Native Plants for Pollinators: Making Gardens Beautiful and Functional

27 Sep 2016 Nancy Campbell
Purple coneflowers are an excellent native plant. These hardy, perennial, flowering plants will attract bees and butterflies to your garden. Purple coneflowers are an excellent native plant. These hardy, perennial, flowering plants will attract bees and butterflies to your garden.

How can flower gardeners help reverse the current decline in pollinators, and why is this important? Autumn is an excellent time for planting most trees, shrubs, and perennials, so their roots may mature during the winter, before their resources are needed for the growth spurts of spring.

These are central themes of an upcoming talk by Sue Webb, native plant specialist at Petals from the Past, near Jemison.  Her talk, “Native Plants for Pollinators: Making Our Gardens Both Beautiful and Functional,” is co-sponsored by the George Wood (Tuscaloosa) chapter of the Alabama Wildflower Society and the University of Alabama Arboretum.  Open to the public, it will be held in Tuscaloosa, in the pavilion of the University of Alabama Arboretum in Tuscaloosa on Sunday, October 9, at 2:00 p.m.  The local Wildflower Society will award as door prizes plants suitable for planting this fall. Webb will also provide handouts identifying native plants appropriate to our area that bloom during different seasons.  

As study after study reports, we are losing many pollinators, including an array of bees, birds, and butterflies, often because of loss of their native habitats, pesticides that threaten them, and competition or disease from imported plants.  One trend among home gardeners to help counter the decline in pollinators is to grow more native plants, that is, those that have long grown naturally in our area.  Native plants are well-suited to live in our soil and climate—and use fewer resources when planted in the right place.  Blooming plants that flower across the entire gardening season--spring, summer, and/or fall—are especially important, to support pollinators throughout their life cycle. Migrating pollinators especially need late-summer and early fall blooms as sources of sustenance during their fall migrations.

By planting natives, home gardeners help to create corridors of habitat that connect the larger, wilder areas necessary to support various pollinators and other wildlife. Besides enjoying watching the bees, butterflies, and birds that visit their yards, gardeners benefit everyone, as the pollinators cross-pollinate plants, help control insects, and even plant seeds.  Native plants are unique in that they not only provide food and shelter for pollinators but also make our gardens beautiful and provide a sense of place that does not happen when we plant only exotic plant varieties.  

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