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Planting for the pollinators

It has been great weather for pulling weeds, dead-heading, and mulching in the Mahaffey gardens. I have a big battle to fight on the hillside at the lower drive where thistles have taken up residence. I am working on a strategy that will take most of the summer, and perseverance on my part, but the end result should be worth it. As I battle thistles in one area, I have been tending to a huge milk thistle in my front flower bed that has unbelievably fragrant hot pink blooms. As my husband (grumbling) helped me plant it last summer, I had to promise that no blooms would be allowed to go to seed. Every time I take my trip around the flower beds, I marvel at the pollinators that are attracted to the blooms.

Pam Bennett, co-author of “Garden-pedia: an A-to-Z Guide to Gardening Terms”, defines pollination as the process of pollen being transferred from the stamens (male) to the stigma (female) to accomplish fertilization. The pollinator is the vehicle that moves the pollen. “It is believed that 80 percent of plant fertilization is dependent on pollinators. Pollinators such as insects, birds, and bees are selective about the plants they will visit. Therefore, great attention is given to using plants that local pollinators will visit and in minimizing any harm inflicted on them.

Are you interested in attracting pollinators to your garden? OSUE Fact Sheet ENT-47-14, “Attracting Pollinators to the Garden” (at ohioline.osu.edu), describes the importance of pollinators, their role in the ecosystem, and actions gardeners can take to help pollinator populations in their yards and gardens. Denise Elsworth, OSU Entomologist, explains that grouping plants together in sunny locations helps pollinators find and feed on desirable flowers while expending less energy in the search for plants.

By observing flowers in the garden and taking note of any flower visitors, gardeners can learn which plants are most attractive to pollinators. Additionally, many plant lists are available to help with the selection of plants for pollinators (find plant lists at go.osu.edu/gardensandbees).

While literally hundreds of garden plants provide important sources of nectar and pollen for pollinators, try these garden-worthy additions recommended by Ellsworth: Trees: maple, crabapple, linden, serviceberry; Shrubs: ninebark, pussy willow, sumac, viburnum; Perennials: aster, hyssop, milkweed, purple coneflower; Annuals: cosmos, marigold, sunflower, zinnia; and Herbs: basil, borage, catmint, lavender, oregano.

Locally native plants attract native pollinators. Native plants offer nectar, pollen and other nutrients in quantities that native pollinators need. Consider adding more locally native trees, shrubs and herbaceous (a plant that doesn’t have woody tissue and dies back to the ground in the winter in colder climates) plants to the garden.

GoodSeed Nursery will present their first Garden Expo from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 13, at the Hilltop Event Center (adjacent to the garden center) to offer a learning experience for their customers and to showcase some of their favorite products. Pam Bennett, State Coordinator of the OSUE Master Gardener Volunteers, will be there to promote her new book, the OSUE Brown County Master Gardeners will have a booth, and I will be presenting a program on Vertical Gardening. Be sure to stop by our booth.

The tomatoes are blooming, the lettuce isn’t bitter yet, and the cucumbers are setting on. Life is good!

See you at the GoodSeed Plant Expo on June 13.

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