Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Gardener's Corner - Pollinator Plants

The Gardener's Corner is my weekly newspaper column that can be found in The Innisfil Scope and will be posted on my blog each Wednesday as well.
It’s interesting to see how things can go full circle.  Growing up, our lawn had lots of clover in it, for this small plant helps fix nitrogen in the soil which grass uses to grow.  Many days were spent with friends looking for that lucky four-leaved clover, and we did find them.
Homeowners eventually stopped adding clover to their lawns because they figured it was a weed, and the sweet flowers (which we used to pull apart and eat) attracted bees.
Quite a different story these days.  Clover is being added to lawns again and gardeners are asking what to plant to attract bees.  These insects, along with many other invertebrates are the reason we have meadows full of wildflowers, summer berries, and tasty vegetables in the garden.
With seed catalogues coming in the mail and thoughts turned towards this year’s garden, now is the time to start planning for a pollinator garden.
During early spring, the pollinators in our area have to rely on trees that bloom at this time and any plants with flowers.  Colt’s-foot, a weed that begins blooming in March can be found along roadsides and in ditches.  With a flower similar to dandelions, it is appealing to insects in late winter looking for nectar.
By late spring and through summer there are a number of pollinator favourite perennials and annuals in flower.  Autumn has less plants but still enough to provide nectar late in the season.
The cheapest way to add more flowers to the garden is to start them from seed, either indoors under lights or direct sow into the soil.  Early-blooming pollinator plants to grow are chives which always attract butterflies for me, dianthus, larkspur, sweet alyssum, and violas.
Mid-Season will see bachelor’s button, black-eyed Susan, borage, cosmos, foxglove, lavender, bee balm, thyme, squash and pumpkin flowers attracting pollinators.
By fall there are still coneflower, sunflower, cleome, dahlia, salvia, zinnia, marigolds and agastache still blooming.
A few ideas to consider for successful pollinator gardens are flowers clustered in large sized clumps.  These are more attractive for nectar than individual plants scattered throughout the garden.
A succession of flowering plants from spring to fall will support a range of bee species.
Bees are known to use color, shape, patterns, and odor to identify good sources of nectar and a study by researchers in Britain suggest that they also use electrical cues to know if another bee has already been to a flower.
Flowers of different shapes will attract various types of pollinators.
Never use pesticides as they are a major threat to the health of insect pollinators.
Finally, the value in dollars of the service to food industries that pollinators provide is estimated to be four billion dollars and more.
With files from


  1. Very interesting post Judith. I haven't seen any bees around yet but I guess it's too cold.

  2. Oh, I'm in love with bees! In fact I'm getting a post ready for tomorrow...lots of bees! ;)

  3. I enjoyed this post and the specific listing of flowering plants by season. This afternoon I went out to take pictures of some of my flowering trees. They were filled with buzzing bees! It was a cheerful sound! The bees were quite content and paid no attention to me!

  4. Judith, I'm so scared of bees....We have so many down here...when I see them I run inside. :)
    Good post!

  5. When our mulberry tree is in flower the place is alive with bees their humming is very noisy and the are up high so not a danger to anyone. I enjoy their visits.

  6. Interesting about the clover...I do have quite a bit.

  7. Hi Judith,
    I love having bees in the garden, knowing how important they are.We do grow organically as well.

    Good article!

  8. Judith great article ... I love watching the bees in the gardens during summer. It's amazing the role these little creatures play. Wishing you a fabulous week..xo C. (HHL)

  9. What a great column! So very educational and helpful!

  10. I found it interesting that you should say some homeowners are now including clover in their lawns. In fact, grass seed mixes often include clover. I recall battling clover in my lawn, not liking how it doesn't blend with the grass blades and tends to take over in the lawn. It's not for me, but I do believe more and more gardeners are going more natural and the fact that clover helps fix the nitrogen in the soil is definitely a good asset.

    This is a really good article. Thank you for sharing on your blog!

  11. Yes we do need our bees. That is a fantastic photo closeup you got also.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  12. Great column Judith, and love your notecards. Have a wonderful day. Jen

  13. Great post, Judith! No Bees here yet. Pretty chilly here still, and we have lots of snow!

  14. Great post, Judith. I very much enjoyed reading about pollinators. You are a very knowledgeable and wise gardener.
    Hugs, Beth

  15. Thank you so much for this informative post. I am concerned about the bee population, hoping to attract more.

  16. I love getting more flower ideas for the pollinators!!


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