by: Debbie Sayer
Reading a disturbing article on the plight of North American bees coincided with the arrival of seed catalogs and the annual dream of growing a fabulous flower garden. These events served to open an avenue of thought … what could a well intentioned, slightly lazy city gardener without a particularly green thumb contribute to help local pollinators?
It turns out plenty!
Besides the obvious discontinued use of pesticides, providing new pollinator-friendly habitats is of second importance. Any gardener can assist by planting flowers of varying heights that provide a continuous succession of foliage and blooms from early spring to late autumn so our pollinators are well cared for.
A bit of more research turned up some easy-to-grow-from-seed suggestions:
Bachelor Buttons, also known as Cornflowers, are hardy annuals that tolerate poor soil and offer 16 inch plants that profusely flower in blue, pink, white, lavender or violet. Plant seeds outdoors in late May about six inches apart in full to part sun. Just cover with soil and they usually germinate in 7 days. Successive sowings will provide blooms from July to September. Deadheading will promote flowering, but allow some flowers to mature and fade on the plants in autumn so you can collect seeds for next year’s garden.
Cosmos is one of the easiest and most popular heirloom flowers that thrive in average soil, sun to part shade conditions and provide giant blooms in white, pink, deep crimson on 36 inch lacy foliage. Sprinkle seeds outdoors in late May and they magically appear 7 to 10 days later. Deadheading will promote flowering, but allow some flowerheads to dry on the so you can collect the seeds for next year’s garden.
Zinnias are another easy-to-grow plant with a wide range of jewel colours and a variety of flower types including single, doubles, dahlia type, ruffles and pompons. These sturdy, self-supporting plants grow from 3 to 6 feet high and bloom from July to first hard frost if regularly deadheaded. Plant in full sun in average soil in late May. Germination will occur in less than a week.
Easy to grow Common Mallow reaches up to five feet and provides upright stems loaded with 2 inch cup shaped, heavily veined mauve and pink flowers. This cousin to the tropical hibiscus, favoured by bees and hummingbirds, grows well in full sun to part shade in well drained soil. Plant in early May for germination within three weeks and flowers within eight weeks until hard frost. The brown, fuzzy seed pods are food for winter birds, or are easily harvested for next years’ garden.
There are of course many native plants that pollinators love, such as bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), coneflower (Echinacea spp.) and Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) to name a few.
You can also purchase real Manitoba wildflower mixes and plants locally! Prairie Originals (http://www.prairieoriginals.com/) .
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