Ask a Gardener: Pollinator garden with season-long blooms will attract bees

Question: My neighbor and I want to collaborate on putting in a pollinator garden, as we know that pollinators are somewhat challenged in this day and age. What plants would you recommend?

Answer: Good for you. Our pollinators need all the help they can get these days, and luckily, the plants they like are also ones we humans are often attracted to. What you’re doing is a great way to teach children about nature. You might round up the entire neighborhood of kids and help out the pollinators in a big way!

Pollinators need a regular supply of nectar and pollen. Different pollinators have different preferences, but there are many plants that are attractive to a variety of pollinators. What’s important is to provide plants that bloom at different times to ensure season-long nectar and pollen.

It’s fun to design a garden or border. You need a sunny location. First plant a few deciduous and evergreen shrubs to give the garden “bones.” Then pack the remaining space with perennials and annuals that pollinators love.

Some particular favorites are Ceanothus (California lilac), Phlox and lavender. Single flowering carpet roses flower practically all summer long and will be covered with bees. Bees are attracted to almost any single blossoming plant. They particularly love Globe thistle (Echinops ritro) and Sea holly (Eryngium “Sapphire Blue”). And they swoon over Heliotrope.

Butterflies are partial to Bee balm (Monarda), Catmint (Nepeta), Borage (Borago), Foxglove (Digitalis) and Mock orange (Philadelphus coronaries). And if you want to be adventurous, grow some milkweed. It is the only plant that Monarch Butterflies will lay their eggs on, and that the Monarch caterpillars eat.

Hummingbirds are attracted to any tubular-shaped flower, and particularly love the color red. It’s fun to watch them while they’re feeding with their heads up a foxglove flower.