Jean Atkinson from Richbar nursery Golf and Gardens writes about how to attract important pollinators to your garden. (Richbar Nursery Golf and Gardens Facebook photo)

Lawn and Garden: Attracting pollinators to your garden

Jean Atkinson of Richbar Golf and Gardens shares tips to make your garden pollinator-friendly

Jean Atkinson

Richbar Golf and Gardens

I think that there are going to be some amazing gardens out there this year. Gardens, vegetable or ornamental, might just be the saving grace of us all. Gardens give you purpose, reward you with fruits of your labour and satisfy your creative side.

Since we have all slowed down these days, we have more time to observe nature in our backyards, whether it be birds, butterflies, bees or your next-door neighbour — hopefully he/she is in the good neighbour category. These visitors to your garden are essential as pollinators, and without them, we would be in real trouble. I will put a disclaimer in here that doesn’t include deer and/or that neighbour.

So how do you attract more of this wildlife to your backyard?

All the above have three simple requirements, just like us: water, food and shelter.

First of all, you must think of providing a source of food throughout the three seasons: spring, summer and fall. Many years ago, the border at the nursery was planted with bulbs such as scilla, crocus, tulips and narcissus. The other day, I took a photograph of it and it was humming with bees. After a long winter, the bees are hungry. Bees are also attracted to large patches of plants. They are easier for them to find, and foraging for nectar is much easier when they don’t have to go very far from plant to plant.

Other early spring flowers would include columbine, bleeding heart, pansies and heather. Yes, you can grow heather in the Cariboo. It is an easy ground cover that just needs a little bit of a trim (don’t we all) after flowering to keep it from getting too leggy.

I am not going to be popular with some of you when I say that dandelions are also important for bees, as it is difficult for them to find food early on in the season. So, before you decide to eradicate every yellow bloom on your lawn with a herbicide, think about the benefits they provide to pollinators. Really, they only appear for a short time.

Fruit trees also provide food, as well as shelter, for pollinators. Pears and plums bloom earliest, followed by apples. I think my favourite fruit tree is the Dolgo crab apple, not so much for its small fruit, which is ideal for making jelly, but the blooms are so prolific and lightly scented.

As summer comes around, the variety and abundance of flowers makes life a little easier for the pollinators. Blue and violet are very popular colours, so think lupines, salvia, veronica, creeping thyme and lavender. Red and orange flowers are magnets to hummingbirds. Bee balm, honeysuckle vines and the shrub Weigela are a few suggestions.

Vermillianaire Cuphea, or Giant Firecracker plant, is a great centerpiece to a sunny patio pot. The tubular orange flowers cover this heat-loving plant. Once the hummingbirds discover it, they will make it a regular stop on their route. Plant a patio pot with this in the center and the colourful Lemon Coral annual sedum trailing over the sides for a splash of colour all season long.

As late summer and fall rolls around, perennials such as Rubeckia, fall asters and sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ will keep those pollinators happy. A low-maintenance combination includes these three plants and a backdrop of perennial ‘Karl Forester’ Reed grass.

I hope your garden offers you, as well as pollinators, a place to be calm and safe.

READ MORE: Getting started if you are new to gardening

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