Guest Blog Post
Hi everyone! This is Allison over @FinchAndFolly. I’ve been dreaming of my garden so much over these past few months that I can’t believe that it’s actually time to get sowing! Over the past decade, I’ve made a concentrated effort to introduce more flowers into my garden. At first, I was reluctant to share my valuable growing space with something we couldn’t eat, but the transformation that the flowers brought was undeniable. The more flowers we had, the more pollinators we attracted, which led to the production of more produce. This summer, I’m taking my largest leap yet and moving our vegetables to a new garden plot out back and turning over our existing garden to perennials, annuals, and herbs. My ultimate vision with this new plan is to create a pollinator’s paradise that’s buzzing with activity from spring through frost.
Let’s bee serious for a minute…our pollinator pals need our help, and frankly, we desperately need theirs. Our bee population alone has been in rapid decline over the past 25 years due to a variety of causes, including pesticides, parasites, and an overall lack of crop diversity. This is especially eye-opening when you consider that bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat. But the good news is, we can help! And it can start as simply by planting one pot of perennials.
Garden pollinators come in all shapes and sizes. They’re bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, birds, beetles, and even mosquitos. All are vital for having a healthy, vibrant ecosystem. You can attract certain pollinators just by the color of flowers your plant. Bees love hues of blues, purples, yellows, and whites, while butterflies flock to reds, purples, and yellows.
Even the shape of your flower can be key to attracting pollinators as well. While those double and ruffle blooms are beautiful, pollinators actually prefer single-flowered varieties. Not only do the single flowers make it easier for the pollinators to collect the pollen and nectar, they actually produce a higher amount of both when compared to their double-blooming varieties. Tubular flowers like Honeysuckle, Lupine, and Anise Hyssop attract pollinators with longer proboscis reach, like hummingbirds and moths.
When plotting out your perennials, seek out to incorporate at least one-third native plants. Not only are they adapted to grow in your climate, they also attract more pollinators. If you’re curious as to what the native plants are in your area, visit your local university’s cooperative extension website for a great resource to growing local.
The other thing to take into consideration is to plan for a sequence of blooms so that pollinators can have a source of nectar throughout the season. Early and late blooming perennials are important for our pollinator pals as these are the times of the season when their food sources are more scarce. In the spring, pollinators awake from dormancy and they need to refill their depleted energy reserves with nectar and pollen. Come fall, these same pollinators are looking to fill up with a few feasts before winter arrives.
And finally, plant your perennials in groupings of 5-7 of the same variety. This allows the pollinators to more easily collect pollen and nectar from a single species, something they’d prefer. Plus, grouping your flowers in mass creates striking visual displays.
Here are a few of my favorite pollinator-loving perennials:
Echinacea (also known as Coneflower)
Eupatorium(also called Joe Pye Weed)
Monarda (also called Bee Balm or Bergamot)
Rudbeckia(also called Black-eyed Susans)
Now bring on the bees and butterflies to your garden!
Penn State Extension “Best Plants for Pollinators”
University of Vermont “Ten Top Perennials to Please Pollinators”
University of New Hampshire “Pollinator Plants for Northern New England Gardeners”
The Honey Beeconservancy.org “Plant a Bee Garden”
Lolo National Forest “Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden”
Mother Earth Living website
“Perennials for Today’s Garden” by Better Homes & Gardens
“Perennial Gardens” by Better Homes & Gardens
“Flower Gardening Secrets” by Cynthia Van Hazinga
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