At the beginning of 2008, the news reported a catastrophe, the demise of bees around the world. The causes were unknown but poor bee health, climate crisis and the loss of wildflower meadows were blamed. River of Flowers was founded in response to the disappearing bees by writer and botanist Kathryn Lwin and musician songwriter Peter Lewinson. They were joined by landscape architect Kerrie McKinnon and artist, engineer and technologist, Natalie Jeremijenko.
Cities are harsh places for bees, those tiny yet vital creatures upon which so much of our food supply depends. Asphalt, tarmac, glass and concrete offer neither nectar nor pollen rewards. One way to help bees is to feed them by planting floral forage in the city. Working in partnership with organisations including architects, art galleries, hotels, restaurants, schools, and universities, River of Flowers inspired and initiated trails or ‘rivers’ of wildflowers and flowering trees in over 30 cities, including Amsterdam, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Warsaw and York. Planting took place in streets, parks and community gardens, on rooftops and balconies, beside railway lines and waterways.
In 2013, River of Flowers was awarded a Travelling Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to carry out research on growing wild and edible plants in the urban landscape in Chicago, Milwaukee, New York, San Francisco and Toronto. Supporters have since planted rivers of flowers for bees in these cities.
River of Flowers was asked to exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, and was awarded a Silver Medal for the Honeycomb Meadow Bee Garden, featuring wildflower meadows grown vertically across a wall and horizontally in hexagonal containers.
Beside supporting urban bees and other pollinators, River of Flowers design team works with artists and scientists to devise biological solutions for environmental issues such as air pollution. For the Growing Health project, healing gardens were designed for patients in the Renal Dialysis Unit at York Hospital and the Oncology Unit at the Royal Free Hospital, London. In the forthcoming Planting Air project, moss will be used as a bio-indicator, and planting in streets and on rooftops promoted to improve city air.
The one Aldwych bee garden
The One Aldwych Bee Garden was designed by River of Flowers to enable the Buckfast honeybees on the roof to dine throughout the year on a varied menu of flowers to promote bee health, and add flavour and fragrance to the honey. This autumn, the honeybees will feast on the spiked inflorescences of delectable Hebes and the velvet-textured blooms of Heleniums, grown with bee-friendly Anemones, Cornflowers, Lavender, Salvias and Verbena in hexagonal containers. Early and late flowering honeysuckles were selected to offer sweetness on either side of summer while the fragrant, Early and late flowering honeysuckles were selected to offer sweetness on either side of summer while the fragrant, evergreen climber Star Jasmine was chosen to provide nectar from spring right through to the end of summer. Other delights to nourish the One Aldwych honeybees include a fiery Pyracantha, Lemon and Orange Thyme and Marjoram. The centrepiece will be crowned with an evergreen Viburnum shrub.
Whilst guests are not able to visit the hives on the roof, they can get a taste of their hard work in some luscious new cocktails in the Lobby Bar. The Bee’s Knees and the One D.O.M. are both blended with delicate honey and £1 from every cocktail sold will be donated to the fabulous work undertaken by River of Flowers.