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Protecting pollinators in your garden

Bellingrath Gardens and Home welcomed Harvey Cotten, author of “Easy Gardens for the South” and the former Chief Operating Officer of the Huntsville Botanical Garden, as the guest speaker for our July 15 Wonderful Wednesday program. Here is a synopsis of his talk on “Protecting Pollinators in the Garden.”

Pollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of food the average person consumes each day, but sadly, pollinators are also experiencing a serious decline across the country. What should gardeners do to attract and protect bees, butterflies and hummingbirds? Here are five recommendations.

1. Grow an abundance of nectar plants with staggered bloom times. Cotten recommended milkweed and fennel as particularly good choices.

2. Grow an abundance of host plants. His suggestions included Parsley, Passionflower Vine, Pipevine and Sassafras.

3. Choose a sunny location for your nectar plants.

4. However, you should also think in terms of providing shelter: Shaded areas and plants with thick leaf cover help pollinators hide from predators.

5. Be careful with pesticides. It’s certainly OK to use them to address a specific problem, Cotten said, but it isn’t a good idea to use blanket applications of sprays just as a habit.

IMG_2897Here are the plants he recommended to attract pollinators: Coneflower, which he described as a “perfect bee landing site;” Blackeyed Susan; Pentas; Gayfeather; Lantana, especially for butterflies; Salvia, cardinal flowers, especially for hummingbirds; Goldenrod; Asters.

Plants and trees that are particularly useful to bees include Ironweed, American Holly, Tulip Poplar, Red Maple; herbs, including borage, oregano, catmint, Russian sage; and many types of clovers.

Horticulturist Harvey Cotten signed copies of his book, "Easy Gardens for the South," after his Wonderful Wednesday presentation at Bellingrath Gardens and Home on July 15.
Horticulturist Harvey Cotten signed copies of his book, “Easy Gardens for the South,” after his Wonderful Wednesday presentation at Bellingrath Gardens and Home on July 15.

Cotten also recommended that gardeners join the National Pollinator Garden Network’s Million Pollinator Garden Challenge (millionpollinatorgardens.org), a campaign to register one million public and private gardens and landscapes to support pollinators.

The size of the pollinator garden itself does not matter; the key is to make sure that the plants used in the garden provide nectar and pollen sources. It’s also important to either eliminate pesticides, or greatly reduce their use in such gardens.

Bee
(Courtesy of Harvey Cotten)