Sunday, July 23, 2017

At home in the (Mostly) Native Pollinator Garden - 23 July 17

Last week I shared some photos of two of the native pollinator gardens that we maintain (and the story of why I am digging up a third garden).

I am going to start off this week by sharing some photos from our home garden.  I always refer to it a (Mostly) Native Pollinator Garden.  It is probably about 75 per cent native plants, but there are many domestic plants included in the garden.  Some of these (spiderwort, irises, hostas, etc.) were already here when we moved in in 2011.  Other plants (garden phlox, Turk's Cap Lily, Shasta Daisy, sedum, etc.) we added to the garden.  We have also planted several hundred tulip bulbs.  Nowadays, when we add plants they are almost always native species.

The result is that we have a garden that blends the native and non-native.  Although I advocate for the use of native plants, there is nothing wrong with using a mixture.  I know my garden is not a wild habitat, but it is close in function.  I frequently see hundreds of insects each day - especially native bees.  They are drawn by the abundant pollen and nectar of the blooming plants as well as the nesting sites that we provide for them.

One of the things that I like about our garden is the layering.  It almost never needs weeding because of a layer of low plants that act as groundcover.  Above that there are flowering plants in several layers up to eight feet tall!

The view of the southeast corner of the house

Further along the south side of the house

The garden as seen from the street

Here are few of the wildflower species that can be found in the garden:

Red Baneberry grows in the shade at the front of the house

Northern Maidenhair Fern is another shade-loving species

Rosinweed is one of the giants in the garden at nearly 8 feet

Purple Conflower adds a change from all the yellow flowers

Green Coneflower is up to 5 feet tall - it needs other plants to keep it from flopping over

Cup Plant is another giant in the garden.  This one is growing right next to the corner of the porch.

A closer view of a Cup plant flower

Cup Plant leaves hold rainwater at their base.  This water is used by bees, wasps, other insects, and even small birds!

Big-leafed Aster

Blue-eyed Grass

Our garden is certified as a Monarch Waystation.

Our garden is home to home to dozens of native bees.  We have several nesting sites for several cavity-nesting species including mason. leafcutter, and small carpenter bees.  The holes that the bees nest in are quickly filling up.

One of our bee nesting boxes

These drilled holes are about 5 - 6 inches deep.  Filled holes are capped with sections of leaves or mud.

Another nesting block up close.  Each hole contains as many as six bee larvae and enough food for them to mature to adulthood.

Because we have so many bees, we need to provide plenty of food in the form of pollen and nectar.  Our goal is to have something in bloom from April to October.  Here are a few more of the native plants that help us achieve that goal.  These plants are all growing in the shaded areas at the rear of th house.

Culver's Root - even though this plant prefers full sun, it is thriving in partial shade

Woodland Sunflower

Ground-cherry came up on its own this year.  Thanks birds!

False Sunflower - another one in partial shade

Highbush Cranberry provides winter food for birds.


  1. What a great assortment of plants! I also have volunteer ground cherry (it showed up last year and I let enough of the fruit fall that it came up even more this year). Do you have much trouble with Japanese Beetles? I have noticed them mostly on the Evening Primrose that showed up this year (as a biennial it must have actually showed up last year, but was small enough that I didn't notice it among the tall things in that area) but have also been removing them from my fruit tree saplings and occasionally the milkweed.

    1. Anne-
      So far we have not had any issues with Japanese Beetles. It may have something to do with our healthy mole population - our yard sometimes looks like Belgium circa 1918.

      A note of caution on the Evening Primrose: it can spread like crazy if you have bare ground. A couple of years ago there was a single Evening Primrose in the MP Discovery Museum garden; the following year there were so many that I actually decided to remove most of them to prevent further spread.


    2. Glad to hear you're not seeing the beetles - you may be right about the moles! We never had beetle problems in our gardens when we lived downstate, but we definitely had moles there. Here we haven't seen any sign of moles at all. The house I grew up in (in the forest near Big Rapids) has a yard like yours - all molehills everywhere! But there's so much shade it's more moss than grass, so it's not too bad a hazard since not much mowing is required. Thanks also for the warning about Evening Primrose. I imagine it took the opportunity to jump in when we had bare ground last year after having walkways poured. I'll plan to remove any that shows up next year.