Let’s face it, flight fascinates us. Whether it is a hummingbird hovering in mid-air or a butterfly fluttering by, the agility, grace and mystery of animals in flight is captivating. Is that why we are so drawn to invite winged creatures into the landscape? Is it the intricate patterns they paint in the summer sky or something more practical? Perhaps we are connected by the services they have long provided mankind, the brotherhood of pollination. In the very least, we share the same desires in the garden: brightly colored, sweet-smelling blossoms. Oh, and sugar.
Butterflies, bees and flower-feeding birds all have a sweet tooth. They need pollen and nectar from flowers to power their flight and nourish offspring. To ensure an abundance of these fascinating animals in the garden all year long, we can provide a diversity of flowering plants that bloom throughout the growing season, from early spring to late fall.
To Each His Own
While many plants support all manner of winged beast, each group does have preferences. Hummingbirds favor red flowers over any other color, while bees ignore red. The size and shape of the flower are also important. Among bees alone, we find more than 4,000 species in North America, each with different body shapes, tongue lengths and associated feeding references. Of course, each species will also feed on a number of different food sources, so it is important to have several species flowering at once.
To attract the greatest diversity of pollinators, include flowers of multiple colors, shapes and sizes. Make the garden more attractive to pollinators by clustering species of plants into clumps rather than scattering individual plants throughout a garden. Don’t forget about flowering trees and shrubs, which offer food as well as shelter.