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Make the Home Garden a Haven for Beneficial Pollinators
by Park Seed
April 24, 2016

Bringing beneficial pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds into the home garden is not only good for the plants; it also increases the yields of home crops and beautifies the landscape. Gardeners interested in attracting more pollinators usually begin by setting up hummingbird feeders, installing a birdbath or other water feature, and planting annuals and perennials that include pollinators' names, such as Butterfly Bush, Bee Balm, and Hummingbird Mint. While these are all excellent strategies, Park Seed Company brand manager Sue Amatangelo recommends additional steps gardeners can take to make their landscape hospitable to the living creatures that help grow new plants.

When designing the garden, plan for blooms to continue from spring right through fall. Most annuals are in full show from late spring through summer, so there is no shortage of available nectar and pollen during this time. And by selecting perennials with varying bloom seasons, home gardeners can achieve a succession of flowers that continues all summer long, bringing pollinators an uninterrupted and nicely varied supply of food. Supplement the summer display with spring-flowering fruit trees such as cherry, peach, and apple, as well as fall-flowering varieties Aster and Rudbeckia to Caryopteris.

Pollinators feel at home in landscapes planted with native species. Native North American plants are low maintenance, require less water than most others, and are less prone to disease and pests. Look for native varieties of Penstemon, Helianthus, Cleome, and Gaillardia to bring in the bees. Asclepias, Achillea, Lupinus, and Salvia are among dozens of American natives that attract butterflies, while hummingbirds appreciate Lonicera, Lobelia, Campsis, and Aquilegia, among others.

Most importantly, consider the entire garden a home for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators, not just the pollen- and nectar-bearing plants that attract them. Avoid using pesticides and other non-organic sprays and treatments. Some beneficial insects and caterpillars may eat desirable foliage, and many undesirables will undoubtedly remain in the garden, but it is well worth it to create a healthy, balanced environment for pollinators. Provide a source of very shallow water with rocks or other stable surfaces for alighting and basking. Pollinators will be more likely to visit a natural environment that provides shelter, water, and resting places as well as good sources of food.

Whether the goal is to create a beautiful butterfly garden, to increase the production of home vegetable crops, or to create a haven for the endangered honeybee population, home gardeners can take many simple steps to turn their landscape into a pollinator-friendly environment. Bringing bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds into the garden helps create a more balanced environment that improves its long-term health and productivity. Park Seed's Sue Amatangelo urges home gardeners across the country to "plant one more for the pollinators," making every garden just a little more rich in the food these beneficial visitors need.

For more information on the pollinators for the home garden, visit parkseed.com

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