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Garden centres need to provide more information about bee-friendly plants, according to new research

© Karin Alton

© Veronica Wignall

Garden centres in the south east need to provide more information about pollinator-friendly plants, according to new research from the University of Sussex.

In a study focused on the public attitudes and behaviours towards pollinator-friendly planting, researchers discovered that 52% of people thought garden centres didn’t offer enough information despite believing that they’d be the ‘best place’ to turn to for advice.

The research reveals a high number of customers already trying to prioritise buying pollinator-friendly varieties, but failing to recognise existing logos or find information readily enough.

Lead author and PhD student Veronica Wignall said: “People are clearly aware of the need to encourage pollinators into our gardens, but there seems to be some difficulties in accessing that information in the very place that we’re buying our plants.

“We found that just 2 in 25 people had received relevant information from a garden centre, with others turning instead to news articles or TV nature programmes for guidance.

“We know that customers are still spending a substantial length of time in garden centres, so it seems like a golden opportunity for information to be shared in a more visible and accessible way there.”

The research conducted by Veronica Wignall, Dr Karin Alton and Professor Francis Ratnieks from the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, surveyed 150 people in 5 garden centres across Sussex between August and September 2018, with an additional 14 detailed interviews[1] taking place in October.

While some plant labels, seed or bulb packets carry a pollinator-friendly logo, 41% of respondents admitted that they actually weren’t familiar with these images.

When the trio investigated further they found that, on average, this logo was just 2.2% of the overall label or packet size which may explain why it’s being overlooked.

Dr Karin Alton said: “An overwhelming majority of people (96%[2]) said they would be more inclined to buy a plant if it had a pollinator friendly label.

“Some even said that if they knew one was bee-friendly, it would help them make the choice between two similar varieties.

“However, in the research we conducted, we found that if a logo was displayed on a packet or label, only a small proportion (22.6%) actually had further information about pollinators on the reverse – which isn’t very useful if consumers aren’t familiar with the logos currently used.”

Veronica added: “We know that many bees and other pollinators are in decline, and public action is vital if we’re going to change that. Growing pollinator-friendly plants is a major way in which people can help.

“Unlike other industries where online shopping has caused a decrease in footfall to physical shops, people are spending a long time in garden centres so it makes sense for information to be readily available and clearly visible there.

“Simple changes like making pollinator-friendly displays could make all the difference and encourage more people to think about buying bee-friendly plants.” 

The report published in the open access journal Peer-J makes a number of other recommendations for garden centres, including increasing the size of pollinator-friendly logos and combining them with additional practical information, and grouping bee-friendly plants together alongside posters and information stands.



[1] 14 interviews were conducted with 25 people in total (11 interviews had 2 respondents in each, while 3 interviews had just one respondent)

[2] In the questionnaires, 64% of respondents said yes while 32% said maybe


By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Tuesday, 11 June 2019

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