Pollinators are essential to maintaining a healthy and productive garden. The invisible ecosystem in your garden is an under-appreciated treasure that requires attention and support. With the right native plants in your yard, you can help support the health and sustainability of our Oregon pollinators.
The Importance of Pollinators
Pollination is a fundamental ecological function for life on our beautiful earth. Of the 1,400 cultivated crops in the world, approximately 80 percent require pollinators. Honey bees and other pollinators contribute to greater, more delicious fruits and increased agricultural yields for crops like nuts, and vegetables. They also are vital for our oils, fibers, and raw materials.
Home gardeners need pollinators for quality produce and beautiful flowers. Many high-value home crops such as blueberries, melons, squash, and vegetables depend on bees and other pollinators. Having a diverse range of pollinators in your garden and yard is important for both the resilience of your plants and for crop yield, no matter the size of your garden.
What is Pollination?
Pollination occurs when a pollen grain is transferred from the anther (male) to the stigma (female) of a flower. This is the beginning of a chain that leads to the production of seeds, fruits, and future generations of plants. Pollinators carry pollen from flower to flower to start the next generation of plants.
Types of Pollinators
Insects and animals that help carry pollen from the male part of the flower to the female part are pollinators. Honeybees are the most recognizable and popular bee type but did you know that there are over 500 types of bees in Oregon? Bumblebees, mason bees, mining bees are all crucial to pollinating common crops like apples, blueberries, and cranberries. Other pollinators include butterflies, moths, birds, and yes – even wasps.
Ways to Protect Pollinators
Home gardens and yards play an important role in attracting pollinators. Pollinators are pretty adaptable living in both rural and urban areas. In fact, pollinators don’t seem to be phased by city life since there is a variety of forage and nesting sites. Increasing pollinators’ favorite flowers and plants in your yard will encourage pollinators in your landscape and promote the health of bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects.
Designing Your Home Landscape for Pollinators
Whether your yard is large or small, designing your yard in layers will encourage pollinators and create a beautiful space for you to enjoy all year. Including a variety of pollinator favorites in your home garden design will also increase harvest yields, as pollinators come for the flowers and stay for the vegetables. Design principles for your yard and garden include:
- Diversity of flowers. Different pollinators are attracted to different flowers. Offering flowers for both specialists and general feeders attract a diverse crowd.
- Continuous flowering. Planting for different seasons gives pollinators a food source all year. Finding plants that have long bloom times can maximize small garden spaces.
- Include native plants. Native plants to Oregon and Washington are the food of our local bees and birds and are less prone to disease and are adapted to our weather.
- Plant in waves. Help pollinators stay workspace efficient with swaths of the same plant, making food gathering easier with less energy spent moving from plant to plant.
- Remember trees and shrubs. Trees and shrubs have pollen too and often produce pollen early in the season.
- Avoid and remove invasive plants. Invasive plants might look pretty but they can be harmful to both your yard and the environment.
Flowers that Attract Pollinators
Flowers use a variety of ways to attract pollinators including bright colors, scent, and UV patterns. Lines and coloration that we find pleasing to the eye are designs that make it easy for bees and other pollinators to find the rewards – a win-win for flower and bee.
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – low maintenance and hardy perennial that attracts bees and butterflies and can be used for cut flowers and dried for floral arrangements. There are even pink and magenta variants.
- Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia amoena) – this long-flowering pink annual supports a high diversity of bees along with some butterflies and moths.
- Douglas aster (Symphyotrichum subspicatum) – this tough purple perennial and Pacific Northwest native plant has a long bloom period and is tolerant to a little neglect.
- Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) – this arching perennial displays a showy yellow in the late summer. It is moderately drought tolerant and attracts bees, moths, and butterflies. Combine with Douglas aster for late-season displays of yellow and purple.
- Common madia (Madia elegans) – a long-blooming annual that is drought tolerant, common madia hosts bees and moths and closes its flowers at night.
Trees and Shrubs that Attract Pollinators
In addition to providing shade and beauty year round, native trees and shrubs are excellent attractors of pollinators. You can boost your neighborhood ecosystem by planting some of these options or find some of your own:
- Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii)- a fountain-shaped shrub that attracts butterflies and produces a profusion of fragrant white flowers.
- Tall Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) – this broadleaf evergreen shrub is also the state flower of Oregon. Oregon grape is an easy-to-grow, low maintenance native that attracts hummingbirds and other pollinators early in the season.
- Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) – great for spring and fall color, Pacific Dogwood and attract both birds and bees.
- Blueberries – (Vaccinium corymbosum) – blueberries have long been an important Native American source of food and can be found wild in Pacific Northwest forests. The cultivated bushes come in all shapes and sizes and deliver a special edible treat every mid-summer. With striking foliage and spring flowers these fruit bushes attract a variety of wild bees.
Professional Native Landscaping For a Beautiful, Natural Environment
Every member of our team at Blessing Landscapes is knowledgeable and skilled when it comes to working with native plant species that are healthy for our Oregon pollinators. The value of education and continued learning is evident in our designs and installations. Our crews are always well informed about the plants they work with, and we’re committed to the long-term health and beauty of each and every plant incorporated in your landscaping.
We consider working with our native PNW plant species an honor, and we love doing our part to make our environment and ecosystems healthier and more beautiful. Call us at (503) 284-3557 or contact us online today and let us help you create a carefully planned, natural, and lush landscape for your property.