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.
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.
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 ezfromseed.org.