Vail gardening column: Plant a pollinator-friendly garden
In May, a White House Task Force released its National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honeybees & Other Pollinators, an action plan for pollinator health. And with June 15-20 being National Pollinator Week, it’s timely to think about the important role that pollinators play in our communities and how we can support them with our plant choices.
In and around our neighborhoods, we need to create habitats for pollinators because they play an important function in the urban ecosystem. While we don’t want bees buzzing around our patios, there is still a place for them. Plus, other pollinators such as hummingbirds, butterflies and moths can find a home in our landscapes without disrupting our lives.
Plants provide the best nutrition because they have high-energy nectar — not just water and sugar that we put in hummingbird feeders, for example. Nectar has fat and vitamins and even protein from small insects that might get “slurped” up. Especially when hummingbirds migrate south for the winter, they need the high-energy drink that flower nectar gives them.
Pollinator-friendly plants include annuals, perennials and even herbs. This year, if you want to start an herb garden, then select herbs that attract pollinators.
Above all, diversity should be the goal in order to offer the variety of plants that will attract and serve many kinds of pollinators throughout the growing season. Plants should be varied in color, height and season of bloom to appeal to the needs of individual pollinators. Some pollinators, for example, seek a wide-open flower like a poppy and others prefer a long, tubular bloom.
The good news in planning a pollinator-friendly garden is that many of our tried and true plants are the same ones pollinators love. You don’t need to seek out exotic plants that are difficult to grow in order to attract pollinators.
Annuals: Pollinator friendly annuals include alyssum, cosmos, dianthus, lantana, nicotiana, pentas, French marigolds, salvia, verbena and zinnia.
Perennials: When selecting perennials, keep it in mind that most perennials don’t bloom all season long. Having a variety of plants with staggered bloom times helps keep pollinator friendly flowers in the garden throughout the growing season — especially, before annual migrations begin. Larger perennials will also provide shelter. Varieties to consider include achillea, agastache, centranthus, coreopsis, dianthus, echinacea, gaillardia, helinium, monarda, nepeta, penstemon and salvia.
Herbs: As with annuals, many of the standby herbs we use every day in our kitchens are the ones that attract pollinators. They include chives, dill, fennel, lavender, mint, parsley, oregano, sage and thyme. Planting herbs is especially sustainable because they nourish both people and pollinators.