with Hyacinthoides non-scripta, referred to as the English bluebell, is important for pollinators.

Nectaroscordum tripedale is a really beautiful flower reaching about 90cm in height, a bit like pink wild garlic in appearance. Referred to as Sicilian honey garlic, you won’t see this flower in bloom during May and June without a collection of bees feeding on it, so rich is it in nectar.

Others for later in the season are alliums which are all good for bees and other pollinators.

As part of the Bulbs for Bees campaign, every post-primary school in the country have been sent bulb packs to plant. Local Development Offices all over Ireland also received boxes of 6,000 bulbs each to be distributed to the community and voluntary groups in each county. Bulbs have been sent from the Galway shores to community groups in inner-city Dublin.

If you are involved with a community group then you will find a full list of participating offices available on the website

Gaisce’s award partners, who have begun planting bulbs this week, include disability services, youth services, sporting organisations, people living in direct provision, Garda youth diversion units, schools, tidy towns groups and charities nationwide.

It takes a bit of gardening to unite everyone! The plan is that everyone can take part in Ireland’s biggest ever pollination project, this is a challenge everyone can be involved in.

Just like the Gaisce Award, a bulb doesn’t grow overnight, and takes commitment, care and attention to bloom. One-third of our bee species are threatened with extinction in Ireland. This is partly because we have drastically reduced the amount of pollinator-friendly flowers, as well as places where they can safely nest. Gaisce has set a once-off challenge to the public of all ages, locations and sizes of back gardens, balconies or window ledges, to plant a bulb and help save a bee this Autumn. The campaign has been approved by the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan which is working hard to promote biodiversity.

Once you have planted a bulb, sign up for a very special commemorative Gaisce certificate of participation. If you never received a Gaisce Award before, now is your chance.

Members of the public can also support this campaign by purchasing pollinator-friendly bulbs this autumn. Over 500,000 pollinator-friendly bulbs are currently being planted all across Ireland to help protect our vital bee population.

Bulbs for Bees has received a fantastic response to date with people of all ages getting involved and doing their bit for the bees.

To finish with further words from our President, “By planting a pollinator-friendly bulb this autumn, you will be making your own significant contribution to this important work, and to enable the urgent change that we must achieve for our generations and generations to come.

“I thank all those who will be partaking in this special Gaisce challenge and who, by doing so, make a profound statement of their real desire to protect the life we share on this planet.”

• Got a gardening question for Peter Dowdall? Email

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