Some lessons from the pollinator garden


OSU master gardener volunteer


Three years ago, I became interested in pollinators and the plants they visit. I decided to turn 4,500 square feet of our back yard into a pollinator garden.

The process was pretty simple. Get rid of the grass, lay down several layers of newspaper, wet it down, cover with 3 inches of double-shredded mulch. Wait until after the hard frost, scatter seeds, and wait until spring. What a pay off.

Year one, since I had incorporated a few annuals in to my seed selection I had amazing color. I did this because many of the perennial seeds I planted take a year or more to germinate. To our delight we had many pollinator visits.

Now the second bloom, which is completely different from the first, I am beginning to realize how much this area is teaching me. I find it my go to place, my place to revel in the magical world of nature.

I have become interested in learning more about the pollinators, their needs, and about the plants they depend on for survival.

There have been challenges this year. The garden is in a low spot in our yard. Too much standing water has taken its toll on some of the perennials. This provides me a canvas for what I want to replant this fall, however.

As I walk through my special garden I see so much.

An array of bees, butterflies, birds – goldfinches, hummingbirds, moths, including the mysterious hummingbird moth – dragon flies, toads, worms, beetles, flies, and more.

Sometimes when I walk in the yard, I hear the buzzing of the hard-at-work bees. I recently witnessed a bumble bee during buzz pollination. The fragrances of milkweed, echinacea, mint (it is in a pot), fennel, dill, bee balm, and more.

The garden changes daily. Different flowers bloom, different pollinators visit. I feel motherly watching over monarch eggs on the four types of milkweed.

At night the lightning bugs hover over this garden, unfortunately so do mosquitoes. With such a wet year this is to be expected, however.

This is a carefree garden, just some deadheading to prevent over populations of some species. What I once viewed as weeds are now my proud native wildflowers.

One of the best things that has happened is this has become a family project. My son and his family have a big yard, and they also have a large pollinator garden. We share seeds, pictures, and sightings of pollinators. My teenage grandsons are snapping pictures and sending them to us.

To find a detailed list of pollinator plants by bloom time, go to