If you weren’t able to join us for a Pollinator Garden Class
at Woodlands Landscaping Solutions last month, don’t worry! Lauren Simpson,
area pollinator gardening expert, is coming back this month and is offering a
deep dive into how she transformed her own yard into a beautiful space for
Lauren is passionate about educating on pollinators, their
conservation and the urban wildscapes that support them. Her own pollinator
garden is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, a Monarch Waystation, and a Certified
Butterfly Garden. Lauren has observed 48 species of butterfly, 20 species of
syrphid fly and around 30 species each of bees and wasps within her home
Through the success of her garden, Lauren helped create the St. Julian’s Crossing – wildlife habitat, and has received much recognition around the Houston area for her efforts in pollinator conservation. For more information and to see Lauren’s home garden, check out the St. Julian’s Crossing Facebook page.
Register online here. Registration is required. For a complete list of upcoming Environmental Services programs, check out our calendar of events here.
At first glance, a pollinator garden may look like any other pretty flower garden. But for a garden to be a haven for native bees, butterflies, and moths, it needs to meet their needs for all life stages. And the most important ingredient are plants rich in nectar and pollen to feed adult pollinators and host plants specific to butterfly species. Here are simple guidelines for creating a pollinator garden that will reward you with three seasons of garden visitors and help protect these vulnerable insects.
Choose a sunny spot.
Most blooming plants require sun. Four hours of sun is ideal, but a minimum of two to three hours will work too. Some great nectar and pollen plants thrive in part shade (two hours of sun with dappled shade the rest of the day).
Native plants support more than 29 times the number of insect species than non-native plants. Aim for at least 70% of native plants in your garden. (Print the PDF for recommended plant list.)
A hummingbird moth feeds on phlox.
Salvia blooms spring through fall.
Plant host plants.
Host plants are where the female butterfly will lay her eggs and her young caterpillars will feed. Some butterfly species—like the monarch and some swallowtails—only have one host plant. It is vital, therefore, to include some of these plants to support these species. Most of our host plants are native, but some are non-natives well adapted to our area. By including these host plants, you’ll welcome more diversity into your garden. (Print the PDF at the bottom for recommended plant list.)
Dill is host for the eastern black swallowtail.
Pipevine hosts the pipevine swallowtail.
The queen caterpillar like the monarch, only feeds on milkweed.
Adult bees and butterflies like some variety in their diet, just like us. By including different varieties of plants, your garden will attract a diverse assortment of pollinators.
Plant for three seasons.
Pollinators that overwinter in our area start emerging as the weather warms, and that could be late February to early March. As the weather turns cool, bees and butterflies go into hiding. As a general rule, they can’t fly when temperatures fall to 55 degrees. Bumblebees and some solitary bees will hibernate underground; other solitary bees will hibernate in nests they create in rock crevices and dead wood tunnels . Honey bees don’t hibernate, but buzz all winter keeping the hive warm—only the queen hibernates. The monarch butterfly is the only migrating butterfly in North America and usually leaves its overwintering site in central Mexico in March, returning in November. You can track their migration each season at journeynorth.org.
With pollinators active and needing food spring through fall, it’s important that your garden provide blooms each season. (Print the PDF at the bottom for recommended plant list.)
Plant in dense color blocks.
Avoid planting different plant varieties singly. Go bold! Group a minimum of five to seven of the same plant to create large swaths of color in your garden. This helps pollinators find them. A dense planting has another advantage. When host plants especially, are planted densely, the young caterpillars have a better chance of survival by hiding from predators.
Include a puddle.
If there’s a low area that holds water after a rain in or near your pollinator garden, leave it! These “puddling” areas are great for providing certain butterfly species (like male common buckeyes) with necessary minerals and nutrients. You can create your own puddle by filling a shallow pan or plate with soil, some rocks, and pieces of a kitchen sponge and keeping it wet.
Shelter can take various forms, from a nearby fence or trellis, dense shrubbery, or a man-made bee house for solitary bees. It can also be as simple as leaving a pile of fallen leaves and pine needles in a nearby spot. Shelter provides safe places for caterpillars to pupate, and for overwintering pollinators.
If you already have tropical milkweed in your garden, be sure to cut it to four to six inches of the ground every October to prevent the spread of OE and interference with normal migratory behavior. Consider planting native varieties of milkweed. Learn more about OE and tropical milkweed, and native milkweed species for our area in our recent blog post.
If you like to eat fruit of the tree and vine—apples, sweet cherries, pumpkins, pears, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, nuts and other fresh produce—you should love pollinators! The Environmental Services Department celebrates pollinators during National Pollinator Week (June 20-26, 2016) and encourages residents to do the same.
The last presentation in the spring 2016 Walk in the Woods Nature Lecture series will teach attendees tips and methods for bringing the beauty and magic of butterflies to their landscape. Mark Bowen, Author and Manager of Nature’s Way Resources, will present Adding a Butterfly Garden – Design, Plants and More.