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Vail Landscape Logic column: Welcome pollinators into your garden

Denver Gold columbines.
Special to the Daily |

When most of us hear the word “pollinators,” our first thought is about bees and being stung.

While the most common pollinator in our communities is the honeybee, there are other pollinators such as hummingbirds and butterflies we do enjoy watching. The more you look, the more pollinators you will notice. Some of our 946 species of bees in Colorado are as small as an ant and easy to overlook. We also have lots of pollinating flies and moths and even beetles that will be busy pollinating later in the summer.

Since one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat is delivered by pollinators, they deserve our respect and our welcome. By knowing a few things about these amazing creatures we can help them feel at home in our gardens — and plants are the key.

A few facts

• Butterflies look for larger flowers with flat landing pads to stabilize them while feeding on nectar. They are most active in gardens with warm, sunny spots.

• Moths, which feed early morning and late evening, need high-nectar flowers that are open during these hours.

• Hummingbirds are most attracted to red blossoms, but will feed on long, tubular flowers.

• Bees collect pollen from a wide range of flowers in both the sun and shade.

Here are four pollinator friendly plants developed by Plant Select that are well suited to high-altitude gardens. Bonus: Two of the four are also deer resistant.

• Eriogonum (Kannah Creek buckwheat): Early-summer blooming ground cover with yellow flowers. Grows only a few inches tall and 18-24-inches wide, but bloom stalks will reach 10-14-inches. Needs full sun and grows in a wide range of soils. Very drought tolerant, hardy in Zones 3-8 and is deer resistant.

• Prairie Jewel penstemon: A select strain of the showiest of the northern Great Plains’ penstemons with large flowers in a range of colors from pure white, through lavender and rose–pink to a deep purple-violet. Grow 24-30-inches tall and 8-10-inches wide in full sun and moderate to dry conditions. Hardy in zones 3-9 and is deer resistant.

Columbines

• Remembrance: A hybrid selection derived from the Colorado state flower, the petals and spurs are an incredibly rich, shining violet blue. Hummingbirds and hawkmoths feed on the sweet nectar found deep in the base of each spur. Growing 18-24-inches tall and 16-18-inches wide, this columbine grows best in part shade with adequate moisture and good garden loam. Hardy in zones 3-9 thriving in cooler locations and blooming in early summer.

• Denver Gold: This golden form of columbine can take either sun or part shade and blooms heavily in early summer, often producing a second flush of flowers later in the season. Growing 28-32-inches tall and 16-18-inches wide, Denver Gold is hardy in zones 3-8, making it perfect for a wide range of gardens.

Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.


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