Think big! I attended a garden club where one of the speakers suggested we all let Dandelions flower in our gardens in early spring because bees have few options for nectar at that time of year. It made me worry. Their only hope of survival on the planet was access to the flowering weeds in my yard? I go to a lot of trouble to remove weeds in my lawn, including hand-pulling. Then I began to reflect on the tenacity and invasive nature of Dandelions, and realized early spring bees will fare the same, with or without Dandelions in my lawn. Before you let all the weeds in your lawn grow and go to seed to provide nectar for bees, think about how you can more effectively increase the number of pollinators in your yard. The scope of the decline of bee populations goes far beyond the boundaries of a quarter-acre suburban lot. To understand the plight of honey bees, it helps to expand preservation efforts to large-scale, commercial concerns.
All gardens are pollinator-friendly gardens. Just plant wherever there is bare soil. On the suburban scale, the higher cost of installing and maintaining artificially modified turf and plants will prevent the over-use and large-scale introduction of harmful, pesticide-laced cultivars of genetically-suspect origin. The last thing you need to worry about is world-takeover of finely manicured lawns and beautiful flower gardens on this earth. You can make a difference in pollinator populations on your property, though. Responsibly vegetating the ground surface of the planet with local trees, shrubs, and flowers is the best way to increase the global bee population. There is no need to quibble about which plants are more bee-friendly than others.
The instructions for creating a pollinator garden are exactly the same as creating a responsibly-designed ornamental garden. First and foremost, avoid using pesticides. The way to avoid pesticides is to choose plants which don’t need chemical controls to thrive. This will automatically steer your plant selection to herbs, heirloom shrubs, and native species. A few tetraploid Daylilies won’t damage the pollinator-friendly pedigree of your property, as long as you have a good mix of lots of other different plants. Diversifying the plant material to include trees, shrubs, vines, wildflowers, and herbaceous plants helps build a nesting habitat. Provide layers of plants which grow at a variety of heights. Then, minimize the amount of mowed turf areas to reduce maintenance for you and provide natural areas of tall, herbaceous plants for insect habitat. Finally, provide a source of water. A birdbath or muddy puddle encourages insects and wildlife to visit your garden. There is nothing complicated about building a pollinator-friendly habitat.
Directing anger toward the local nursery and green industry hurts the very businesses that can help you plant the world. The nursery industry is more than happy to provide the types of plants you are willing to buy. All you have to do is place your order and follow through with cash. Actively practicing local, pollinator-friendly practices is an effective way to promote healthy bees. Save your activism energy for research of tainted imported honey, large Almond farming operations cutting corners for scale, commercial beekeeping ventures which stress the hives to weakness, and invasive species infestations. Look for ways to support stable, regional and local bee populations, and then encourage technical experts to speak out with an informed voice to legislative representatives about larger issues.
A pollinator-friendly garden includes plants to attract butterflies, birds, and bees. Flowering plants and herbs provide the attraction. Keep the three B’s in mind when you design every landscape, both large and small. Bee-autiful!