September 11, 2014

I’ve written before about planting native flowers so I can attract pollinators who are adapted to my area. Now I’d like to go a little farther and talk about what makes a plant pollinator-friendly. For this purpose, pollinators can be bees, flies, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds. We don’t have bats as pollinators in my area.

The most important attribute of a flower is that it have plenty of nectar and pollen. Nectar is the sweet stuff flowers offer to entice these creatures to brush against their pollen and carry it to new flowers. Distribution of pollen is the flower’s main goal; however, some insects collect the pollen as a food source, too.

Not only must nectar and pollen be present, but they must be easy to get to. Good choices are flowers with flat faces, like asters and daisies, or open blossoms like most fruit trees and wild roses. So are tubular flowers like penstemons and snapdragons. Flowers that are very “doubled” make it hard for pollinators to reach the goodies and will be less popular.

Another way to tell good flowers from less good flowers (I won’t call them bad flowers, because there’s no such thing) is by fragrance. Increasingly, modern flowers are bred to have no fragrance. I’m not sure why, but perhaps allergies are a concern. At any rate, pollen and fragrance go hand in hand. Those flowers with little or no fragrance seem to also have little pollen or nectar. Thus, there’s no reason for pollinators to visit.

Food for thought, if you will.

Last Saturday was the Friends of Manito plant sale, and this time I had some money to spend. I came home with a large stonecrop, Lime Zinger, which the bees loved so much they practically followed me to my car. I also got two new coneflowers, Meteor Yellow and Cinnamon Cupcake. These should thrive in my yard and add contrast to my existing pink coneflowers. I also got another penstemon, called Red Riding Hood, as a companion to my existing Palmer’s penstemon.

With new plants in hand, it was time for a landscape revision along the front of my house. This is the southern face, where sunlight is strongest, especially on the west half. I took out almost everything from Bed 6: alyssum and coreopsis and some large pink poppies that are non-native. I replaced the poppy with the Cinnamon Cupcake coneflower, moved the columbines around to make more of a border, and put the indian blanket flowers at the back, since they’re tallest. I moved one of the blue flax over to get more light, and wove the common yarrow down the middle, with the stonecrop for contrast.

In Bed 5, I took out alyssum and poppies but left the asters, cranesbill and lavender. The Meteor Yellow coneflower and Red Riding Hood penstemon filled out my back row there. Again, I added yarrow to the border.

I still have the coreopsis in a bucket until I decide whether to put them in somewhere else. Perhaps in Bed 2, where I have space among the asparagus.

A late crop of arugula and lettuce are growing as we speak.

Corn, green beans, tomatoes. Life is good.

Indoor Garden
I did reassemble my son’s broken Mother’s Day pot. The cracks are glaringly evident, and I’m pretty sure it will never hold water again. However, if I can find a plastic pot to slip inside, it may have a second life. I’ve always wanted to try growing lettuce indoors during the winter.

My husband painted the window ledges, which was good and necessary, but he took down my best bee house to do it. I must remember to put that back up before we have any more rain.


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