Touring Private Gardens
Besides being curious about what is beyond the gate, many of us tour gardens to see what is working, and pick new ideas for our own gardens.
Some of the gardens featured this year have wonderful vegetable plots that show us how simple it is to grow our own food. They are noted with a wee beet in the garden listing. Which touches on the topic of pollinators.
Every third mouthful of food you eat begins with a pollinator. Sobering thought. We are taught that bees pollinate our crops but on a world-wide basis it is the family of beetles, 350,000 named ones, that pollinate about 88 per cent of all flowering plants. Bees along with ants and wasps collectively pollinate 18 per cent.
Gardeners quickly recognize the value of pollinators and their crucial service to the ecosystem and of life itself.
Loss of habitat, pesticides, introduction of exotic species and of course our own ignorance threatening our pollinators.
We can help with habitat by planting specifically for pollinators that means more than one plant, and choosing sequentially- blooming species, (early, mid and late season), being aware of nesting sites that include some bare soil, dead plant stocks left to over winter to offer shelter, diversity in plant material and running water if possible.
This all sounds a bit daunting at first. But let’s break it down. Think of your garden as a buffet. Planting a variety of flower types and colours offers support for a variety of pollinators. Plant a majority of native plants. Your buffet will include a mixture of not only annuals and perennials but shrubs and trees where possible. Plant in clumps.
Colour is also a factor. Bees are attracted to bright white, yellow, blue or violet and flowers that reflect ultraviolet light like bee balm. The ultraviolet patterns act as nectar guides. Shape of the flowers is also a consideration, tubular with moderate nectar at the base and limited pollen. Short-tongued bees prefer clusters of tiny flowers such as marigold daisy, phlox and butterfly weed. Bees are like us in one respect they like flowers that smell fresh, mild or minty.
Beetles are drawn to dull white or green flowers with a fragrance we would not find the most pleasant, perhaps strongly fruity or fetid. Your first reaction may be ‘not in my garden’ but look what falls in that category: magnolia, asters, sunflowers, roses, butterfly weed, pond lilies, goldenrods, and spirea.
Butterflies are the queens of the pollinators, most sought after by gardeners. They look for bright red, orange, yellow pink blue or purple flowers that are large and showy. They need a landing platform. They are attracted to zinnia, calendula butterfly weed, yarrow, goldenrod, spirea, milkweeds, honeysuckle, and daisy. Butterflies also require animal droppings or rotting fruits. They need plants to lay their eggs on and provide food for their larvae or caterpillars. Good plants for larvae include milkweed, aster, lupine, thistle, fennel, violets, hollyhock, and black-eyed susans. Some of the gardens on the tour are noted Monarch stations that offer, water food and shelter to this wonderful insect.
We all approach gardening is such personal ways which makes it so much fun to see how others enjoy such a growing hobby.