31 July 2009

Blessed bee the pollinators...

I'm with Irish poet William Butler Yeats who extolled life in the 'Bee loud glade' in his poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree.

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Now, Yeats was talking about the simplicity of life and its pleasures, and while he wasn't fixing particularly on pollinators, they're one of my fixations. Be they bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles or flies, I'm a fan, although of course it's the hummers, the bees and the butterflies that get most of the love in most of our gardens.

Ours is a pollinator friendly garden, and always has been even before the word hit in the media that many wild pollinators were in trouble. I long, long ago chose to be an organic gardener, although I've succumbed to chemical warfare on occasion (yeah, goutweed, I'm looking at YOU!). But we choose to grow the plants on our property without using pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and to create a haven that is pollinator friendly.

Because we have pastures and paddocks and adjoining woodlands on our property, there are lots of places where we simply let the wild plants grow; so you'll see thistles and nettles, goldenrods and asters, alders and mountain ashes and other plants that some might not adore.

There are also plenty of deliberately planted perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees to entice pollinating creatures. One of my favourite pollinator-magnets is flat sea holly, Eryngium planum.

This sea holly is a real bee-magnet. I can sit and listen to the various wild and honeybees as they go about their beeesnuis in the plant, and this seems to be one that especially attracts the yellow banded bee, Bombus terricola, a threatened species of wild bumblebee. I got very, very excited several years ago after experts with The Xerces Society identified that we had B. terricola hanging out in our garden.

We have several different climbing honeysuckles in our garden, all of which are much appreciated by the hummingbirds that hang out here all summer. We have no idea how many hummers are here, but I provide nectar in feeders for them each day along with myriad flowers.

Pollinators are especially attracted to purple, red and orange flowers, and we happen to have plenty of those growing around the gardens. One of my personal favourites is Monarda, or bee balm, and we have four or five different varieties. This is 'Jacob Kline', which is extremely red and doesn't show it nearly well enough in photos.

Astilbes attract many different bees and flies, and they began to attract me three or four years ago. My biggest problem is that I don't remember which astilbes I have...there's a white one, and a light pink one, and a deep magenta one, and a wine one, and and and...no matter. The garden is good to them because they'll take sun or shade as long as the soil is moist. Moist is something we have in great abundance this summer especially.

Although not as showy as astilbes, or echinaceas, or some of my other favourites, astrantia, or masterwort, is one of the most beautiful of perennials and one more people need to embrace. The flowers are so geometrically attractive, the colours wonderful, and the bloom profuse. I rarely get a picture of one of my astrantias without a fly or bee on the blossom.

As I said above, we have a lot of different kinds of plants, and mix many of them together in each bed around the place, so the whole property is a pollinator friendly garden. These knautia or pincushion flowers will bloom for a long time especially if I'm diligent about deadheading, which sometimes happens.

We all want to have a full season of colour in our gardens to please our own selves, but also to help support the pollinators. This 'Blaze' geum is in bloom now, nearly a month after some of its relatives finished up, and is a bee magnet. In the spring, I don't mow or kill the dandelions or coltsfoot, because these early blooming wild plants provide vital nutrition for those early awakening pollinators such as some of the bees.

I know that some are allergic to bees, wasps, etc, and for that very good reason aren't crazy about having them around. But in the more than a decade that I've been gardening here, I've been stung exactly once by a bumblebee, and that was because I stepped on her in my bare feet. I've had one wasp sting too, but far more encounters with the nettles, and the nettles bother me more than an insect sting. The hummingbirds greet me like part of the garden (and come to the window to complain if we're slow in filling their feeders), and the butterflies just do their thing. And I get to feel like I'm giving back something to nature by creating this bee/hummingbird/other pollinator-loud glade. And that's one of the reasons that I garden.


  1. Really great post, Jodi! I really am amazed at how many hummingbirds you have fluttering around one feeder- the one hummer I have seems to be really territorial and chases the others off!

  2. Jodi, you have a lovely selection of plants for yourself and the pollinators. I don't deliberately plant for bees and butterflies (no humming birds here!) but have most of the plants you mentioned. The one plant I don't have is Monarda, which I have on my list! I just have to decide which one, do you think Jacob Kline would cope with a bit of wind or does it need staking?

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  3. Jodi, your garden is indeed a haven for the pollinators! I have become fascinated by them, too, as I have learned more and more about their importance in the balance of nature. They don't seem to mind me working in the garden or getting close-up for a portrait; I've never been stung while in the garden.

    I've never seen so many hummingbirds at one feeder! While we have lots of bees, I would love to have a few more hummingbirds and butterflies...the butterflies have gone missing this year!

  4. Ya got me thinking. I should plant a huge bed of red bee balm, set up a chair in the center and paint my ears red so I can sit and not wonder what that buzzing noise is.

  5. That's a bunch of hummers! The shadows make it look like twice as many but still 5 at once is pretty good. I walk among the pollinators all the time and have yet to be stung but I feel that if I did get stung I would feel worse for the little honeybee than for myself. If we could get some sunshine here our pollinators would be much happier!

  6. I have many of the same flowers and lots of bees in my garden. The thyme is blooming right now and it's abuzz with lots of bees.

    My Blue Orchard Bee house now has two of the "condos" occupied. I'm so thrilled!

  7. Hello!

    I found information about c or Yellow Jacob's ladder on your blog. My Mac is crashed, so my blog has no photo of the plant for the moment, but soon I hope!Polemonium pauciflorum grow in my garden.
    My blog is called viltogvakkert.blogspot.com (wild and beautiful)I write in Norwegian.
    Best wishes from Bjorg Nina

  8. Bee-loud glade is such a descriptive phrase...I love it and will have to save this poem for my files. It really creates pictures in my head, not to mention sounds. I also hear the bees, as well as the flap of wings as the birds visit the nearby feeder or their happy songs when I turn on the sprinkler for their baths.

  9. Thank you for including the Yeats poem; it's been a while since I read it. I love your collection of pollinators and must look out for Monarda. Unfortunately, we don't seem to have many varieties of it.

    I'm conisdering sea holly for my garden but have never seen the whole plant, only pictures of the flowers.

  10. I love reading the Yeats poem. It takes you to the meadow and your flowers lets us see the flowers. Yes, Love those pollinators.

  11. I love that poem too. Excellent selection, along with all of your bee-loving plants. I love the structure of the sea holly and have wondered if it would grow in OK. Since I never see it at the garden centers, probably not. I will simply enjoy it on your pages.~~Dee

  12. You are giving back, jodi, and in a very big way. It's amazing where the hummers find their fodder -- after being forced to give up on my lovely new hummer feeder because of the ants it attracted, they've found their way to the balcony anyway and feed regularly on the purplish-blue and red calibrachoas in particular. It's a joy to see them flit about. :)

  13. and to tie Yeates and Emily together "walk softly, for you tread on my dreams"

  14. What a beautiful post! I love the flat sea holly - and the thought of a meadow filled with them! And a 'glade' - Yeats' glade - that is such a spectacular image, and it seems that you have one of your favorite own...what a treat! I don't believe that there is a glade in the south...so it was a treat to visit yours.

  15. Hi;
    Catching up on your blog, it's been too long, so thrilled to stumble upon Yeats when I arrived. We're growing lots of the same flowers! What are the chances Sea Holly could handle the mountains?? - kate

  16. Beautiful photos, you have a lovely garden, the hummingbirds are amazing, how many times a day do you have to fill the sugar water.


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