Garden Plan for Pollinators
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By Claire Jones – Many pollinator species have suffered serious declines in recent years. Unfortunately, most of our landscapes offer little in the way of appropriate habitat, forage, and housing. Even the most beautiful gardens are not always healthy ecosystems for pollinators. Design choices, plant selections, and maintenance practices can make a huge difference in creating your own healthy ecosystem. As a garden designer, I use the landscape plan below for many gardens to attract the greatest varieties of pollinators.
Mason bee habitats attract pollinators to your garden. Simple strategies, such as providing bee habitats and gardening with an ecological community approach, contributes to species diversity. A pollinator garden can be beautiful as well as useful. Planting in groups of at least three to five plants is very important because single plant won’t attract pollinators.
My garden plan for pollinators includes an array of plants that span the early springtime starting with Aconites, Snowdrops, Willows, Crocus, and Scillas, ending with the late bloomers of Aster, Tithonia, and Agastache. Mid-summer is not an issue to have blooming flowers in your garden; it is the shoulder season of early spring and late summer/fall that keeps pollinators going.
Mixing shrubs and trees with perennials, annuals, and bulbs creates an all-season show of blooms for foraging bees. Many of the plants are also host plants for caterpillars that produce butterflies. And caterpillars are the protein-rich food that keeps our songbirds going as it is the primary food that they feed their young. For example, willows often shelter tiny overwintering Viceroy Butterfly larvae rolled up in a leaf.
Paper tubes or straws provide nesting areas for mason bees. Tubes of any kind can be used, like bamboo, stems of sunflowers, or other thick-stemmed plants.
It is important to include both herbaceous and woody plants in your pollinator garden. Trees and shrubs not only provide pollinators with food, but also offer protected areas from the wind and predators. Also, remember to plan for a sequence of blooms, staggering the flowering time of nectar sources so that butterflies will frequent your garden throughout the season. Water is essential for attracting pollinators, and something as simple as a birdbath will work. Mud is the other ingredient that pollinators are seeking when they lay their eggs into the paper tubes that you put out for their use. So, don’t mulch every garden bed.
You need a sunny spot in your yard for a pollinator garden to be at its best. If your garden is shady but you have a sunny patio, plant containers full of annuals and perennials. Don’t excessively manicure your yard. Leaf litter, tall grass, stumps, and peeling bark provide pollinators ideal places to spend the night or to overwinter.
Originally published on Keeping Backyard Bees and vetted for accuracy.