Life Hacks for Pollinators
Pollinators are in so much trouble they need their own Life Hacks! The key here is that you'll have to help them out with these, but I'm sure you can handle it. Many of the great sources online that help you select plants for pollinators (I'm talking about the Pollinator Partnership, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Xerces Society, for starters) will provide you lists of specific species suitable to your region. These lists are really, really good and can help you plan your planting so that you have a progression of blooms all year.
But let's be real. How many of us shop for plants that way? Every time?
So let's concentrate on a few key concepts and species and make this whole thing easier.
Number One: Plant at least one flowering tree.
One flowering tree has the impact, for pollinators, of dozens of perennials. Avoid hybrids with specialized, double blooms. PLEASE try to avoid anything with Japan/japonica or Korea or China in the name of the tree. There are lots of other choices, and you will feel guilt free year after year watching your native or nativar tree bloom like a mad thing and bring in the bees. If you've got the space, plant more than one.
Number Two: Go to your favorite native nursery every bloomin' month.
Go from March until August and buy something blooming each month. Voila'! You have a progression of blooms! Don't forget to buy at least three of any perennial. Making this additional financial commitment will pay off in bigger blobs of flowers, which will make it easier for pollinators like butterflies to find your garden. If you are purchasing shrubs, try not to be scared of something that says "suckering" or "spreads by rhizomes." If you do, just leave extra space. It's like getting time-release free plants!
Number Three: Genus is Genius. Let's define that, first.
The definition of a genus is a class of items such as a group of animals or plants with similar traits, qualities or features.
An example of a genus is all the species of mushrooms that are part of the Amanita family. (http://www.yourdictionary.com/genus)
In the genus Agastache, there are lots of nice varieties out there to choose from. Most of them are the species foeniculum, but that's not the point. ANYTHING in the genus Agastache is going to make pollinators happy. So if the A word is on the tag, buy it. You will also have success with Asclepias, Baptisia, Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Eupatorium, Liatris, Lupinus, Monarda, Solidago, or Penstemon. There is no wrong choice! Just learn a few of these and you are all set for success with pollinators. Once you've got a few mastered, you can start diversifying. If you DO pull up lists of plants from the sources listed at the beginning of the article, I guarantee you are going to see some of these on each list.
Number Four: Don't Use Insecticides/Pesticides. I mean, Hello? Why would you bring them in and then kill them? This one may be trickier than you think--many plants purchased at big box stores have been pre-treated with neonicotinoids that cause long-term impacts to our pollinator friends. Check with your local nursery about where they get their plant stock... usually the smaller growers are more sensitive to protecting pollinators, and don't use these products.
Number Five: Brag! If you're having success in bringing in the bees and butterflies, let your friends and neighbors know. As your garden matures, you will have plenty to share, so spread the joy--which will increase the habitat for more happy pollinators. Happy planting!