Winter flowers for a Pollen Hotel

As spring arrives lots of flowers start to appear and so does the food for bees. However in winter food can be scarce for bees. Here are a few things you can plant in your garden to provide food for bees in winter when they really need it.

Calendula grows really well from seed. They provide lots of flowers all year round that bees love.

Borage also grow well from seed. They are blue and have a single petal arrangement, which are easy for honey bees to forage from.

Nasturtiums thrive in winter if you don’t get frosts.

Herbs like Rosemary, Thyme, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Sage, Oregano, Lavender and Mint provide an abundance of flowers all year round.

Forage peas, Lupins and Broad beans are manure crops that will provide food for bees in winter while preparing your garden for the next spring.

The New Zealand native Hebe comes in many colours and is an excellent winter food source for bees.

Koanga Seeds produce a beneficial seed blend called Herbal Ley full of plants that produce food for bees including Alfalfa, Phacelia, Buckwheat, White Lupin, Daikon, Radish, Rape seed, Red Clover, Subterranean Clover, White clover, Yarrow, Plantain and Chicory.

King Seeds have put together several beneficial seed blends of plants that produce food for bees. One called Beneficial Insect Blend includes Buckwheat, Dill, Bishops Flower, Parsnip, Fennel, Bergamot and White Alyssum. Another called Bring on the Bees is full of Anise Hyssop, Bergamot, Bee Balm, Borage, Echium Blue Bedder and Phacelia Lacy. A blend called Wildflower Pollinator includes Rudbeckia, Thyme, Red Clover, Phacelia, Echium, Salvia, Cornflower, and European Poppy.

For more ideas of what plants to grow to provide food for bees check out this website.

If you are going to grow your plants from seed check out our post on what seeds to use as not all seeds sold in New Zealand are safe for bees.

Pollen hotel - viaduct 1

Epic Pollen Hotels in Wynyard Quarter become a Pollen Hotspot

The entire length of the western side of Darby Street in the heart of Wynyard Quarter is lined with wooden planter boxes full of flowers and edible plants that together comprise many square meters of food for bees.  Each of these planter boxes is a Pollen Hotel.

Alongside these planter boxes, thousands of New Zealand natives have been planted that line the entire street.  Canopy trees  like Pohutukawa, Kowhai and lower growing plants like Harakeke( NZ flax). They are planted in such density that in spring they will suddenly provide an abundant amount of pollen and nectar for bees.

Together these edible and native plantings provide a sustainable food source for bees all year round making a sizable contribution to The Park.

Darby Street has transformed into a Pollen Hotspot.

All of the plants for this  landscape project come entirely from stock grown by the nursery owned and run by local iwi Ngati Whatua 0 Orakei at Takaparawhau ( Bastion Point).

This Nursery initiative provides a real way for the local iwi to revive its traditional connections with the land.


makethepaark- a pollen hotel you can eat

A Pollen Hotel you can eat

Vegetables fruits and herbs all produce flowers with pollen and nectar that will help you create amazing pollen hotels.  Some produce more than others.  Some of the best producers are stone and pip fruit like citrus and plums.  Berries are good too, and strawberries are so easy to grow in a small space.  From the vegetable family you can rely on beans, tomatoes, aubergines, capsicums, chillies, melons, courgettes, pumpkins, cucumbers, peas and jerusalem artichokes. If you allow sliver beet, spinach, broccoli, fennel, celery, parsley, artichokes, onions, and leeks to go to seed they will become an entire pollen hotel all on their own producing an abundant amount of food for bees before turning into seed you can use next season. Herbs that produce food for bees include thyme, rosemary, mint, lemon balm, oregano, chamomile and sage. Great flowering companion plants you can eat include calendular, sunflowers, borage.  If you only have a tiny space we recommend planting thyme, rosemary, oregano you will be amazed at how much pollen these small plants provide bees.

who is making The Park- Annie Rowntree

People who are making The Park

Who is making The Park? Those who live and work in the Waitemata are encouraged to participate in plotting pollen hotels on The Park map. In doing so, The Park map will assist us in visualising the amount of food available for these bees in our urban environment, the bees’ potential flight path, and our collective action.

There are currently about 160,000 bees in the six bench beehives in Victoria Park. Collectively these hives have the capacity to produce 210 kilos of honey, however, the bees need lots of food in order to reach this target. Those who plot a pollen hotel on The Park map  will be invited to collect some of the honey they supported to make at harvesting time.

Annie Rowntree who lives in Freeman’s Bay noticed five honey bees on one flowering brassica this week. She recounts only having seen four over the past six months in her garden. Annie is letting all her vegetables go to seed as they seem to be providing lots of food for bees foraging in her garden. The flowers on her vegetables feeding the bees will also provide her with safe seeds she can trust for her next growing season.

What are you growing that is feeding bees? Check out our posts on planting suggestions for Pollen Hotels and help make The Park.

Monarch butterfly

A Pollen Hotel for a bee may also feed butterflies

Pollen Hotels we collectively build to make The Park, that will feed the bees located in Victoria Park, may also be providing a much needed food source for other pollinators including butterflies.

The Monach Butterfly New Zealand Trust have a list of plants that provide food for butterflies up on their website.  So if you want to attract butterflies to your Pollen Hotel consider using some of the following plants.

Calendula, Alyssum, Bottlebrush, Candytuft, Cape Marigold, Chrysanthemum, Cineraria, Cleome, Cockscomb, Sweet William, Gaillardia, Hebes, Kaikorua Rock Daisy, Mexican Sunflower, Osteospermum, Echium, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Snapdragon, Valerian, Verbena, Wallflower, Zinnia.

The MBNZT runs courses on how to develop butterfly habitats. The next one they are doing is in June. Think about doing it to learn how to make a Pollen Hotel. Then post a photo of your new Pollen Hotel on the map at and help make The Park.

workshop image 1

Local raw honey may help hay fever

There are many reasons for wanting to eat honey made by bees in the area you live.

“The benefits of eating raw honey are largely due to the fact that raw honey contains proteins and enzymes that the body uses to rebuild cells. Additionally, in its raw form honey contains pollen, which is responsible for the anti-bacterial and immune boosting properties. However, once heat treated the pollen is destroyed and the immune boosting properties are significantly reduced.

Many people who suffer from hay fever have found this can be reduced or can cease altogether once they introduce local raw honey gradually into their diet. The idea is that bees become covered in pollen spores when they travel from one flower to the next. These spores are then transferred to their honey. It is thought that eating that honey, even just a spoonful a day, can build immunity through gradual exposure and work in the body like a natural vaccine.

Be aware in some cases honey itself can trigger severe allergic reactions, including anaphylactic shock. So do not attempt to use honey if you’ve ever experienced an adverse reaction in the past. Use it sparingly until you’ve confirmed that you can tolerate it.”

Kate from Food as Medicine 

The Park - 14th may small res

A powerful blessing followed by a call for pollen hotels

The Parks central point was fully activated with a powerful and heart warming karakia given by Rereata Makiha and Otene Reweti from Auckland Council’s Te Waka Angamua team, in an early morning blessing ceremony on the 3rd of May 2014. As we gathered on the western side of the hives and looked towards the first light the vibrations of Otene’s karakia energized the bees so they began to spiral high up into the air space above the hives. The intention of this blessing was to honor the historical and contemporary kaitiaiki and guardianship the local iwi have in this city and to ask them to bring this knowledge of custodianship to us all so we might also become effective protectors and caretakers of these bees.

These bees require respect within the hexagonal space in Victoria park but they also need support within the greater Waitemata. Winter is a tough time for all bees in the city. This project hopes to amplify this issue and inspire people to transform this reality by very simply planting a pollen hotel be it large or small, and to post a photo of it on the map. This will help visualise the difference this collective action makes. Leave an email contact when  you add a pollen hotel and we will contact you and let you know when you can come and get some of the honey you helped nurture.


Pasture Painting – under the center of The Park

A beehive is made up of many vessels that appear from above to be a hexagon. It reality they are many elongated hexagonal shapes which fit together perfectly so that they become one large surface cell we refer to as the honeycomb.

It is absolutely remarkable how honeybees manage to make this structure perfectly every time. Very rarely in nature do cells fit so cohesively without any spaces in between them.

Other six sided forms that occur in nature are Quartz crystals. Although these are rarely perfectly symmetrical.

Our singular hexagonal Pasture Painting has been configured on the north-south axis, starting from the northern point. In only a matter of days six bench bee hives with green roofs will be placed within this form and welcomed with an early morning Bee-Blessing.

A six sided dwelling for six hives intended to elicit a harmonic to support thousands of healthy bees.

hexagonal preparation 1

Preparing ground to welcome our six bench beehives

The Western side of Victoria Park will become base camp for the six bench beehives that are the central focus of the public sculpture The Park. We are creating a Pasture Painting in the shape of a Hexagonal over which these six hives will be placed. We are lucky as the ground under this hexagonal form is topsoil that was recently placed here as part of the tunnel development. Our preparation for this Pasture Painting includes getting our chemical free weed control partners Biothermal to hot water spray the space inside the hexagonal. This process uses water at a consistent temperature of 98 degrees to instantly kill the plants cells in the same way that a intensive burn effects our skin. This has a sweet smell a bit like boiling spinach. The sun assists with the dehydration process that follows which transforms the green space into a brown space within hours. Microbiology within cm of the surface is effected but there is no residual chemicals left in the space at all and no flight bound creatures need worry about any chemical particles which will harm them. We will inoculate this space with microbiology as we scatter seeds using Nutri-Life Network-AMF with Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi and Trichoderma from Franko Solutions in Silverdale. We will also use BioHome Garden a microbiological liquid concentrate supplied by Bio Organic Solutions Ltd several times in the first couple of weeks to help support our seedlings.

roots 3

Vertical pollen hotels help make The Park

Over several weeks in April kids from High Schools in the Waitemata worked with the The Roots-Creative Entrepreneurs inventing new and innovative ideas for vertical pollen hotels that could create more pollen space in our urban environment to support bees.

Using only recycled and natural materials such as tyres, drinking bottles and bamboo these designs worked through problems like how to capture water and maximize its retention and flow for the plants they were to hold. Taking into consideration how easy it might be for others to replicate their designs the project looked to give these kids a creative problem to solve where their solutions might inspire others to have a go.

These pollen hotels are hanging in Albert park for the last week of April and the first weekend of May under the public sculpture Walking in Trees by artist Richard Orjis. After that they will be donated to some lucky people in Waitemata where they will continue to help make The Park.


Pasture Paintings #3 and #4 connect across space

The shape of Pasture Paintings #3 on Gladstone Road, Parnell was informed by the boundary of the space. We wanted to make a form that pointed back into the middle of The Park and so we chose to construct a triangle. The base line sits on the North/South Axis. The top corner points North and the arrow head of the triangle points towards the bee hives in a Western direction.

Pasture Painting #4 is located on Motions Road between Tapac and the Auckland Zoo in Western Springs. #4 was like the previous Pasture Paintings site-responsive. The pole across the tram track was used as a central point to project two lines 66 degrees apart. Their open form is designed catch and reflect the point of Pasture Painting #3 in the East.

Both sites have been seeded in yellow flowered pasture plants; mustard, dandelion and lupins, which will grow to different heights and flower at different times.

To find out more about Pasture Paintings click on the Topics tab down the bottom of this page and select Pasture Paintings.