Plant for Pollinators, by Linda Z

by Linda Z

posted May 6, 2023

Plant for Pollinators

May 13 is the Skagit Master Gardeners Annual  Plant Fair at the Skagit County Fair Grounds – come say hi! As a Xerces Society representative, I’ll have an exhibit in the educational/info tables with info on how to set up pollinator habitat in your home garden.  The Washington Native Plant Society will be in the same section, as will Virgene Link, who’ll give a presentation on “Love Those Bugs!” Come and connect with folks who are stressing the keystone importance of both our native invertebrates, and our native plants.

Here’s the website for the Plant Fair (notice that you can click on “Plant List” to find many of the plants that will be for sale):

Plant Fair

Additionally, the Master Gardeners have created a Pollinator Garden at the Discovery Garden, with 50 flowering native and non-native shrubs & plants. You can find a list and more info here:

Pollinator Garden

I plant for bloom from early spring through late winter in my home garden, to provide bees, moths, and butterflies with nectar and pollen. Lately I’ve noticed that a very small bee species is busy visiting the turnip flowers that I allowed to go to seed. The bright yellow flowers are very cheerful to see while my new veg plants are getting started and aren’t much to get visually delighted about yet!

blooming turnip

Transition Fidalgo’s Seed Share at the Anacortes Library currently (May 1st) has phacelia, nigella, cosmos, and scarlet runner bean seeds to plant NOW for your garden’s bees, if our soil is FINALLY about 60 degrees, that is.  I will plant scarlet runner beans, cosmos, sunflower, phacelia, and alyssum in the first week of May. If you plant seeds, make sure they are not treated with pesticides, and that the sunflowers are not  the pollenless variety.

My fruit trees are all in bloom now (May 1). I hope those pollinator bees are warm enough to fly and do their job! 50-55 degrees is what they need, both to hatch out of their overwintering nests, and to be warm enough to fly. Last year, we had cold and windy conditions during fruit tree bloom, and many reported that their apple trees weren’t adequately pollinated. Native bees, by the way, can forage in slightly cooler temps and windier conditions than can honey bees.

apple tree

As beautiful as Skagit’s tulip and daffodil fields are, their blooms have nothing to offer our pollinators in the way of pollen and nectar.

Let’s hear it for home gardens planted with Oregon grape, red-flowering currant, wind anemones, heath, vinca, grape hyacinth, pieris japonica, snow drops, crocus, primrose,sarcococca, hellebore, cyclamen, aubretia,and Indian plum: all feature nectar and pollen. These early bloomers of February, March, and April, provide food for the bumble bee queens stumbling out of hibernation, and for mason, leaf cutter, and other smaller native bees newly emerging from their nests.

Bumble bee on crocus




2 thoughts on “Plant for Pollinators, by Linda Z

  1. Jan+Hersey

    So great to have you on board, Linda, with your flower and bee information (and super-charged enthusiasm)! I’ve always “let flowers happen,” but am trying to be more intentional about growing pollinators. Knowing which varieties are most attractive to pollinators, whether to chill them, plant inside, scatter in fall or spring g is a bit overwhelming. I look forward to learning from this group.
    One correction, I believe, for this time of year—the Leafcutter bees aren’t active until around June. I get bees each year from First we put out the mason bee larvae, taking them in in early summer and putting out the Leafcutters. I have a wonderful video and photo from the latter literally flying out of their travel tube! (I had delayed putting it out because of our yucky weather; next year I might not wait so long.) I’ll send them to you in case they’re useful for your talks.

    1. linda

      Thanks, Jan, for the info on leaf-cutter bee emergence info! And the video you sent me a few days ago. I appreciate all the info i can get from folks who have eyes on the subject matter! Keep it coming, dear! I feel “absorbent” for new material to pass along. . . Linda


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