Adams County Master Gardener
(9/26) I have gardened for many years and learned a lot about gardening by reading, collaborating with other Master Gardeners, attending seminars and sometimes just good old trial and error. I dont have a particular focus because I enjoy all sorts of gardening from annuals to perennials to herbs to vegetables to landscape design. But there is one
type of garden in particular that has given me joy in the last few years. I would like to share that experience with you here today my Penn State Pollinator Garden.
If you Google "what is a pollinator?", you get this answer: "A pollinator is an animal that causes plants to make fruit or seeds. They do this by moving pollen from one part of the flower of a plant to another part. This pollen then fertilizes the plant. Only fertilized plants can make fruit and/or seeds, and without them, the plants cannot
reproduce." The process itself is rather technical, but what the home gardener can do to facilitate the process is simple; choose plants for your garden that facilitate the process!
Inspired by Master Gardener presentations, seminars, and in particular, the Pollinator Trial Garden at the Ag Center in Gettysburg, I began to gather plants that attract pollinators. The threat of a declining bee population and its impact on the agricultural
industry here in Adams County, as well as the widespread need for pollination/ fertilization to produce enough food to feed the world, spurred me on.
We have all heard many times in our lives, "if you build it, they will come.". Well, I can tell you, "if you plant it (pollinator plants that is), they WILL come." I have always loved hummingbirds and have plantings (perennial cardinal flowers for one) along with several feeders to attract them. A pollinator can be a bird or a bug, anything that
moves from flower to flower so that the pollen is transferred.
After attending a seminar in State College with a Master Gardener friend several years ago, I witnessed a plethora of plantings specifically chosen for the purpose of attracting pollinators. I added a few of the plants I saw there to my perennial garden (mountain mint for one) and saw bee activity increase.
The purpose of this article is not to tell you HOW to start a pollinator garden because there are volumes of information available to you for that purpose. Most plant nurseries have a particular section of stock identified for this purpose. At the very least, plants are marked as such because they attract pollinators (black and blue salvia, for
one). The purpose of this article is rather to show you HOW you can enjoy a pollinator garden while doing your part in the world to help to contribute in some small way:
1. By planting coneflowers, you have a choice of flower colors and get a bonus - brightly colored gold finches who love the seeds. Those seed heads provide a food source into cold weather.
2. Because a pollinator garden is comprised of a variety of plants with different blooming stages, there is 3-season color as well as food for the pollinators even beyond the growing season.
3. Annuals provide color and a food source to attract pollinators my favorite is the zinnia which attracts butterflies to feed on the nectar as well as a resting place for them on their journey.
4. Milkweed swamp milkweed at my house provides a place for the Monarch Butterfly to lay its eggs and a food source for the caterpillar. Be sure to contain it, as milkweed can be aggressive.
5. Rue attracts the Black Swallowtail butterfly often hosting the swallowtail caterpillar. Beautiful.
6. Perennial Turtlehead serves as a host for the Baltimore Checkerspot, just one more example.
7. Trees in the Acer family (maple) encourage pollinators and are native to Pennsylvania. There are many different trees and shrubs that attract pollinators and provide habitat/ food for them.
8. By providing a water source, pollinators can stay hydrated. Water features are not only good for pollinators but also add interest a small shallow pool is best, with rocks on which to rest.
I could add to this list but space will not allow. Instead, I will repeat the real value of adding pollinator plants to your garden to provide habitat and a food source for bees, butterflies, birds, beetles and more all of which facilitate fertilization for the production of fruits and seeds. By enhancing your existing gardens with these
plants, you can help to ensure plant diversity and provide additional food sources. There are so many choices, it is very easy to incorporate a few pollinator plants at any time.
To see an example of a pollinator garden locally, stop by the Ag Center in Gettysburg and visit the trial gardens. For more information from Penn State just google the entomology department provides very comprehensive information there. And if you would like to make pollinators a real focus in your plantings, then refer to Penn States website
for the "Certified Pollinator Garden". The plaque pictured here is available to anyone who meets the qualifications set forth in those guidelines.
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