My lawn used to be “wall to wall carpet” but today it is just an “area rug.“ (terms taken from a lecture on Eco-Beneficial). An accent that edges mixed garden beds or provides a place to walk. Over the years, I have been growing more food and adding many native plants to our landscape to provide for nature + help attract more beneficial to help with growing food. Our native pollinators need us to care about them, so we have to make room for them in our gardens.
What you plant does matter. It affects how they can live.I never gave much thought to what I was purchasing, ordering or starting from seed since if it said it was “native” or “attracted pollinators” well, I thought they must be good. But it does make a difference to our pollinators!
As you all know, I live in the Midwest, and we have cold winters with A LOT of snow. This past weekend, I was outside shoveling 14 inches of snow. I love riding my bike on the river from spring to early winter, but there are times, I am forced to ride my portable bike inside for exercise. Most of our winters!I have some tapes to watch but often they get boring after a few months. I start looking on YouTube for a good lecture on..guess???..yep, growing food, flowers + herbs in the city! The past month, I have been watching videos on permaculture, food forests,organic farming, native gardens, etc. but the other day. I came across a wonderful site that had podcasts on how to attract beneficial insects or provide for native pollinators. It is called Eco-beneficial! The site creator is Kim Eirmen( read about her here). She interviews people who write books on gardening with native plants to help create biodiversity on city lots. Her company “is dedicated to improving our environment by promoting ecological landscaping and the use of native plants.Many of our traditional gardening and landscaping practices have contributed to unhealthy ecosystems.”
Reading their website, I was introduced to an interesting woman Annie White that is doing some fascinating research.“There is exciting new research being conducted by Annie White, a Ph.D student in Ecological Landscape Design at the University of Vermont. Under the guidance of Dr. Leonard Perry, White is comparing what she calls “true open-pollinated native wildflowers” to native cultivars, in terms of their ability to attract and provide nectar and pollen resources to pollinators”(read more about her research here)
I do have many native species on my property. I have to admit, when I first started putting flowers in my garden beds back in 1999, it was not always well thought out. I put in many plants that might not have been beneficial to our native wildlife. The past few years, I have been paying more attention to what the native pollinators are attracted to + which ones may not be helping to build biodiversity on my property. I have been replacing and moving different plants to create vast groupings of flowers to provide for native pollinators.
When you live in the city and don’t have acreage to fill your lot with rows of native plants you tend to be a bit picky. After reading Anne White’s research, I am paying attention to which cultivars I am using in my flower beds.What is a cultivar. Well, a cultivar is considered a plant variety that is selected for a specific characteristic. It may be the color, shape, size etc.
My garden is a collage of natives, cultivars, annual vegetables, flowers and herbs. I move around my mixed beds 3 times before they return to their initial site. The growing zone closest to my front and back doors are where I grow most of my annual vegetables. I visit them often, and it keeps the critters from bothering my food!Further from the house, I have rows of native flowers that are utilized for various stages of the native pollinators life cycle. I plant the native flowers in larger groups it helps with flower constancy (defined here). Planting in masses is more appealing to native pollinators. They prefer to visit a group of plants it is more efficient searching for nectar or pollen.
I am very selective as to which perennial natives or non-natives I choose to add to my city lot.
If you live in the city and have limited spaces selecting the right pollinator, friendly plants can make a big difference.
If you are curious about her research, I put one of her lists below. Please visit her website + support the research it helps us build a community for our native pollinators. If you have a corner to spare it can make a big difference on our city lots! I have to admit, I have some hit and misses on that list! Oh well, there always is the compost pile!
List from Pollinator Gardens
Here are the native flowering perennials and native cultivars chosen for study by Annie White: visit her site (here)
|Botanical Name||Common Name|
|Achillea millefolium||Common Yarrow|
|Achillea millefolium ‘Stawberry Seduction’||Strawberry Seduction Yarrow|
|Agastache foeniculum||Blue Giant Hyssop|
|Agastache foeniculum ‘Golden Jubilee’||Golden Jubilee Hyssop|
|Aquilegia canadensis||Wild Columbine|
|Aquilegia canadensis ‘Corbett’||Wild Columbine|
|Asclepias tuberosa||Butterfly Weed|
|Asclepias tuberosa ‘Hello Yellow’||Butterfly Weed|
|Aster novae-angliae||New England Aster|
|Aster novae-angliae ‘Alma Poetschke’||New England Aster|
|Baptisia australis||Wild Indigo/Blue False Indigo|
|Baptisia ‘Twilite’ Prairie Blues||False Indigo|
|Echinacea purpurea||Purple Coneflower|
|Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’||Coneflower|
|Echinacea ‘Sunrise’ Big Sky||Coneflower|
|Echinacea purpurea ‘Pink Double Delight’||Pink Double Coneflower|
|Helenium autumnale||Common Sneezeweed|
|Helenium autumnale ‘Moerheim Beauty’||Sneezeweed|
|Lobelia cardinalis||Cardinal Flower|
|Lobelia cardinalis ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’||Cardinal Flower|
|Monarda fistulosa||Wild Bergamot/ Bee Balm|
|Monarda fistulosa ‘Claire Grace’||Wild Bergamot/ Bee Balm|
|Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’||Beardtongue|
|Rudbeckia fulgida||Black-eyed Susan|
|Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’||Black-eyed Susan|
|Tradescania ‘Red Grape’||Spiderwort|
|Veronicastrum virginicum||Culver’s Root|
|Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Lavender Towers’||Culver’s Root|