Plants for Pollinators

I mentioned yesterday that I took a class on Plants for Pollinators and wanted to setup a pollination garden somewhere in my yard. Originally, I wanted to set it up to bring more pollinators to my yard for our vegetable garden in the summer, and for our apple trees as well. After taking the class though, I want to setup lots of spots for pollinators to stop by just to keep their numbers high and feed them the best sources possible!

The class was really interesting. We started out talking about how flowers grow, where they hold their nectar and all of the magical simple ways flowers invite pollinators to come to their flower and feed in order to benefit the flower life cycle as well.

Every flower has different shapes, sizes, and unique attributes to its petals in order to attract a certain pollinator. Flowers that offer a narrow opening are perfect for hummingbirds. Those with flat landing petals are wonderful for bees. And certain flowers that allow butterflies to land, keep their wings spread, and send their long tongues into the flower are designed just for them!

Now after taking the class I notice so much more than the pretty colors on flowers. I can pin point who would like to use that flower best for nectar, where the landing strip is (usually white) and how some flowers even can confused insects like moths to convince them to mate on the flower which ends up in their never finding food and starvation. My goodness, what tricky flowers!

Ruthie talked about store-bought foods for hummingbird feeders and encouraged us not to use those items. They aren’t the ideal food for the birds (just processed sugar water), and hummingbirds burn it up too fast and might starve. She did mention that hummingbirds have gotten smart though, as they now rest on cruise ships in the tropical areas as they go from island to island. How fun is that?!

After the class, I came home with a hand-drawn plan to start to think about a pollination garden. We have this great little garden in the front that gets a lot of full sun. I’ve always wanted to put vegetable plants in, but now it’ll be a pollinator garden with beautiful colors throughout the seasons. (I might add a few vegetable plants though…….)

In the design, I had to select plants ideal for our zone. Then I had to look through her recommended list and find some tall, medium, and short height plants as well as ground cover. Her next step is to plan out buying for the entire year (spring, early summer, summer, late summer, fall).

The idea is that if you mix up the times when plants bloom you’ll always have some food ready for pollinators to come to visit. If all the plants bloom in spring, no one will have food in the other seasons. Genius!

She recommended a few local garden centers where they grow right within their land. I found one’s website that listed everything available and got to work making a list. Luckily, I’m somewhat in between what they have available as they had from early spring bloomers to late summer bloomers growing.

The local farm was wonderful to work with. I brought my list, told them I just needed 1 of each type of plant (Ruthie says less is more!) and they picked out everything I needed. Several of the plants they warned wouldn’t bloom until summer…. I said, perfect!

Then we went back home and laid out our garden plan with the talls, mediums, and shorts plus locations for ground cover. The boys helped me dig up the dirt and lay out the flowers. And voila! Pollination garden started!

I know, I know, it doesn’t look like much. What I can assure you is that by mid-summer some of these plants will be 3-4 feet tall with amazing flowers. Several of them will spread over time, so in the coming years, they’ll continue to creep around and add more plants. Lastly, there is room for a few more late summer/fall plants to add to the mix when they are available in the mid-summer months.

The boys did an excellent job of laying out a stone path to the hose! We don’t want to trample any of our new plants.

In this garden bed, I have some hostas that have to come up and be split to move around to other places, too. After these spring gardening classes, I won’t be relying solely on hostas everywhere to fill my yard as I have for over a decade in two different homes. Hostas I’ve loved because they grow anywhere and love any type of situation. Now though, I know how to plan for my garden space, read plant tags, and get what I want to create the garden I want.

Boy, it feels great to finally feel confident when dealing with plants! We’ll be headed back to the farm in a few weeks to pickup some more locally grown vegetable plants and fun things!

Have you ever started a garden? Do you have a pollination garden? What might be some of your favorite flowers to plant in your zone?