Joe Swift BBC Studios Our Green Planet & RHS Bee Garden

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has announced a bee-inspired garden and conservation partnership with BBC Earth at the Chelsea Flower Show 2022, designed by Joe Swift.

Celebrating Plants and Pollinators, Joe Swift BBC Studios Our Green Planet & RHS Bee Garden aims to inspire gardeners to play their part in balancing our ecosystems – one of Chelsea’s main themes for 2022.

Horticulturist Joe Swift designed the garden – which will stand proudly on Chelsea’s Main Avenue – to share the same conservation principles as David Attenborough’s TV series, the green planet, which led to a global digital impact campaign #OurGreenPlanet.



Joe said country life that the RHS-commissioned garden – which, as a special project, will be judgment-free – is being created by a like-minded team: “We all share the principles of conservation and all the simple but positive differences we can make in our own outdoor space.”

“The main inspiration came from the wing of a bee,” said Joe CL. “As a designer, I’m always looking for interesting shapes that relate to the narrative and can be transformed into three-dimensional shapes. I looked at the anatomy of a bee and the wing looked good on the page with some areas I could turn into seats, some in paved areas and some in water with gentle planting all the way around.”

Design features: BBC Studios Our Green Planet & RHS Bee Garden

  • The stone centerpiece is a silhouette of a bee’s wing in two complementary shades of pink.
  • A reflecting pool and pond, with specific mud areas included for bees to nest
  • Bee houses designed to be clean

    The planting scheme, based on the RHS Plants for Polinators list, is dominated by pollination of perennials, shrubs and herbs. “RHS has used scientific evidence, extensive experience and the records of gardeners to create year-round flowering plants for their list of Plants for Pollinators,” explained Joe.

    “It’s one of the best resources for gardeners to support pollinators. Collectively, if we all grow more of these plants in our gardens, community spaces, planters, subdivisions and schools, we can make a huge difference. I hope this garden inspires and shows everyone how easy it is to consider pollinators while making your garden a more beautiful space too. It’s a win-win.”

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    “It’s not difficult, packing it with plenty of nectar and pollen-rich plants over a long season, provide easy access habitats and water and they will benefit, just like you, as it makes the garden more interesting and rich.”

    Joe Swift’s tips for creating a bee-friendly garden:

    • “Plant simple, open flowers and try to have something in bloom from the beginning to the end of the year”
    • Leave mud and soil stains around the bee’s nest on the ground
    • Leave a shallow dish of water for the insects to drink
    • Buy or make your own bee hotels
    • Use the list of RHS Plants for Pollinators GO TO LIST

      Joe’s lack of patience with “boring” gardens is well known. Speaking to the BBC, he pointed out that he doesn’t like a lot of bare land on display and what he calls gardens “all grass and no plants”. Joe also prefers gardens where the planting height varies and all interest is not below eye level, forcing you to constantly look down.

      He’s taking these ideas to his Chelsea bee garden this year, making sure the design is packed with multiple focal points for both practicality and flair. “We design bee houses that are easily cleaned, which is important, a water source and a pond,” said Joe. CL. “Some are for the bees and some are for the visitors and cameras – a little bling – this is Chelsea after all!”

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      The biggest challenge, Joe told us, is timing all the elements to peak at the same time for Chelsea. “It’s a real team effort. The hard landscaping was done off-site so it’s a puzzle to put together. Then there’s all the perennials that should be in full bloom, but I’m leaving that to the specialist growers who make Chelsea what it is.”

      List of Joe Swift’s Pollinating Plants in Chelsea

      Joe told Country Living that these are all the plants he is growing for RHS Chelsea. He will make his final selection closer to the show.

      • Lady’s Cloak (Alchemilla mollis)
      • Allium Mount Everest
      • Allium purureum
      • Blue Star (Amsonia tabernaemontana ‘Blue Ice’)
      • Italian bugloss (Anchusa azurea ‘Dropmore’)
      • archangelic angelica
      • Greater masterwort (Astrantia maj. ‘Abbey Road’)
      • Great masterwort Astrantia maj. ‘Claret’
      • Fake Indigo Baptisia ‘Cherries Jubilee’
      • Beds (Camassia leichtlinii Alba)
      • Baltic parsley (Cenopholium denudatum)
      • Feather thistle (Cirsium ‘Trevor’s blue wonder’)
      • Tickseed (Coreopsis moonbeam sub Baptisia Vanilla Cream)
      • Blood carnation (Dianthus cruentus)
      • White foxglove (Digitalis purpurea ‘Alba’)
      • Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus)
      • Wallflower (Erysium ‘Bowles Mauve’)
      • Wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Robbiae’)
      • Canary asparagus (Euphorbia mellifera)
      • Common Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
      • Dusky Cransbill (Geranium phaeum Raven)
      • Cranesbill (Rozanne Geranium)
      • Avens (Geum ‘Fully Tangerine’)
      • Bowman’s root (Gillenia trifolata)
      • Dame’s Rocket, purple (Hesperis matronalis)
      • Dame’s Rocket, white (Hesperis matronalis alba)
      • Sub Action Front of Iris ‘Sultan’s Palace’
      • Iris Harvest Moon sub Carnival Time
      • Iris brother. tropical night
      • Widow flower (Knautia macedonica)
      • Daisy Shasta (Leucantemus)
      • New Zealand satin flower (Libertia grandiflora)
      • Lupine (Lupinus ‘Towering Hell’)
      • Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria)
      • Sicilian Honey Garlic (Nectaroscordum siculum)
      • Giant Catmint (Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’)
      • Catmint (Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’)
      • Ornamental oregano (Origanum herrenhausen)
      • Garden Sage (Salvia nem’ Caradonna)
      • Autumn Moor Grass (Sesleria autumnalis)
      • Wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
      • Common valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
      • Mullein Petra
      • Rose Guelder (Viburnum opulus)

        What will happen to the garden and plants after RHS Chelsea?

        Joe said country life that all BBC Studios Our Green Planet & RHS Bee Gardenexcept for the lake and water source, will be relocated to a yet-to-be-announced London primary school.

        Who is Joe Swift?

        Joe Swift was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne and has been a gardener since childhood. His first gardening memory, he recounted The Independent in 2009, he was planting seeds and laying paving stones at his primary school in Hampstead, north London.

        After art college and playing in a band for a while, he decided to embrace his love of plants and, at age 25, took a course at The English Garden School in Chelsea Physic Garden, west London.

        Joe is co-founder and design director of Modular, a garden design firm that creates bespoke gardens for private and commercial clients.

        Garden fans love Joe’s easy confidence and whimsical tailoring style and will be interested to hear that BBC Two gardeners world presenter, gold medal winner RHS Chelsea, writer and award-winning gardening author actually comes from literary and performance royalty.

        Joe’s mother is 82-year-old novelist Margaret Drabble and his father was the late Clive Swift, a classically trained actor who died in 2019 at age 82. Clive was known for playing Richard Bucket in the BBC comedy keeping up appearances.

        Married with two teenage children, Joe now lives in Hackney, north London, and keeps his family life out of the spotlight. A longtime Arsenal fan, he plays bass, football and golf whenever he can, according to his website. Also based in France, he likes to cook and travel, and is always looking for a nice garden abroad.

        “I have a small garden in London and a larger garden in France that I am working on. I love my garden in France,” said Joe country life in an interview in April of this year.

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