One of the best things you can do for the health of your garden – and the planet – is to plant pollinator plants. Pollinator plants are those that attract bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds and other beneficial creatures that transfer pollen from flower to flower. Pollinators, particularly bees, have suffered greatly from the loss of their habitat, the excessive use of insecticides, and from the spread of invasive non-native plants and animals.
Most of us cannot plant an entire pollinator garden, but we can easily add a few pollinator friendly plants to help create a safe habitat for pollinators in our garden or yard. We checked in with our friends at BLACKHAWK HARDWARE about how to pick and plant pollinators this summer and fall. Whether you plop them into your patio pots, go all out with a native garden, or pop a few into your established borders, you’ll enjoy watching their pollinators flit from flower to flower and zip busily around your yard.
Where to Start with Pollinators
-1 Sally the Garden Department manager at Blackhawk tells us the best place to start to attract pollinators is to plant NATIVE PLANTS. Native insect populations are drawn to native pollinator plants, it’s that simple.
We want to encourage our gardeners to plant natives that thrive in Charlotte. Planting native plants will enable our pollinators to move in, feed, lay eggs and encourage better habitats for all plants; whether it’s a backyard, a balcony or a rooftop, pollinator gardens are more natural.
-2 Find a sunny location with shade and a water source nearby. Bees and butterflies like the warm sun in the morning to dry the dew off their wings, but they also like the shade in our hot summer afternoons. And they need a drink periodically, during their hard day’s work. If you don’t have a water source nearby, just create one yourself. Place a few plant saucers around and regularly fill them with fresh water – you can even add some small stones to function as landing pads for your pollinators. Sally tells us that we want to attract not only bees and butterflies, but frogs too. (Our jury is out on that tho.)
-3 Know your Zone. This is a gardening basic for all planting, and applies to picking your natives and pollinators as well. Sally tells us in northern Mecklenburg County we are 7B, while the southern part of the county is 8A. You can read more about garden zones here or click thru here to USDA to plug in your zip code to understand your zone better.
-4 Pesticide Free is key. Even some organic pesticides are damaging to pollinators, so read the labels and ask the Blackhawk staff for advice. Also, ask before you buy and plant, because some growers in the USA are still using toxic systemic pesticides, like neonicotinoids, to grow their plants. These plants have pesticides ‘bred’ into their very tissue which harm the pollinators and wildlife that use these plants as a food source. Blackhawk uses a native supplier out of York County – Piedmont Iris Farm – whose owner, Chris Chaney is committed to healthy native pollinators and keeps them well stocked through the year.
What to Plant in Your Charlotte area Pollinator Garden
Variety is their spice of life too. While even incorporating a few native plants into your garden will help, a great pollinator garden has many varieties of plants to both attract different kinds of pollinators (they all have their favorites), and to provide nectar and food throughout the long growing season. The non-profit organization Pollinator Partnership has planting guides based on your zip code – we’re in “The Southeastern Mixed Forest Province”
Sally suggests you start with a plan, unless you are just adding to your planters and pots. How can you incorporate pollinators into what you already have on site? What in your garden is native? Unfortunately, many of the ornamental plants we love here in the QC are not native ~ despite their beauty, crepe myrtle, iris, and peonies do not provide much for pollinators. You don’t have to remove the non-natives, just add pollinators to your landscape to be sure you have something for the native insects. Sally reminds us not to forget about the trees…..birds and butterflies love them too; serviceberry and dogwoods are good choices as are oakleaf hydrangea.
Your grass lawn is not native, fyi 🙂 and the more you can replace your grass lawn with native plantings, the better for the environment and your checkbook. But this is Charlotte after all, where green grass and boxwood hedges are de rigueur. Still, you can create a cottage garden in the back, or intersperse native pollinators with your non-natives. Perhaps you could expand your existing beds to replace some lawn, or remove a few small areas of lawn to plant understory trees, shrubs and insect-attracting perennials.
What Natives Does Blackhawk Sell?
- bee balm
- black eyed susan (rudbeckia)
- blanket flower
- oakleaf hydrangeas
- stokes aster
- joe pye weed
- witch hazel
- mountain mint
- climbing aster
For hummingbirds specifically, Blackhawk carries cuphea, hummingbird vine, hotlips salvias(sage), lantana, red pentas, and passion vine.
The good news is that native plants usually flourish in their native environment, needing less maintenance, watering and fertilizer to do their best. So, easier for you and better for the pollinators. They should thrive if planted in the right area under the right conditions, often spreading and seeding themselves to help your garden increase free of cost and naturally over time. Whether you’re taking a new approach to your pots or veggie plot, or re-thinking your entire garden, creating a pollinators’ paradise is time well spent. Ask the folks at Blackhawk about getting yours started today.
Check Out This Local Native Garden Just Getting Started
This Myers Park area homeowner is creating a fully native garden in her large backyard. While it’s just underway, you can see several of the suggested planting strategies in place, and we’ll watch this pretty space develop over time together!
Blackhawk Hardware has been a family-owned and “mismanaged” hardware store in Charlotte’s Park Road Shopping Center since 1977. Blackhawk is known for its wide array of housewares, lawn and garden supplies, hardware, seasonal merchandise, paint, electric and plumbing products. Recently completing a two-story expansion to offer even more products, Blackhawk Hardware is a one-stop-shop for customers looking for unique items and essentials for their home and garden needs.
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