|Bumble on coneflower|
June Wildflower Wednesday has landed in the middle National Pollinator Week. What a great time for me to showcase my favorite early summer wildflower pollinator magnets. Follow the link to find out more about pollinators and the week long celebration. As the Pollinator Partnership has promised: The continent will be buzzing with events that will be happening throughout the week.
|Bumble on Common milkweed|
As a wildflower loving, native plant fan who gardens for wildlife, the
plants in my garden need to be more than just pretty faces, they must be
helpful for the critters that visit and live here. The Wildflower
Wednesday early summer pollinator magnets fit that description to a T. I hope you appreciate their
pretty faces and great wildlife value.
|Butterfly on Coneflower|
|Partridge pea and bumble|
I assure them that they will never be sorry! Pollinators will thank them
by hanging around pollinating flowers, vegetables and fruits; beneficial
insects will raise offspring that will gobble up harmful insects; and
songbirds and spiders will keep the insects in check. The more they plan
and plant for critters...crawling, flying and even digging ones, the
healthier and more diverse their garden will be.
Unfortunately, we've been convinced by advertising that a garden should be perfect and
that insects are harmful and must be eliminated or they will damage our
flowering plants and make them ugly. It's important for all of us gardeners, new or experienced, to reconsider beauty and to begin to appreciate the insect damaged
plant as providing food for a critter that may in turn be food for a
spider, another insect or a song bird.
|Embrace imperfection in your garden|
I encourage these gardeners to look at their plants very closely to find insects that might be living on them. A friend told me she use to pull the caterpillars off her fennel before she knew they were Swallowtail butterfly cats. Now she plants extra fennel for the cats. We need to make sure those "ugly bugs" aren't beneficial insects before you pluck them off or squish them. Some of the "good bugs" include lacewings, lady beetles, minute pirate bug, soldier bugs, assassin bugs, braconid wasps, tachinid flies, flower flies and aphid mites.
|Flower flies on Hypericum frondosum|
Take a close look at the Susan in the photo below. Can you see the disguised caterpillar? It's an Emerald Wavy Lined moth and it uses bits and pieces of the Rudbeckia for protective coloration. Caterpillars are especially at risk
because they can't fly away when danger approaches. Camouflage is an
effective means to blend into their environment and escape being eaten
by a bird or wasp. If we are seeking perfection in our gardens, if we spray to kill aphids and other insects messing with our plants we lose critters like this. Trust me, you don't need to worry that a critter like this will destroy your flowers, most are eaten by birds, spiders and wasps!
|Emerald Wavy Lined moth (Synchlora aerata)|
We must consider the bigger picture. Our gardens might be an
oasis of food and shelter for all kinds of critters in a sea of over fertilized and pesticide
treated lawns. Think about that for a minute.
I know all about gardening in a sea of manicured lawns...Our neighborhood is changing from its established 1950s ranch homes with freedom lawns that light up each spring with Spring Beauties and glow in the summer with lightning bugs. Houses, lawns and trees are being bulldozed down at a frightening rate. In their place are 5000 to 10,000 sq foot megahouses with perfectly manicured lawns and the same old same old non-native shrubs, all for "curb appeal". What they get are fertilized lifeless lawns and shrubs that offer nothing to critters.
I despair for wildlife.
I fear that the new neighbors will complain about our "unkempt yards" next to their million dollar homes. Those of us that know how important a wildlife friendly garden is to pollinators and other critters have got to help educate these newcomers.
Maintaining a buffer between the garden and the street can go a long way to helping neighbors see your front garden as attractive rather than messy. Posting signs has helped my neighbors understand what's happening in my garden. Sharing posts like this one on our neighborhood listserv and Facebook page keeps the conversation out in the open where others can learn and give support.
My personal goal is to make a lovely garden that provides nectar and
pollen for bees and butterflies from late winter until late fall and a garden for all critters to find food and shelter and
to raise their offspring. I hope my neighbors get joy from seeing the pretty faces in the garden.
What you can do
If you're a new or even an experienced gardener and want to create a pollinator friendly garden or want to add more pollinator friendly plants to your garden, I urge you to take time to figure out what plants make sense for your garden conditions. Invest in a good wildflower identification guide for your part of the country, join a native plant society and visit your local botanical garden and arboretum. If you are lucky enough to have garden centers that sell native plants shop there and not big box stores.
It took me years to figure out that gardening would be a lot more fun and successful if I gardened with Middle Tennnessee/ Central Basin natives. Local provenance matters. After all, locally grown native plants evolved with our wet winters and dry summers and will succeed in my difficult gardening conditions. So shop locally when ever it's possible.
|'Solar Eclipse' and 'Cherry Brandy' are two Rudbeckia hirta cultivars that attract pollinators to an early summer garden|
Native annuals/short lived perennials like Rudbeckia hirta
cultivars are wonderful additions to a pollinator garden. Lavender,
sweet alyssum and herbs are also good additions to a pollinator friendly
garden. Beneficial insects love many of them and we want beneficials in our gardens.
|Hydrangea arborescens is a pollinator friendly native shrub|
When you're creating your beautiful pollinator garden, be sure to include trees and shrubs, you might be surprised to learn that many of the woodies are far more important to insects than flowering plants.
|Elymus hystrix is a host for the caterpillars of the Northern Pearly Eye butterfly and several moths|
When you think about ornamental grasses, and you should, please consider planting one of our fine native grasses. Grasses like early blooming Bottle Brush grass fill the garden with movement and beauty all year long, while providing food and shelter for visiting mammals, birds and insects.
Fill your garden with native plants that are pollinator magnets! You'll never be sorry.
|Pycnanthemum muticum attracts bees, wasps, flies, small butterflies, and beetles|
- Plant a lot of nectar and pollen producing plants, lots and lots; swathes work, so does repetition (Central Basin natives make sense in a Middle Tennessee garden)
- Don't forget trees, shrubs and grasses in your garden plan
- Plant host plants~so the offspring of butterfly, beetles and other pollinators can feed
- Plant for bloom from late spring to early winter.
- Plant nectar and pollen rich fall blooming plants for migrating butterfly.
- Include water for bees
- Provide nesting sites near your garden for a variety of visitors: Build a pollinator condo, leave some bare ground for earth nesting bees and pile decaying logs for beetles who like to tunnel.
- practice peaceful coexistence. Bees sometimes choose to nest in inconvenient places. Rather than exterminating them, think of it as an opportunity to watch and learn about them up close.
- Take the pledge to never, ever, ever use pesticides in your garden. I really do mean never!
If this post helps you have as much fun as I have gardening for pollinators and other wildlife then I will consider myself successful.
Happy Wildflower Wednesday and enjoy the events and activities from the Pollinator Partnership.
Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. I am so glad you stopped by. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom or not; and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky.
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.