The next time you notice a flower petal with a hole, or a leaf that has been nibbled, you might want to celebrate.
Such signs can be clues that pollinators are living in your garden, Shana Byrd, director of land conservation at Dawes Arboretum, said recently by phone.
“A little hole in the leaf or the flower is OK,” said Byrd, who will teach a class next month on pollinator gardening. “It’s proof that your habitat is working.”
As many gardeners are aware, pollinators have been in the news lately. Because of pesticides, climate change and declining habitat, their populations are falling.
“A world without pollinators is a world without many of our favorite foods,” she said. “At least three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators.”
Although one gardener might not be able to save the world, he or she can make a difference in a little corner of it.
In addition to tolerating some nibbling or nesting, Byrd recommends choosing the most inviting plants.
“Make sure you have plants that are flowering throughout the blooming season,” she said.
Spring flowers for pollinators include low-maintenance natives such as smooth penstemon, lanceleaf coreopsis and Ohio spiderwort.
For summer, purple coneflower and wild bergamot are classics.
A lesser-known pollinator favorite is Virginia mountain mint, she said.
“It smells fabulous. It has a wonderful aroma when you rub against the leaves.”
For mid- to late summer, she suggests rattlesnake master; liatris, also called blazing star; and joe-pye weed, which thrives in damp soil.
“I see Eastern tiger swallowtails all over it,” she said. “It can grow in the moist areas that people don’t want to mow anymore.”
As for fall, “a lot of people forget the late season,” she noted.
For pollinator pleasers in autumn, she recommends asters and goldenrod; both can continue flowering after the first frost.
Don’t stop at flowering perennials, she urged.
“Viburnums are a really nice native shrub,” she said. “Serviceberries have edible berries. Birds love them.”
Recommended trees include maples; linden, also called basswood; and oaks, including bur, swamp and white.
What sorts of creatures might your pollinator wonderland attract?
Beetles, wasps, butterflies, honeybees and even flies all play a role.
Among the most important are native bees. With a life cycle that differs from that of the well-known honeybee, many natives live alone and build nests underground.
Some species use mud, leaves or even flower petals inside their nests — so keep an eye out for them if you notice signs of their presence.
“Native bees are not aggressively going to try to sting you,” she added. “They’re just trying to avoid you.”
Diana Lockwood, a freelance writer covering gardening topics, posts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mrsgardenperson.
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