A beautiful garden doesn’t happen without the help of pollenators. Armies and armies of pollenators. Things like bees and humming birds are an essential part of a healthy green garden environment. But, how do you get them to come play with your flowers?
First, is your garden actually ‘green’?
No, I don’t mean green, as in the color, but green as in the methods used. Bees can smell toxins and other chemicals in the air and soil. They will avoid the ones that smell ‘wrong’ as much as possible. Some pest and fungal controls are sweet smelling, however, which can trick bees and humming birds into thinking they’re safe. For a healthy green garden environment try to stay away from poisons and sprays whenever possible.
Use green methods to eliminate pests and attract bees at the same time.
Bees love Alyssum. So do other beneficial bugs that eat the pests that we don’t want in our gardens. Marigolds have the same effect, but with the added bonus of actively repelling nematodes. Gopher purge or “mole plant” has no bearing on bees’ appetites, yet they actively protect plants from ground-dwelling critters that snack on the roots of flowering plants and trees.
Offer a green banquet for your bees and other pollinators.
Simply planting a few bunches of alyssum and calling it good isn’t going to do the trick if you want to attract your armies and armies of pollinators. One trick to know is that alyssum actually makes a great living mulch, so it can be planted beneath the plants and trees you want your pollinators to play attention to. Providing them, in combination with single-petal flowering plants, or cone shaped flowers, attracts bees, humming birds, and butterflies.
Color is important to a bee-friendly green garden environment.
When choosing the the types of nectar flowers you intend to use to attract pollinators it’s important to know who likes what. This can often be achieved by color. Bees like white and vivid blue flowers the best, while butterflies like reds, oranges, and bright yellows that have been planted in direct sun. Humming birds enjoy a rainbow of colors, but insist on cone shaped flowers that collect a lot of nectar. Among the best flowers to attract pollinators are: Alyssum, Coneflower (Echinacea), Butterfly Bush, Sunflower, Bee Balm, and Yarrow. For hotter, more arid regions Lavender, Lantana, and Red Hot Poker usually do well.
Provide options for shelter for your pollinators.
One of the secrets to getting pollinators to stick around is providing them with shelter from predators and the environment. Small,mostly enclosed bird houses are good for hummingbirds, and even make great craft projects for families. Butterflies, especially the majestic Monarch, needs protected patches of Milk Weed.
But, bees are a little harder to accommodate. Rugged boxes with tiny holes near the top serve as good living quarters for these energetic little pollinators, but you’ll want to make sure not to put them near your own. While most bees aren’t aggressive, they will defend they home, and you can’t control every visitor than comes on your property. Choose a location that’s far enough away from houses and the beaten path to give them some privacy, but close enough to smell the banquet you’ve planted for them. We keep our bee-boxes within 1000 yards of our gardens.