When in the design stages of planning your outdoor living space in Massachusetts, most people focus on the visual aspects such as the plants, their coloring, and the layout of the landscape, however there’s another aspect that’s quite the buzz right now, and that’s making sure that your landscape is pollinator-friendly.
Most people that hear the word “pollinator” might think of bees and worry, however bees (not wasps – even though they pollinate – or hornets, we’re talking honey and bumble here) and other pollinators such as hummingbirds, butterflies, and some bats play a vital part in helping plants reproduce. All across the world, pollinators and their habitats are being threatened as they require specific types of plants in order to do their job and survive. Fortunately, you can help! Even the smallest pollinator-friendly landscapes make a huge difference, and we’re here to tell you how.
Include native plants to attract native pollinators
Most pollinators naturally prefer plants native to your current area over plants that might be non-native. Additionally, native plants have already adapted to both the local soil and climate, and therefore tend to have a better long-term survival rate. There are an abundance of non-native plants that are also pollinator-friendly, but it’s good to incorporate both native and non-native plants to make sure your pollinating visitors will be at their happiest. Try to shoot for a 60/40 split of native to non-native plants in your landscape.
Plant a variety of plants that bloom at different times
Paying attention to bloom times is an important and often overlooked part of planning your landscape. The best pollinator-friendly gardens have a variety of plants that bloom throughout the entire season which provides a consistent supply of both pollen and nectar.
Pro tip: Don’t forget about early and late blooming trees and spring bulbs. They play a big role in attracting pollinators to your space and ensuring that they gain all of the nutrients that they need to pollinate other plants.
Utilize color & shape
The size, shape, and importantly, the color of the plants in your space determine which pollinators will decide to make it a consistent stop in their travels. Bees are attracted to flowers that are purple, yellow, and white, while hummingbirds and butterflies gravitate towards flowers that are red and orange. Bumblebees prefer larger flowers, due to their larger size, while smaller native and honey bees can work through flowers that are smaller or more clustered.
Fun fact: The monarch butterfly will only lay their eggs on the leaves of the milkweed plant, so if butterflies are your thing, be sure to include milkweed and butterfly weed in your planning!
Plant in groups
Pollinators tend to prefer foraging from one species of flower or plant per outing, so planting in groups helps their natural process, and helps cement your yard as a pollinator-friendly space. Grouping plants together with a minimum of 5 plants of the same species in the same space is better than dispersing one variety across the entirety of the yard.
Make your space bee-friendly
With the exception of honey bees, most other bees native to the United States tend to create their nests by burrowing in the ground or in hollowed twigs and trunks. Saving dead or dying trees and shrubs, along with using mulch springly, can help ground nesting bees find a home and keep them happy. Feel free to place them all in an area that’s not front and center, but that still gets alot of natural sunlight. If saving dead and dying trees isn’t your jam, that’s ok! Instead, be cognizant of when you cleanup your landscape. By leaving your perennials intact over the winter and, you can provide safe nesting sites for wild pollinators throughout the cold winter months while also providing food and nesting materials that can be used by birds native to the area. Just be careful when clearing them in the spring!
Most importantly, remember that pollinators aren’t scary. They’re an important part of our ecosystem and our planet. From the beautiful colors of the butterflies to the hardworking nature of the honey bee, each pollinator can find its place in your landscape.
Looking for help with your garden ideas? Contact us to help build out your pollinator garden or visit your local nursery or garden center for help.