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Pollinating garden plant parallels

Plant a pollinator garden

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One of the biggest causes of declining pollinator populations is habitat loss. Butterflies, bees and other important pollinators are becoming increasingly rare in many residential gardens across the country due to the widespread use of pesticides and the decline of the nectar-rich flowers they rely on for food. Fortunately, by dedicating a space in your garden to pollinator-friendly plants, local pollinators can be well-fed all season long.

Pollination is important

Almost all flowering plants must be pollinated to produce seeds. And most flowering plants depend on bees, butterflies, and other animals (bats, hummingbirds) for pollination. Although there are non-native plants and hybrids that feed on pollinators, you can count on native plants to attract local pollinators because they are interspersed. Cultivars of native plants - often referred to as "natives" - may support pollination, but not in all cases (see "What is a native?" below).

When planting for pollination, it is best to have rows of flowers so that nectar and pollen are available all season. Here are three great-looking plant combinations that can extend your pollinator party into a full-fledged party.

Incorporating spring pollination into the garden

Bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and many other pollinators emerge as the weather warms, but pollen and nectar can be hard to come by. The sweet nectar hidden among the brightly colored petals of early spring flowers is a lifeline for hungry pollinators like the ruby-throated hummingbird. Sow seeds after the last frost in spring; Once started, native columbine will self-seed for years.

did you know?

Ruby-throated hummingbirds make their spring migration to coincide with the flowering of wild columbine. They have impeccable memories for food sources. Once your garden is on the menu, they will return every year.

A) Wild columbine Aquilegia canadensis

perennial; The drooping, bell-like red and yellow flowers in spring are especially attractive to hummingbirds; Full sun to part shade; 12 to 36 inches high, 12 to 18 inches wide; Hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8

B) Woodland phlox Phlox divaricata

perennial; Clusters of pink, lilac, pink, rose, or blue flowers are pollinated by long-tongued insects such as butterflies; Partially in full shade; 8 to 16 inches high, 8 to 12 inches wide; Hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9

C) Solomon's Seal Polygonatum odoratum pluriflorum 'Double Stuff'

perennial; red stems adorned with white-tipped leaves and drooping white, bell-shaped flowers in spring that attract many species of bees; Partially in full shade; 24 to 26 inches high, 12 to 16 inches wide; Hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8

Summer personalities

Since spring is the garden center's biggest shopping season, most people's gardens want plants that look good early on and then leave. Pollinators - especially bees and butterflies - including plants that flower and thrive in the summer heat. Native succulents are a staple in sunny perennial borders for good reason: They bloom for months in early to mid-summer without real care and attract butterflies, as you can see above. If you want to attract birds that feed on dried seeds, be sure not to die the spent flowers. Plant native Culver's rootstock in a location with at least four hours of direct sunlight; Otherwise it will fail and require support.

A) Purple coneflower Echinacea purpurea

perennial; Purple-pink daisy-like flowers with prominent spikes bloom all summer and are a great landing pad for butterflies; Full sun to part shade; 24 to 48 inches high, 18 to 24 inches wide; Hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9

B) Culver's root Veronicacastrum virginicum

perennial; Spikes of white, pink, or blue flowers open from top to bottom in late spring and are visited by leafcutter bees, bumblebees, and sweat bees; full sun; 4  to 6 feet high, 2 to 4 feet wide; Hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8

Fall pollination is garden fuel

By late summer many plants have finished blooming, but bees (as you can see above), butterflies, moths, wasps and hoverflies are still foraging. Some native plants have evolved to bloom late in the season to provide food for pollinators so they can generate energy for winter dormancy.

Experts say goldenrod may be our most important pollinator-supporting plant. 'Wichita Hills' is a native that feeds on many of the same insects as the original species. And it doesn't seem to spread as aggressively as many Tangerats. Keep asters bushy by pinching off the top few inches of growth in spring. Don't pinch new growth in summer or you'll remove flower buds.

A) Goldenrod Solidago 'Wichita Hills'

perennial; Small, golden-yellow flowers are clustered atop dense, narrow-leaved, reddish stems; Full sun to part shade; 24 to 36 inches high, 24 to 30 inches wide; Hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9

A) New England aster Symbiotrichum novi-Belgii

perennial; daisy-like pink or purple flowers with yellow centers; Visited by local bees and butterflies from late summer to early fall; full sun; 1 to 6 feet high, 2 to 3 feet wide; Hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8