It was hugely, bitterly ironic that last week was National Pollinator Week in the USA; the same week in which thousands of bees were killed when public trees in an Oregon community were sprayed with a pesticide deadly to bees. Others were saved by quick action from the community and from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and the catastrophe has generated a lot of awareness and dialogue about what we can all do to protect and enhance our pollinators--not just the cute butterflies and hummingbirds, but the bees, flies, beetles and others that do yeoman's service in pollinating plants that we all eat.
The thing to remember is that some bees awaken and are active early in the spring, before many plants are flowering. Shrubs like witch hazels (Hamamelis: 'Arnold Promise' is shown above) and willows, early bulbs like chionodoxa and crocus, are vitally important to those early bees. Other plants that are important to them are dandelions and coltsfoot--wild plants to us, 'weeds' to some, but providing crucial nutrients early in the season.
(Photo: Astrantia, or masterwort, probably the variety 'Florence', an excellent pollinator plant)
Sea hollies (Eryngium, various species) are one of my top three perennials, with their striking flowers and long season of bloom. They are also high on the list of many pollinators. A few years ago I located a type of rare bumblebee, Bombus terricola, the yellow banded bee, on some of my sea hollies. That was enough to ensure I would always grow sea holly in any garden I have.
Garden Making magazine, I learned that the double flowered varieties also contain nectar and pollen, but it may be harder to reach than in the single-flowered forms. I plant lots of both, so we should be good!
Hillendale Perennials called Candy Cat, which has pink flowers.
If you read my previous post, you know that Lantana is one of my favourite annuals. Now that I am in a warmer area for gardening, with less fog, the lantanas in my containers are doing splendidly. Butterflies and bees find these flowers irresistible.
There are many different sedums, some of which bloom earlier in the season (Angelina is flowering now, for example), and some which come on in late summer and autumn, like 'Autumn Joy'. All of them are very good for pollinators.
monarch butterfly awareness education happening in the past couple of years. But Asclepias varieties are appealing to many other types of pollinators including bees and pollinating flies. I just hope we can keep busy-body highways departments from spraying or mowing the wild milkweeds growing along roadsides, destroying monarch butterfly habitat. I like to keep optimistic.
There are many, many more plants that will attract and feed pollinators, but these are just a few that area easy to source at almost any nursery. Have fun with designing your pollinator garden, with thanks from the bees, butterflies, and other creatures.