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Bright red clusters of Penta flowers

Planting for Pollinators

Greener is not always better

Yards with green grass and green hedges only, can make for a boring yard. Especially if they don’t have anything blooming.  There actually is a lot more to it than that. Your yard can be a complicated place with a whole lot of things going on at once. Or it can be a monoculture with lack of interest and variety. A monoculture is defined as only one crop growing in an area. In this case I am using the term as having a lack of variety or diversity. With landscaping, diversity means a large variety of plants which in short means a lot of different types of insects and other life forms. Insects buzzing around your yard may be a sign of a healthy yard. What may bug you, may be just what you need to keep your yard healthy. Planting for pollinators may be the answer.

A Large Orange Butterfly called a Julia rests on some tropical milkweed.

Florida-Friendly Landscaping Principal #5 is to Attract Wildlife. Here a Julia butterfly enjoys a sip of this tropical milkweed. Photo by David Austin

Good Bug, Bad Bug

Around 1 in 100 insects cause harm or amount to costly problems to humans. The other 99% are often beneficial. We often only consider the things that cause harm and do not realize the benefits we reap from many organisms. That fly looking creature buzzing around your garden may be seeking out garden pests or be pollinating your squash. I often see people ask in social media is an insect friend or foe? The truth may be that it is both, depending on your end goal. A caterpillar eating your dill might turn into a beautiful butterfly. Depending on what you have planned for that dill, will weigh heavily on what your next move will be. Finding a balance with all organisms in your landscape should be your goal. In this instance growing extra dill might be the answer. Or if you don’t eat parsley, plant it too, and move the caterpillars to that. Luckily this particular caterpillar can eat both.

Taking the Main Stage

A large group of insects and other life forms are making their way into the spotlight and given much more consideration these days. This group we call pollinators, directly influence our food sources and its availability. Most of us enjoy watching butterflies flittering around our yard and are fascinated at the transformation they go through when a caterpillar morphs into a beautiful, winged creature. Thanks to butterflies many people are now becoming familiar with the benefits of pollinators. Not all pollinators are as famous as the butterfly or considered worthy. But many other insects are also important.

As sweet as honey
A Honey bee hovers around the purple flower of and Indigo Spires salvia

A honey bee hovers around the purple flower of and Indigo Spires Salvia. Photo by David Austin

Another pollinator, well known to many, is the honey bee. The non-native honey bee gathers nectar from flowers and turns it into honey. While doing this, it collects pollen for its young. It inadvertedly also pollinates flowers while it works. Because people are learning how important they are to our food systems, by helping pollinate about a quarter of the food we eat, they have been given a special status by many people. While they buzz in the spotlight, some 4000 native bees also inhabit North America and carry on in the background to fill an important role in pollination. Just over 300 native bees are found in Florida.  Bees, butterflies, moths, flies, birds, mammals, beetles and an array of other creatures make up our pollinator world.

Planting a Pollinator Garden

Creating a Mecca of flowers and resources for pollinators in your yard might be easier than you think.  The Highlands County Master Gardeners would like to invite you to a class on Saturday July 10th from 10 am until 12 pm. The class covers how to create a pollinator garden in your yard and what kinds of things you will be able to attract. The cost of the class is only $5.00 and will be in-person at the Bert J Harris Agricultural Center’s Sam Polston Auditorium in Sebring. It will also be offered online at the same time. To register for the class or to learn more, Click here. You can also call the office at (863) 402-6540 for more information. 

Follow and learn!

That’s what’s new from the Hometown Gardener. Like and Follow me on Facebook at Hometown Gardener.  Read my blogs by clicking here.  Sign up for our Highlands County Master Gardener Volunteer, “Putting Down Root” Newsletter Here. Join our Facebook groups Highlands County Master Gardeners, Science-Based Florida Gardening Answers, Central Florida Butterfly and Pollinator Club, and Heartland Beekeepers

In Highlands County, our office is at 4509 W George Blvd., Sebring. The Master Gardener Help Desk is open Monday – Friday from 9 AM to 3:30 PM


One Comment on “Planting for Pollinators

  1. “The Highlands County Master Gardeners would like to invite you to a class on Saturday July 10th from 10 am until 12 pm. The class covers how to create a pollinator garden in your yard and what kinds of things you will be able to attract.”
    This sounds amazing! Though, I would not have been able to attend, I would love the opportunity to view it after the fact, if it is available. Was the class recorded? If so, could it be rebroadcasted? I’d be willing to pay for it, just as those who attended in person did. This class sounds like it could be something I will really enjoy, especially since I have the beginnings of a pretty nice Butterfly/Bee garden and I want to add to it.

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