In autumn, we see pollinators busy at work in flowers all over our area. But have you noticed that some flowers seem to attract many more pollinating insects than others? Recently, while wandering through a local garden center, it was obvious that certain flowers were magnets for honey bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects, while other flowers nearby were ignored. If you would like to provide food for these important insects, here are five flowers that are terrific magnets for pollinators.
Asclepias (Milkweed or Butterfly Weed) >> This genus is the sole food for the caterpillars of Monarch butterflies though the adults will feed from the flowers of many other plants. Over 140 species of this American native are known but only a few can be regularly found in garden centers. Though certainly planting those species native to our own areas would be in the best interests of Monarch butterflies, gardeners do love the bright flowers of the garden-worthy types, such as A. tuberose and A. curassavica which are the species most often found in cultivated settings. (Here is one source of information if you want to know more about what species to plant and how to manage them to insure the health of the butterflies: monarchbutterflygarden.net/is-tropical-milkweed-killing-monarch-butterflies). Give sun and good drainage. Can die back in winter in colder areas but will re-sprout in spring.
Caryopteris (Bluebeard) >> small to medium-sized woody shrubs cultivated for their attractive, aromatic foliage and usually blue flowers that are powerfully attractive to pollinating insects. Needs well-drained soil in sun to part shade; somewhat drought tolerant once established. Blooms on current season’s growth so the plant should be pruned back hard in early spring to promote vigorous new stem growth. The cultivar ‘Dark Knight’ is especially lovely, producing profuse, shrub-covering bloom of fragrant, deep bluish-purple flowers in clusters from summer into fall.
Coreopsis (Tickseed) >> hardy perennial plants, with reliable, long blooming daisy-like flowers produced from early summer into fall. Several cultivars offer bright yellow flowers with red centers. Not fussy but will bloom best in full sun. Low water needs once established.
Lantana >> tough, drought-tolerant and magnets for butterflies and other pollinators, these plants need sun but no special care. Small flowers in big clusters are available in many vivid color combinations.
Lavender >> this plant has so many uses that it is easy to forget what a pollinator attractant it is. It loves our climate; just give it excellent drainage and full sun. Deer and gophers don’t like it but bees adore it. Many forms are available, most powerfully fragrant.
14th Annual One Hour Iris Sale
On another topic, many local gardeners know of — or perhaps have even met — Joe Ghio, famous in the iris world for his many gorgeous creations. But have you been to his once-a-year One Hour Iris Sale This is your chance to purchase rhizomes from some of the best hybridizers in the country. Be aware that iris enthusiasts start lining up well before 9 a.m. so if you go, go early! Here are the details:
Where: The Ghio/Bay View Gardens, 1201 Bay St., Santa Cruz.
When: 9-10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22
Details: Newest and best varieties; most $5 each; A few of the current intros and hot items, $10-$15 each. Also a selection of fruits, vegetables, apples, pumpkins will be available. Purchases only on site.
Garden tips are provided courtesy of horticulturist Sharon Hull of the San Lorenzo Garden Center. Contact her at 831 423-0223.
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