June 21, 2022
It’s a good time to think about the pollinator area at the Raincatcher’s garden.
First this area is just a part of the large garden—the whole garden attracts and supports pollinators.
So why a designated pollinator area? This area provides an opportunity to encourage visitors to think about the role the garden plays in supporting bees and butterflies.
As visitors see the interaction of insects and plants, information becomes more relevant and hopefully of more lasting benefit. The role the garden plays in the support of these amazing creatures comes alive when bees are seen carrying pollen or butterflies hover close to their host plant.
Raincatchers spreads the word—every garden can and should—make a difference—when thought and care goes into it.
So what is the first thing to think about when making a garden pollinator friendly? The old rule—First—do no harm! Chemical pesticides cannot be used—reducing use is not an option; butterflies and bees are insects so to try to attract them and then kill them is simply not to be considered. Just because it says organic—doesn’t mean its ok, some organic products can be used carefully—very carefully!
Its complicated—of course it is—but a garden is plants and in the pollinator area the aim is to grow as wide a variety of plants as possible—aiming for as long a bloom time as possible but also the aim is to have a variety in size and form so bees and butterflies large and small and even tiny can find something that appeals to them.
Butterflies are the stars of any pollinator area and to support them their life cycle must be considered. Flowers are essential for adults but to really help there must also be the host plants or plants where eggs are laid and larvae grow. For most butterflies the plant is a specific one cannot be changed. Without the correct host plant—no eggs, no larvae, and no new butterflies.
There are many plants at Raincatcher’s but lets look at a few that would make great choices for a new pollinator friendly garden.
- For a great many years a huge lantana has been a garden feature. Rightly so everyone seems to love it. Its literally a magnet for butterflies large and small –maybe it’s the “landing pad” flower form? Bees love it too so it’s a winner.
- Salvias—it doesn’t seem possible to have too many. The large ‘indigo spires’ and the ‘amistad’ attract bumble bees and other large bees take time to watch them as they climb into the individual flowers—don’t worry—they will tell you with loud buzzing when you take that step closer.
- Two small trees—Bee brush and Texas kidneywood attract honey bees and a variety of small and even tiny native bees—take time to watch and breath in while close the flowers smell lovely.
- Coneflowers—they are popular with everyone butterflies and honey bees as well as native bees visit. Keep them deadheaded and they bloom for a long time which is so valuable.
Now think about some host plants.
- Pipevine is growing under the vitex tree. Its just really getting a good start now and must grow more. It’s the host plant for the beautiful pipevine swallowtail. Its growing well but there isn’t enough those larvae eat an amazing amount and its important to have lots. This is true of all the host plants grow multiple plants . It isn’t a good situation to have larvae run out of food before they are grown.
- Common fennel this is a host plant for eastern black swallowtails—we have had some larvae on this plant. Dill and parsley are great too but fennel is wonderful for standing up better in summer.
- Prickly ash—this is a large tree it’s a host plant for giant swallowtails.
We have small candlestick trees growing, (Senna alata) a host plant for sulfurs.
We also have baby African milkweeds growing.
These are just a few of the plants growing. Come and visit the garden to see them. There will be garden workers on Tuesday mornings but you are welcome to visit any time.
But it can’t stop with a visit. Every garden counts—and that means yours—think how you can make it more pollinator friendly.
Pollinators are depending on us—just like we are depending on them!
Susan Thornbury, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008
Starla Willis -Pictures, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2009