This time of year, the gardens are filling in nicely with a mixture of annuals and perennials. When the summer heat begins to build, I usually devote my garden walks to the early morning or late evening (late evening being my favorite.) During the day though, these plants provide several species of bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies and place to eat.
Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa or also listed as Cimicifuga racemosa) is a native plant in my area.
I planted this years ago and it grew but never bloomed. I moved it out of the deep shade to the edge of the woods and I guess it likes the new neighborhood. It is said to have a ‘fetid’ odor which attracts a variety of pollinators. If it does have an odor, I can’t smell it and I have been up close and personal to it while in full bloom. Maybe it’s one of those odors only bugs can smell.
Bee Balm or Wild Bergamont or Horse Mint (Monarda fistulosa)
is also a native plant. I mainly grow it for the butterflies and bees but have noticed the hummingbirds checking it out. It does spread, though, but not too aggressively, and I noticed quite a bit growing along the smaller highways in Arkansas.
Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) is another native Arkansas plant.
This is such a cool plant to grow. The flowers look prickly but are actually very soft. The pointy leaves at the base resemble a yucca plant and look ominous but aren’t too “stickery”. It grows to about 4-5 feet tall so it’s best to plant it with something that can support it. I have it growing with my Grey-Headed Coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata). During the heat of the day, the flowers have a sweet smell similar to honey.
Lavender Hyssop or Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is another great flower for our pollinators. In the heat of the day, this plant is covered with bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The leaves smell like licorice which may explain why deer won’t touch it. It does come back every year but sometimes not in the place you planted it. I usually let the flowers go to seed, remove them, and then sprinkle them where I would like them to grow. Yes, they grow that easily.
The butterfly garden is in full bloom right now. The back of the bed has bronze fennel which is a host plant for swallowtails. In front of that is bee balm, hyssop, coneflowers and milkweed which is a host plant for the monarchs. Annual petunias and marigolds complete the bed with summertime blooms.
Good job, marigold farmer.
And, last but not least, are the purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) For me, a summer garden is not complete without these flowers.
Coneflowers are also great plants for pollinators. Newly hatched swallowtails and monarchs are instantly attracted to these nectar-rich plants.
Enticing pollinators to your garden is easy if you remember some key ingredients. For butterflies, they need both nectar plants for food and host plants to lay eggs on. But, most important, is a healthy environment to live in. Pollinators are bugs and many people have a problem with them living in the garden. If your plan is to raise butterflies, pesticides of any kind (even some organics) will wipe out your caterpillars. In nature, bugs usually work things out amongst themselves and that’s the approach I choose to take.
If you decide to add some pollinator plants to you garden, it’s good to look up or visit a local nursery to see what native plants grow well in your area. Native plants are very hardy and nature friendly which make your gardening experience very rewarding.