As the sun returns, it’s good time to think of your gardening plans. If manicuring hedges and planting rows of flowers feels like a lot of work, then you may be interested in an easy-to-maintain, beneficial native garden.
Native gardens are a nice way to provide hungry pollinators with food. The best style of gardens contain a diverse range of flowering plants. Pollinators, like birds, many insects and most importantly, bees, need a varied diet to be healthy. Diverse gardens also don’t require much water or care due to being well-adapted to your local environment.
Another great trait of a native garden is the overlapping bloom throughout the season. Pollinators that have difficulty finding food in the growing season can find solace in plants that bloom during different times in the year. While Skunk Cabbage blooms in the early spring, Michigan’s state wildflower, the Dwarf Lake Iris, will bloom in mid-May to early June. Many other kinds of wildflowers will bloom throughout the season, too. It’s like a full-course meal for pollinators! While there are countless wildflowers that are perfect for a native garden, some common favorites are:
- Indian Paintbrush
- The Susans: Black-Eyed Susans and Brown-Eyed Susans
- Purple Coneflower
- Fringed Orchids
- Blazing Stars
- Butterfly Milkweed
To find the perfect wildflowers for your garden and to buy seeds, check out your local plant nursery. Not only are you supporting local businesses, but you are gaining important insight that will help you with your planting prowess.
In combination with native perennial wildflowers, you might wish to plant native grasses. Common types that should do well in most places are big bluestem, little bluestem, Indiangrass and switchgrass. These are clump grasses that provide open spaces for wildflowers to grow as well as good nesting, rearing, and winter cover for wildlife. In backyard settings they add beauty and diversity, especially in the winter. For more information on native Michigan wildflowers and native grasses, check out the Department of Natural Resources Landowner’s Guide here.
In addition to food, pollinators need to drink, too. Just like humans, they get thirsty. They need a source of water to stay healthy and safe. Not only do they drink it, but bees also use water to cool down, feed baby bees and dilute their honey to make it drinkable. You can help bees and other pollinators out by making your very own pollinator fountain.
In your home garden, a shallow dish or bowl will do the trick. Add enough rocks so they sit above the waterline and fill it with water. This gives your local pollinators a source of fresh water that has places for them to perch and drink.
With a whole buffet of food and drink, pollinators will surely make your new garden a one-stop shop for their needs every year. Enjoy watching them fly about from flower to flower and fall in love with the explosion of color that the endless wildflowers will bring this spring.