Plants For Pollinators

  A Bumble Bee Photographed on a Chive Flower,  June 18,2019Every home gardener enjoys having a garden and each have a preferred style of garden they enjoy keeping. Some are delighted to nurture their favorite flowers and shrubs for purely aesthetic reasons, while others enjoy a beautiful and natural wildflower garden of native plants with wildlife in mind. If you’re like me, you have a garden that is a combination of many gardening styles. Over the years I’ve enjoyed planting for pollinators such as bees,butterflies, hoverflies and moths.

Pollinators, as most are aware, service crops and orchards for higher yield as they fertilize plants to set fruit and seed. This takes place in the home garden on a smaller scale. Each homeowner can assist pollinators, not only through planting some of their favorite flowers, shrubs and trees, but also by ensuring the purchased plants are not cultivated with the use of insecticides known as neonicotinoids; neonics for short. Home gardeners have been educated in recent years of the plight of the Monarch Butterfly and many have planted their host plant, the common Milkweed, in their gardens or somewhere on their property. The Monarch population has risen significantly. Bees have also been facing a crisis of their own and the public has been responding well through efforts to avoid using pesticides on their property. Some companies such as Lowes and Home Depot have been fazing out plants cultivated using neonics.

I have compiled lists of favorite plants for pollinators by season. Many of the following flowers and herbs can be started by seed purchased from organic or heirloom growers to avoid neonics in the seeds.

Flowers are plentiful in the neighbourhood during the summer months and we can enjoy watching our pollinator friends buzzing or fluttering around some of the following plants:
– Russian Sage – Butterfly Bush – Foxglove – Honeysuckle -Poplar
– Oak – Honey Locust – Milkweed – Butterfly Weed – Lavender
– Bottle Gentians
Many summer herbs will attract pollinators as well:
– Oregano – Borage – Chives – Comfrey – Sage
– Thyme – Rosemary – Basil – Lemon Balm – Dill

Autumn flowering plants are important for pollinators so they can retain energy going into Winter. The Monarch Butterfly has a long flight to endure and needs to store energy before embarking. And unlike the Honeybee population within a hive filled with honey stores, the Bumble Bee queen hibernates underground throughout the Winter months without any source of food. She will need to prepare for Winter and forage on later blooming plants:
– Cosmos – Goldenrod – Aster – Jerusalem Artichoke
– Purple Top Vervain – Culver’s Root – Helenium – Black Eyed Susan
– Dahlia – Sedum (eg. Autumn Joy)

Spring blooming plants are even more important to the Bumble Bee queen as she emerges from hibernation. Her energy is limited by the cold weather and lack of food nearby and their first flights are very short. The Monarch Butterfly begins to arrive back from its’ wintering grounds in Mexico at the end of June. In most of Ontario, the common Milkweed and Butterfly Bushes are not in bloom yet. A wonderful plant I discovered last year is the Purple Top Vervain (Verbena Boneriensis), a self-seeding annual I now purchase by the flat from Connon Nursery in Trenton, ON. If planted just after all danger of frost has passed, it will bloom in time for the Monarch’s return. Much earlier bloomers for the emerging Bumble and Solitary bees include:
– Snow Drops – Grape Hyacinth – Crocus – Pussy Willow – Dandelion
– Silver Maple – Red Maple – Cherry

I spoke to Susan Chan, a Pollination Biologist, who assured me the bulbs we choose to plant this Autumn for pollinators are free of neonics. Happy bulb planting with Spring and pollinators in mind!

Authored By Shelly Fredericks

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