Time for our annual gardening resolutions for the New Year. I must admit that resolutions are at the back of my mind these days with new variants of Covid popping up all over the place. But we need to look forward instead of looking back and resolutions are a good way to do just that.
Actually, getting a list of resolutions together isn’t as hard as it may seem because – if you were like me and had walked through the garden in late summer - you figured out what was needed to do for the following growing season. It now is a matter of organizing our thoughts and putting them down on paper. That way we have a reference guide as we go through the year. But every gardener has their own personal list of resolutions that will depend on your garden, your interests and your time.
There are a few things that go on my list each year: take better care of the tools, bring more color to the flower beds, or remember to fertilize the spring-blooming plants. About every 3 or 4 years, I lift the paving stones on my paths and reset them so that goes on the list for 2022. But for next year, I want to be sure to add to my list “take better care of the pollinators.”
Of course, this encompasses all sorts of creatures, from bees and butterflies to hummingbirds. Some things we can do will attract all sorts of pollinators while other things are more specific to the particular pollinator. I know I want more bees in my garden, but I would love to see some more butterflies as well. The hummers are already here and stay most of the year.
Choosing specific plants that provide nectar is the most obvious choice. There are all sorts of perennials and annuals that can accomplish this as well as some blooming shrubs. Planting flowering herbs such as cilantro, dill, parsley, rosemary, basil or lavender in clumps will lure more bees and you can use the herbs for cooking or crafts, too. But using native plants makes it easier to attract native pollinators. Things like Western serviceberry, monarda or Oregon grape are just a few choices. Penstemon are draws for native bees as are yarrow and gaillardia.
Try to choose native plants that give a wide variety of blooming times. For example, Oregon grape, currants and willows will bloom in the spring, but asters and goldenrod are fall bloomers. Lots of annuals and perennials bloom in the summer. Annual sunflowers and perennial coneflowers are two examples but there are many, many others. If you are planting annuals, try spacing out seeds every three of four days in a two-week time frame to have a longer bloom period.
Some pollinators prefer plants with tubular flowers. Fuchsia and penstemon draw hummingbirds as well as bees. Others, like butterflies, prefer the “flat tops” of sunflowers, daisies or cone flowers. Here’s a tip for choosing plants, too: bees prefer flowers in colors of blue, purple and yellow with sweet fragrances.
Not everyone wants bees in their yards, especially those who are highly allergic to bee stings. But we must realize that not all bees sting and usually that only happens when they feel threatened. By being aware of the types of bees that are native to our area and what their habits are will give us more help in attracting the bees we want in our gardens. There are four thousand types of bees in North America and three-quarters of them are solitary nest builders. The other quarter are social bees – like bumble bees and honey bees - that live in nests in the ground or in hives above ground. And of course, there are more pollinators other than bees.
Since there has been a decline in pollinator populations over the last decade, attracting them to our gardens becomes even more important. I have known gardeners that have been so enchanted by bees that they have gone to the extra step of installing bee hives to house bees that will pollinate their orchards and vegetable gardens. This becomes more of a hobby/job than I am interested in but I do thank them for their efforts as we all benefit from more bees in our lives.
While I was doing my research for this column, I realized there is much too much information for only one column. So, if 2021 was the “Year of the Succulents,” I propose 2022 to be the “Year of the Pollinators.” Look for more tips and ideas to attracting all sorts of pollinators to your gardens this coming year.
In the meantime, I wish you a most Happy and Healthy New Year!