A few weeks back, Easy Gardens for the South author Harvey Cotten came and spoke at our Nursery. It was a bit of a chilly day for early April, but our customers (myself included- always excited to learn more about gardening) all bundled up! We had a treat in store- not only was Harvey going to discuss pollinators and their vital role in our gardens, but he also led us on a walking tour of the Nursery sharing some of his favorite plants and why.
First up, let's talk about pollinators.
Bees, honey bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds make up the majority of the pollinator population in our area. They pollinate fruit trees, berry bushes, etc. We need pollinators for food production and for optimal flower production.
Pollinators are on the decrease in our area, mostly due to pesticides and a lack of food/loss of habitat. We really want to reverse this because pollinators are a vital part of our environment!
Harvey spoke on how to help reverse this, thru creating better habitats for them, as well as limiting our use of pesticides.
Many of us love our little pollinators (how wonderful are hummingbirds!!) but are not sure how to create a better environment for them to thrive. Some of us would naturally assume planting lots of flowering annuals would help solve that, right? Harvey taught us that although annual flowers produce many blooms, they don't necessarily produce much pollen. He went on to explain that the best way to plant a pollinator garden is to plant perennials, vines, shrubs, and trees that will create a succession of blooms all throughout the year from early Spring until late Fall. These plants produce nectar, which pollinators LOVE.😄
In addition to having a year-round garden for pollinators, adding gravel and/or rocks to your garden is vital for butterflies to drink from. Butterflies will not drink from bird baths, but will land on a wet rock and sip from the natural depression in the rock. So when you're watering your plants, wet those decorative rocks too! Such a simple task will encourage butterflies to your garden.☺
Pollinator.org is a wonderful site promoting planting pollinator gardens for more info. Also, www.millionpollinatorgardens.org is all about registering one million pollinator gardens. You can have a window box-sized garden or acres upon acres to register- size does not matter. Check that website out too- it's great what they're accomplishing that we can all be apart of!
Now on to the Nursery tour. As I mentioned, Harvey walked us all around and shared some of his favorite plants and it is no surprise that all of his favorites also attract pollinators! Here are the plants he showed us that are apart of his must-have plants for a pollinator garden in our area:
Trees: Redbud, Red Maples, Magnolias, Crape Myrtles, Kwanzan Cherry.
Shrubs: 'Betsy Ross' and 'Old Glory' Lilacs, Viburnum (great for screening and fragrance- 'Blue Muffin' is an excellent native choice), Spiraea, Hollies (bees love and will pollinate in early Spring), Roses (not including hybrid teas), Rose of Sharon, Butterfly Bush.
Perennials: Coneflowers (one of the #1 he uses in any garden for pollinators), Speedwell 'Sunny Border Blue' and Salvia 'Black and Blue'(he noted that these two cool down the "hot" colors of other perennials), Black Eyed Susans, Aster and Golden Rod, 'Husker Red' Penisetum, Shasta Daisy, Pincushion flower, Coreopsis, Sedum 'Autumn Joy' (a late season bloomer which is a must!), Gaura, Dianthus, Daylilies, Stokesia 'Color Wheel', and Yarrow..... whew!!😊
Annuals: there are some annuals that pollinators love, and they are (I bet you already know!) Lantanas, Pentas, and Angelonia.
Pollinators love bright colors, whites, and blues.
If you are allergic to bees, plant flowers that are tubular (such as 'Husker Red' Penisetum or Angelonia) as hummingbirds can reach the nectar but bees cannot.
Be intentional about planting a garden that has year-round interest. Most of our gardens over the years end up being mostly Spring/early Summer bloomers because that is what we are drawn to when we visit the Nursery after Winter.
Lastly, mix textures when creating a garden. It makes it so much more interesting. Placing evergreens in the back of your design with smaller shrubs and perennials in front works well.
Our greenhouses are full and everything is lush and green at the Garden Center so y'all come on by! 😄 Our Spring 2017 hours are M-F 8am-6pm and Saturday 8am-4pm!🌱 Grow something green!😊