Posted by & filed under Beneficial insects, Black Swallowtail Butterfly, Butterfly Gardens, Host Plants, Insects, Native Plants, Naturalizing, Nectar Plants, Pollinator Gardens, Sustainability, Uncategorized .

Whether you are planting to attract butterflies, bees or a host of other native pollinators, finding out which specific plants are the best to include can be complicated. In order to help you design your pollinator garden, I have pulled together a list of some beneficial insects and their related plants. Look for “INVITE AN INSECT”  on Thursdays throughout the Spring planting season. If you have an insect about which you would like some information, please be sure and let me know. Looking forward to sharing with you!


Black Swallowtail Butterfly




One of spring’s very first butterflies to appear, the  Black Swallowtail Butterfly will grace the garden from early spring through late summer. Black Swallowtails love open areas and are seen in gardens, fields and marshy areas. They are the prime pollinators of azalea bushes.



Host Plants:  parsley, dill, carrots



Nectar Plants:  Joe Pye weed,  monarda,  milkweed, ironweed.










Posted by & filed under Bees, Beneficial insects, Benefits of Nature, Causes of Insect Decline, Native Plants, Pollinator Gardens, Uncategorized .

Originally published in September 2018, our two part series on native and non-native bees adds important information to our current discussion of native pollinators. 




Two years ago, when we moved into this house, I planted the beginnings of a butterfly garden. Last summer it didn’t amount to much — the perennials were small and it just didn’t have many winged visitors. There was a little more interest this summer; I’ve had several types of swallowtails, lots of cabbage whites and clouded sulphurs and even a few monarchs. Lately though, in mid-September, I have had dozens and dozens of types of bees along with my butterflies.



My prior vision of bees had been limited to that of the busy brown honeybee and the big, fuzzy black and yellow bumblebee. Noticing so many that didn’t fit into those two categories, I did some quick research and found out how little I knew about bees. The reality is that in the United States alone there are over 4,000 species of native bees. (Worldwide there are over 25,000 known species of bees.)



Surprisingly, the familiar and active honeybee found all across the country is not native to North America.  Shipments of honeybee hives were intentionally brought from Western Europe to the east coast of the United States in the early 1600s. Although it took many years (historical records indicate over 200 years), intense struggles against unsuitable environmental conditions, native insect and animal competitors and human interventions, honey bees eventually crossed the continent and became an essential part of American agriculture and life.









Here in the United States over 90 different types of crops depend on bees for pollination. Illustrated another way, one in three bites of all of the food we consume depends on bees to pollinate the blooms. Several crops, such as almonds, pears and rape, from which canola oil is made, rely on honey bees as their primary pollinator, but native bees are also our unsung pollination heroes. A honey bee can’t pollinate a tomato plant, but bumblebees and mud bees can. To increase yields, blueberries need the assistance of at least three different species of bees, two of them native. Bees — all bees — are truly essential creatures.




In the past, I associated bees just with summertime, assuming that’s when they were the busiest doing their work of pollinating plants, making honey and viciously stinging unsuspecting people. This influx of fall bees on my asters sparked my curiosity about what these fascinating and vital insects were up to this time of year. Why so many now, when the cycle of gardening is winding down?




It turns out that fall work is critical to the survival of the non-native honeybee Late blooming flowers like asters, chrysanthemums, goldenrod and dittany are last minute sources of nectar and pollen, both of which are stored for winter food supplies. The nectar, which provides carbohydrates, and the pollen, which is the protein source, are stored in cells in the hive. If sufficient food is stored for winter consumption, then the colony of bees has a better chance of surviving harsh winter conditions and emerging strong in the spring.



Since a typical colony has over 60,000 worker bees, a queen and a few hundred drones (male bees), quite a bit of food needs to be gathered and stored. Interestingly, as winter food supplies are being accumulated, the workers drag the drones out of the hive and prevent them from returning. Although the drones starve to death, the rest of the hive population has a better chance of surviving.




And bee survival is at risk. Since 2006, records show that each year about one-third of all of our domesticated honey bees and their colonies disappear. Some experienced colony collapse disorder, CCD, which is a situation in which the majority of the workers abandon the queen, eggs and larvae for unknown reasons. Other colonies seem to have contracted diseases or parasitic infestations that proved fatal.



Unfortunately, the trend toward hive loss continues today. Although CCD and health issues remain, entomologists believe that other factors also contribute to the decline and loss of honey bee colonies. Experts report that “poor nutrition and pesticides” are also factors affecting both honey bees and native bees. They warn that decline in pollinators will contribute to a drop in food production and a rise in food prices.





Because bee health is both an environmental and an economic issue, it is important that each of us who are gardeners do what we can to help. Creating pollinator gardens with both native and ornamental plants, adding water sources and reducing pesticide use are three easy and effective first steps in rebuilding bee habitats and saving bee colonies.





Join us next week as we explore more about bees and about some of the best plants and garden design tips for bringing a variety of native and non-native bees to your yard. See you then.

Posted by & filed under Beneficial insects, Butterfly Gardens, Design, Insects, Native Plants, Naturalizing, Pollinator Gardens, Sustainability, Sustainable Landscaping, Uncategorized .


With all the Buzz about pollinators in the news lately (sorry, just couldn’t resist it), I thought that this might be a good time to think about adding a pollinator garden to the landscape.  




For the past few years, flower and gardening magazines, websites and even home improvement television shows have featured articles and episodes about butterfly gardening. Today the emphasis is shifting to gardens for pollinators. At a recent neighborhood meeting, a question came up that got me thinking: “Aren’t  pollinator gardens and butterfly gardens actually the same thing?”  It took me a minute to process my answer, but I finally answered with “Yes  — and No.”  



Let me explain. Yes, all butterflies are pollinators, so a butterfly garden is a pollinator garden. On the other hand, not all pollinators are butterflies. (Sounds like the dreaded logic problems in math class, doesn’t it?…I never did very well with those…) Bees are pollinators; wasps can be. So can flies, hummingbirds and even bats. Each type of pollinator responds best to a set of specific conditions. Sometimes the requirements overlap. For example, species of butterflies and bees both prefer to forage in sunny areas. Sometimes the requirements are opposite. Butterflies rest in grassy areas or on trees, while native bees usually prefer bare ground.  In theory then, you could design a garden that would appeal to bees or bats or wasps and not attract butterflies. It would be a pollinator garden, but not a butterfly garden.


As you plan your landscaping, it is important to have a clear idea of what you hope to accomplish. Are you primarily interested in watching ethereal butterflies grace the garden, are you hoping to establish the perfect habitat for a variety of declining native insects or are you wanting to reintegrate native bees? Whichever direction you head, a few basic rules apply.

Choose your location carefully




  • Choose a sunny spot for your pollinator garden. The vast majority of pollinators, both butterflies and non-butterflies, prefer a sunny location so select a spot that receives at least 6 hours of sun.
  • Select an area with nearby trees, shrubs or tall grasses. They provide shelter from strong winds and rain, and they give places to roost at night or to hide from predators.

Provide moisture



  • Pollinators need a source of water. Adding a shallow dish or a rock with an indentation allows pollinators to safely rest while drinking. Make sure that the water is replaced daily to avoid mosquito infestations.
  • Include mud puddles in or near the garden. Many types of pollinators, including varieties of butterflies, get necessary minerals from soaking up muddy water.

Avoid pesticides



  • Stop using pesticides. Pesticides indiscriminately kill both harmful and beneficial insects through direct and indirect methods. Many are toxic to humans (especially children) and pets too.
  • Limit chemical fertilizer applications. Synthetic fertilizers can leach into water systems, disrupting ecosystems.
  • Opt for letting predator insects control unwanted pests.

Plant a “near-native” garden



  • Grow a combination of native and non-native plants to ensure adequate nectar and pollen availability throughout the entire growing season. Determine which non-native plants are non-invasive and will attract and feed insects visiting the garden.
  • Understand that because native plants and native insects coevolved and have established unique, symbiotic relationships, the garden should primarily be made up of natives.   (90% native – 10% non-native)


Design for the insects 



  • Leave some ground bare. Mulching does help to control unwanted weeds and conserve water, but many pollinators need open ground for nesting.
  • Add a few large, flat rocks to serve as resting places. The heat generated by the rocks will help keep cold blooded insects warm on cool or cloudy days.
  • Plant in massed groupings rather than rows. Use at least three to five plants (more is even better) of the same variety and color. Insects will have to expend less energy hunting for nectar.
  • Plan for continuous bloom throughout the growing season. Some experts recommend three different varieties blooming at the same time during all three seasons.
  • Research to learn the colors and flower shapes to which your intended pollinators are attracted. feature those in the design. Lists of insects and their plant preferences are available online.
  • Include host plants as well as nectar and pollen plants in or near the garden. Without host plants, insects cannot complete their lifecycles.


Rethink your idea of beautiful



  • Allow a pile of fallen leaves or a dead log to remain on the property, giving burrowing insects a place to hide.
  • Let some herbs and vegetables flower instead of harvesting them all. Their nectars will attract dozens of insect varieties.
  • Appreciate a chewed leaf for what it represents — a contribution to the lifecycle of an insect.



For decades we have been conditioned to consider precisely shaped, exotic bushes and well-manicured bluegrass lawns as the sole epitome of landscaping perfection. Buying into those strict and somewhat artificial standards however, has helped to change the ecological balance of our world. We have lost some of our smallest but most important contributors. Perhaps the time has come to expand our definition of beauty to include the reality— imperfections and all — of our own natural world.


Posted by & filed under Deer Resistant Plants, Lenten rose, Naturalizing, PerenniaLs, Shade-loving plants, Uncategorized, Winter bloom, woodland garden .


For a glimpse of spring during those last, long days of winter, plant a patch of Lenten rose. Clusters of the cup-shaped flowers will rise above the snow to delight the eye and lighten the mood. Lenten rose prefers a protected location in partial to full shade and rich, well-drained soil. Cut back flower stems immediately after flowering to promote foliage growth. Rarely reaching over 18 inches, Lenten rose plants are gorgeous when naturalized in woodland gardens, under trees or at the front of the border. They self-seed or clumps can be divided in the spring, making them easy to mass. The plants tolerate air pollution and are usually ignored by deer.