Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Flowers for Pollinators

Thanks to Bev Wagar for this information. Wagar is relatively new to the Hamilton (Crownpoint) community but is no stranger to the art of growing native pollinator plants.
Her favourite plants are of the Penstemon family (P. digitalis "Dark Towers," P. strictus "Rocky Mountain Penstemon," P. lyallii, P. hirsutus, P. virens, P. tubaeflorus P. serrulatus).

Wagar writes a regular column on gardening for The Point (Crownpoint's newsletter). Check out her website. Stay tuned for more from this master gardener!

Rocky Mountain Penstemon

Flowers for Pollinators

Choose old-fashioned, single (not double), unimproved varieties. Many newer cultivars have been bred to be low in pollen, or to have ornamental features that make it difficult for bees to find a landing spot. Choose plain, old-fashioned, colours; avoid bi-colours and novelty colours.

Make sure you have a variety of flowers blooming from early season through to frost. Early spring is very important-- bees emerge from their nests and are desperate for food. Leave the first spring dandelions, clover, and lawn violets for the bees.
If you are growing perennials, of course you should not rototill.

Choose carefully. Some perennials such as Borage, Poppies, Great Blue Lobelia, are extreme self-sowers. Borage, for example, is a nectar-producing powerhouse but is nearly impossible to eradicate once introduced. If you cannot recognize the seedlings of these plants, or you do not plan to shear, deadhead, rogue out the volunteers at least once a week, then do not plant anything with “pest” potential.
Consider the mature size of your plants. A four-foot phlox will cast deep shade on your-- or your neighbours'-- veggies.
Alllow some of your herbs to bloom for the bees. Basil, Thyme, Parsley, Oregano, and Sage will all be enjoyed by bees.

Many of the annuals are easy from seed. Check out seed swap groups on GardenWeb or FaceBook, or organize a February group order from your favourite seed house.

In my garden the top three bee choices are Agastache, Nepeta, and Blue Lobelia.
- Bev Wagar

Early bloom
Mid-Season bloom
Late bloom
Winter aconite (Eranthis/Winter aconite Muscari /Grape hyacinth Scilla /Siberian squill Calendula
Poppies, esp. Somniforum Cosmos
Nigella * Centaura/cornflower Scabiosa/ Pincushion flower
Verbena Bonariensis
Giant / Drumstick Allium Digitalis/Foxglove Crocus
Doronicum / Leopard's Bane

Clover Veronica
Great Blue Lobelia* Echinacea/Coneflower Echinops/Globe Thistle * Garden Phlox Bergamot/Bee Balm Thyme
Allium Asclepias/milkweed

Fall Sedums
Aster Solidago/Goldenrod* Eupatorium/ Joe Pye
* extreme self-seeder or thug potential. Use with caution.