The objective of pollinator-friendly gardening is to provide a safe haven for pollinators. Plants are the bait, so to speak, to attract pollinators to your yard but you need more to keep them happy. Think about sheltered habitat, water and year-round food.
Trees and shrubs provide shelter. Woody plants with hollows, an old log, twigs, stems and leaves left overwinter provide homes for insects and small mammals. Another option in a small urban garden is to build homes for your favorite pollinators. Look for plans to build your own or purchase a Bee Bungalow, Butterfly Condo or Bat House.
Water is a critical feature for birds and butterflies. If you have a birdbath, keep it clean and fresh and the birds will love visiting your yard. Butterflies also appreciate clean water but they have trouble drinking from a bird bath. They would like a shallow dish with stepping stones in it for landing pads. Keep in mind that standing water can provide breeding ground for mosquitos, so it is important to change the water in birdbaths regularly.
Avoid pesticides! People, pets as well as pollinators will appreciate the reduced chemical load.
Select a variety of plants to provide continuous bloom. I’m sure you’ve heard that hummingbirds love red flowers. Bees and butterflies have their favorites too: purple, white, yellow and blue flowers with fragrance are especially attractive. Flowers with single blooms are more accessible to bees gathering nectar and they like to find them in clumps. It is fascinating to watch a bee visiting a patch of Pulmonaria – diligently visiting each and every flower.
There are lots of flowers and herbs that attract pollinators. Our list of recommended plants includes suggestions suitable for different garden conditions – sunny, shady, damp or dry. Many of the plants we recommend are hardy natives. The advantage of native plants is that they are adapted to our climate and soil conditions and hence require low maintenance.
A variety of trees and shrubs should be included in a pollinator garden list: oaks provide nectar for butterflies; bees love lindens; willows are an attraction for many butterflies including the Mourning cloak and viceroys; all woody plants provide hibernating and nesting sites for a host of insects, birds and butterflies. All have flowers. Some, such as the red maple, bloom in May which is of benefit to early arrivals.
One need not give up any existing garden plants. Add as many natives as possible, refrain from pesticides, and leave the garden cleanup to the spring so insects and small mammals have a place to live overwinter among the twigs and stems. They also add a little food in the form of seeds left after the flowers are spent.
The following are only a sample of useful plants that grow well in the Kingston region. Most but not all are native. Some were introduced long ago, and the bulbs are garden species. Most are easily obtained from local nurseries. Seeds can be purchased from the sources listed below.
In or near wetland: Vervain, Marsh marigold, Boneset, Joe Pye, Turtlehead, Lobelia–blue and scarlet, swamp milkweed, wild asters, blue flag, tickseed, beebalm,meadow rue, anemones; Shrubs: spireas, dogwoods and buttonbush.
Dry places: cup plant, all goldenrods, wild asters, beebalm, butterfly weed, black eyed susan, coneflowers of all kinds, red valerian, gay feather, Canada anemone, thyme, catchfly, ox-eye daisy, fleabanes, pearly everlasting, pussy toes, sage.Shrubs: currents, gooseberries, false indigo, St. Johnswort,
Shaded areas: wild ginger, hepatica, bellwort, jack in the pulpit, heart leaf aster, thimbleweed, Canada columbine, baneberries; Shrubs: elderberry, viburnums, bladdernut tolerate part-shade.
Spring bulbs: galanthus, scilla, aconite, species tulips. All are appreciated by the flies and bees that are around in early spring.
Herbs: in pots can be an important source of nectar and provide food for beneficial insects. Especially important are any that have flat-surfaced flowers, such as dill and fennel, whose surfaces attract tiny parasitic wasps that feed on aphids.
Hummingbirds are best served by flowers that have a trumpet-shape, including lobelia, fuchsia, beebalm, columbine, delphinium, Rose of Sharon and honeysuckle.
In some parts of the world, a decline in the bird population has resulted in a diminished population of some plants so give a thought to providing an attractive environment for the fliers.
Most plants will survive in less than optimum conditions though they may not flower as well.
Choose the plant to fit the site if you want to avoid high maintenance.
Sources: seed from Gardens North www.gardensnorth.com;
Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul Seed Sanctuary at http://www.providence.ca/our-work/heirloom-seed-sanctuary/
Local plants- Lemoine Point Native Plant Nursery
Other local nurseries- check with them to find out where the plants are grown; most will carry a number of the suggested species. Enjoy and Happy Gardening.