Steele: Create a pollinator garden to celebrate Earth Day

We can help honeybees and the hundreds of bee species that are native to Canada.

This year, to celebrate Earth Day (April 22) consider creating a pollinator/bee garden.

Pollinators are essential for our food to grow.

Seventy-five per cent of the foods we eat—fruits, nuts, vegetables, and herbs—need pollinators to reproduce.

Likely, you have heard about the mysterious disappearance of honeybees.

We can help honeybees and the hundreds of bee species that are native to Canada by providing them with a variety of plants to collect pollen and nectar from.

If you only have a tiny space, even one plant in a pot can provide valuable habitat for pollinators.

Choose a plant that will bloom for a long time such as calendula, nasturtium or annual geranium.

To consistently keep the pollinators coming to your garden, it’s important to have plants blooming from the time bees first appear in spring until winter comes.

If you observe the early blooms of crocus bulbs on a sunny day in March, you are sure to see some busy bees.

Many of the spring-blooming shrubs such as lilac, currant, and single-blooming roses are good pollinator plants.

Spring-blooming bee perennials include dianthus, veronica, creeping phlox, thrift, and candytuft.

Long-bloomers such as echinacea, rudbeckia, centranthus ruber (Jupiter’s beard) and annual sunflowers, ensure a good supply of pollen and nectar through summer and into fall.

Daisy-type flowers such as aster, gaillardia, and coreopsis are favourites as they provide a good landing pad.

Herbs such as oregano, chives, and thyme attract bees and need little water. Beware: oregano is quite a spreader.

The more variety of pollinator-attracting plants in your garden, the more variety of pollinators that will visit your garden. I find it fascinating to watch them. Even from my kitchen window I can see them.

For example, when my lavender ‘grosso’ is in bloom I can see the plant constantly vibrating as the many pollinators land and take off.

One plant I encourage you to grow is red beebalm. Choose either monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ or ‘Cambridge scarlet.’

It grows in the sun or part shade, blooms all summer and is a hummingbird magnet as well as a good bee plant.

Inviting pollinators into your garden will ensure an abundant harvest of fruits and vegetables.

All the plants I have mentioned are water-wise. Check the plant database at www.okanaganxeriscape.org for details and pictures of these.

Under special features, you can select for plants that attract butterflies. They will also attract other pollinators.

•••

Save the date: OXA’s annual Xeriscape Plant Sale, Saturday, May 3, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the unH2O Xeriscape Garden in front of the H2O Aquatic Centre , 4075 Gordon Dr.

There will be hundreds of water-wise plants for sale, including many featured in the gardens; information booths; and refreshments by the Kelowna Waldorf School.

Watch for more details in next week’s column.

•••

The Kelowna Garden Club Plant Sale will be Saturday, April 26, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Guisachan Heritage Gardens, 1060 Cameron St.

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