What is a pollinator garden?
Pollinator gardens are created to provide food and shelter to bees, butterflies, and other pollinating animals. Gardens that are modeled on natural ecosystems and are based on examples of native plant communities will most successfully serve native pollinators. Pollinator gardens can be as simple as a patch of flowers that provides nectar and pollen or as complex as acres of landscape designed to offer abundant resources to many species.
A gardener’s choice to create a pollinator garden is a choice to participate in a project where the human agenda is shaped by the needs of other species, both plants and animals, and by the interconnections between those species. Insects and plants have plenty to teach us when we are willing to pay attention, make connections, and slow down enough to observe and appreciate the details of the natural world.
The Xerxes Society for Invertebrate Conservation informs us that “Providing wildflower-rich habitat is the most significant action you can take to support the pollinators.” Whether you choose to plant the garden yourself or have a landscape professional assist in the design and installation, the choice to create a garden is the starting point. Once that choice is made, let your curiosity take the reins and enjoy the ride.
There is a lot of information in the links listed on the resource page that can help guide you through the process. If the abundant quantity of information feels overwhelming, focus on a few pollinator plant species suitable to your location and practice simplicity. Don’t forget to have fun or you will be missing one of the highlights of pollinator gardening.
Four Elements of a Pollinator Garden
Flowers provide pollen and nectar for pollinators. Host plants are essential food for butterfly and moth larvae. » More about food
Bees and other insects need a water source near their food and nest sites.
NEST SITES AND OVERWINTERING HABITAT:
Pesticides kill insects. A garden for pollinators needs to be free of pesticides to prevent harm to the insects we are trying to support. Systemic pesticides spread throughout the plant tissues and will be present in pollen and nectar. Neonicotinoids are a class of systemic pesticides that are used widely in agriculture and the nursery trade. They cause lethal and damaging sublethal effects in bees. They have been implicated as one of the major causes in bee population declines. They can leach into soil and are highly soluble in water. They can harm invertebrates in rivers and streams. See further information about how to avoid unintentional neonic use in these two links to the Xerxes Society.