My daughter was five years old the first time she discovered that our butterfly bush and lavender plants attracted a multitude of butterflies. It was the beginning of her routine to stand near the fragrant flowers, cup her hands around her mouth to project the words, “Calling all butterflies.” And, what a moment, when she assumed they were fluttering toward her in response. She didn’t understand particular flowers contained honey scented fragrances to lure in the butterflies. You, too, can call forth the birds, bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies by planting a pollinator-friendly garden, whether you have a small space or acres of land.
Choosing Native Plants
While we find the blooms in a variety of colors and shapes to be magnificent, there is an appeal toward “exotic” flowers, shrubs, and trees such as the English ivy, Queen Anne’s lace, wisteria, and winter creeper, among others, which are “invasive.” This implies exotics are consuming the space of our native plants, and taking over the nutrients pollinators need to survive. As you make decisions, please, choose our beautiful native plants. You are already familiar with many; however, here is an abbreviated list.
- Bees: aster, basil, bergamot or bee balm, cosmos, flax, geranium, lavender, mint, poppy, rosemary, sage, sunflower, thyme, verbena, zinnia
- Birds: aster, black-eyed-Susan, anise hyssop, calliopsis, liatris, lupine, purple and yellow coneflowers, sunflowers
- Butterflies: aster, butterfly bush, cosmos, daylily, delphinium, hollyhock, lavender, liatris, marigold, nasturtium, oregano, phlox, and the purple coneflower, sage, Shasta daisy, verbena, yarrow, zinnia
- Hummingbirds: begonia, canna, columbine, crepe myrtle, dahlia, delphinium, foxglove, geranium, gladiolus, hollyhocks, impatiens, iris, lily, nasturtium, petunia, phlox, sage, verbena, zinnia
Bring Back the Wild
While feeding the insect and bird community, you can liven up borders, backyards, or a hilly area that is difficult to mow just by creating wildflower spaces. Just imagine a succession of blooming annuals and perennials providing both nectar and pollen throughout the growing season. While beautiful and natural, this “wild” area will become a haven for insects and birds seeking safety and food.
- Acquiring the seeds: Whether the seeds are purchased from a home improvement or grocery store, nursery, or farmers feed and seed, buying local ensures all packets of seeds will grow. While online companies have great discounts, make sure the seeds you purchase, especially a “wildflower mix” is for the southeast or zone seven.
- Choosing a location: To entice insect and bird populations, chose a location far from the vegetable garden and well-traveled areas. Seed coverage will be determined by the information presented on the packaging; yet, remember, the perennials will drop their seeds and repopulate in available spaces left by annuals. (Consider planting lavender, geraniums, and citronella in pots or close to your sitting areas. While offering a welcoming location to family and guests, these plants also will keep the mosquitoes away!)
- Prepare the soil: Do not prepare the soil in one day, and then plant the same day. The goal is to have a well-tilled area, 12-inches deep at minimum. After removing rocks and debris, boost the soil’s enrichment by adding compost (such as crushed egg shells, banana and potato peels, and coffee grinds). A well tilled and aerated soil will provide the best environment for seeds.
- Planting: Choose a day of planting between May and June. Take approximately 20 scoops of soil into a wheelbarrow; then, mix your seeds into the soil. You now have a means to plant that will both secure the seeds and ensure they will not blow away. Till and rake the soil one last time Spread the dirt and seed combination lightly over the top of the soil.
- Water: With every seed that is planted this spring and summer, the task of watering is vital. While the rains will add nutrients, your diligence in offering water throughout the growing season during spring and summer will determine whether your wildflower garden thrives or dies.
Enticing the insect and bird population can also be accomplished with added “features” such as a bird bath, bird houses, or perhaps feeders, especially during the winter. Not only are you creating areas to showcase magnificent blossoms in an array of colors and sizes, but you are also offering an open invitation which welcomes all fluttering and winged creatures to your home.