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THE POLLINATOR-FRIENDLY GARDEN—AND GARDENER

June 28, 2022

Pollinator week has passed but we will continue to celebrate pollinators all month long with pictures, stories, and garden advice. Plant with purpose, now is a great time to create a pollinator-friendly yard or garden.

Bees are Essential!

What is actually involved in being a pollinator friendly gardener?  First open your eyes to the complex world that is your garden.  Pay close attention to the plants and creatures and the interaction between them. This is how the garden will become even more useful to pollinators—and to the gardener as well.

Consider that pollinator can be one of a great many creatures.  What an opportunity for learning!  These creatures have been essential to life for a very long time but they need all the help that gardeners can give.  Solitary bees make up 90% of native bees and bumble bees make up the rest. They are social but live in small groups numbering in the hundreds, not the many thousands of bees that make up honeybee hives. Now honeybees do wonderful things but your garden is not an almond orchard.  Native bees will do a great job pollinating the flowers including the flowers of herbs and vegetables.

The gardener doesn’t need to know hundreds of bee names to observe the differences between them and to begin to see how they interact with the plants in the garden. Accept that wasps, flies and beetles are also involved in pollination.  Be careful and observe them as they go about their lives. They have a place in the world so share the message.

Didn’t pollinator gardens used to be called butterfly gardens?  Well, it’s an updated designation but butterflies are an essential part of gardening.  Butterflies are delightful and this is important. They are a wonderful way to engage potential gardeners—that’s everybody!

Vesta Crescent Butterfly on Hardy Ageratum

Bees are essential but butterflies win “most popular insect” every time.  Of course, the pollinator garden should attract and care for them.  Flowers are what is needed, lots of flowers. Plant as many shapes and sizes as can be grown and not just in spring but summer and fall, too. That requires planning and of course ongoing care but that’s what gardeners do.

 Everyone wants monarchs, of course they do, and that’s fine but don’t stop there.  There are so many butterflies to learn about. In this area the garden could be visited by eastern black swallowtails, pipevine swallowtails, painted ladies’, common buckeyes, lots of skippers (some people say they aren’t really butterflies) but they are lovely little creatures.  Snouts—so easy to recognize—yes they do have a snout.

Delicate hairstreaks love tiny flowers, there are dusky wings of various sorts. Funeral is a favorite with its dark wings bordered with white.  So many and all are interesting and beautiful. Take the time to look carefully. Honestly, they are just as enchanting as monarchs.

Gardeners want butterflies—so take the next step.  Find out about their host plants and try to grow at least three different kinds if possible.  Butterflies have an amazing ability to find their host plants so eggs can be laid. Then the larvae hatch. Do they eat the plants? Yes. Do the plants then look ragged? Yes”, but without this…no butterflies.  Do not assume this is common knowledge.  It isn’t and needs a good explanation. Never use pesticides, then explain again.  Butterflies and bees are insects.  Diplomatic skill must be used! So much to learn, but that’s the great thing. There is no need for boredom!

There are many sources of information on bees, butterflies, wasps and butterfly gardening.

A great butterfly reference is “Butterflies of Oklahoma, Kansas and North Texas”

(By John M Pole, Walter B Gerard and John M Nelson from the University of Oklahoma Press) 

Look up the Xerces society for information on native bees along with gardening and conservation information also. 

Susan Thornbury, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Pictures by Starla Willis, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2011

IT’S POLLINATOR WEEK

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.

  1.  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.
  2. 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.  
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3.   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

Pollinator Friendly

August 10, 2019

Pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, bats, birds,   and wasps are the basis of a healthy ecosystem. They allow plants to reproduce and those plants provide us with countless varieties of fruits, vegetables, and nuts.  I have read that one in every three bites of food lands on your plate because of the work of these pollinators.

With that in mind, look at your garden in a new way. How are you providing for the pollinators who make your life happen?

Here are some of the plants we are growing with that purpose.

Above: Zexmenia hispida

Above: Rudibeckia fulgida and Gregg’s Mist Flower

Above: Tithonia rotundifolia or Mexican Sunflower in front of a 5 foot hedge of Lantana ‘Miss Huff’

Above: The delicate blossoms of the Desert Willow provide nectar

Above: Datura-an interesting flower that blooms at night and attracts the sphinx moth

Above: Pink Skullcap

On the right side of the page under Raincatcher’s Resources, take a look at the list of butterfly and hummingbird plants for more information.

Ann Lamb

 

A Plea For Our Pollinators!

Susan and others have been working diligently in our butterfly garden. It’s beautiful and has a purpose. As gardeners do, Susan and I had a meaningful visit about the garden as we worked.  Here are my questions and her answers:

Why are you working so hard, selecting certain plants. You seem to be planting with a purpose.

The goal is to attract a wide diversity of pollinators and to that end, we need to cultivate a wide variety of plants all throughout the year.

Pollinators depend on us and it’s our sacred duty to provide for them in all their phases of life. It isn’t that easy, but like many things it’s very worthwhile.

Why as gardeners do we need to plant for pollinators? Isn’t this provided naturally?

Much of nature has been rearranged and habitats destroyed.  Every yard needs to count! Devote at least part of your garden to create a pollinator-friendly habitat.

Joy comes when you see these creatures thrive. If you take the step, I don’t believe you will ever go back to never-ending lawns with seas of begonias.

Keep going. it’s desperately needed and of serious importance for the next generation.

It’s up to us.

Thank you, Susan. You have inspired all of us to garden for the future.

Ann Lamb

Picture by Starla Willis

Under Raincatcher’s Resources, we have a list of butterfly friendly plants to help you get started.

Pollinator week is a week away.

 

 

 

 

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