Planting now for the birds and bees (and butterflies)

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who looks forward to the winter issues of craft and home decorating magazines that editorial boards are at the table now deciding content and layout for those winter issues. Knowing that seasonal schedule keeps me from feeling guilty writing about fall color in your garden at the beginning of planting your garden. When I have written about fall color in the past it’s usually been too late.

By the time fall rolls around the summer colors have lost their brightness and look a little muddy. By then it’s too late to start planning, plus plant selections will be limited. Plans made now should be long term as well as include fall color, along with flower varieties that produce seed pods to support birds.

It is important to realize what we want now is different than what we want in August and the months following. We may want a garden of “eye-candy” now to satisfy our needs. In September, we might regret not putting thought into strong fall colored flowers or the flowers that develop seed heads providing food or birds.

Then to add to the mix, June has been declared “National Pollinator Month,” specifically June 22-28 is designated as “National Pollinator Week,” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Interior. Thirteen years ago the U.S. Senate unanimously approved declaring a week in June as a national awareness toward addressing the issue of declining pollinator populations.

More than 75 % of all crops require natural pollination.

Honeybees enable the production of at least 90 commercially grown crops in North America. Applying the facts to our own dining table, 1 out of every 3 bites of food exist because of pollination.

What can we do? We can select the old-fashioned varieties of flowers whenever possible.

To appease our appetites for bigger, brighter, newer varieties, plant breeding has caused some modern blooms to lose fragrance and/or the nectar/pollen needed to attract and feed pollinators.

We can plant native varieties whenever possible to attract our native bees. Avoid pesticides, but if you must use them, select the least toxic ones and apply them at night.

A family project might include providing a water source for butterflies without letting it become a mosquito breeding area. Refill containers daily or bury a shallow plant saucer to its rim in a sunny area, fill it with coarse pine bark or stones and fill to overflowing with water.

Combining the criteria of what we are looking for, fall color, plant varieties that produce seed heads for birds and creating a pollinator friendly garden gives us a shopping list that will keep us at our favorite local nursery all day.

The dependable perennial work-horses of the fall garden include black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia), blanket flower (gaillardia), coneflower (echinacea), coral-bells (heuchera), coreopsis, shasta daisy, delphinium, pincushion flower (scabiosa), prairie coneflower (ratibida), salvia species and yarrow (Achillea).

Additional fall color varieties that you can put on shopping list for mid-summer would include chrysanthemums and the New England asters.

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