January is a great time to make plans for the coming year. Buy a notebook for a journal and use it to keep all your pollinator gardening information. List the plants growing in your habitat. Include the name of seed companies, plant name, variety, planting date and flower date. During the growing season keep notes on how well the plants do and if there are any issues. All this information will be helpful when you are ready to add new plants. I also enjoy visiting other gardens to get ideas. The Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium have beautiful butterfly gardens.
Lists! I need lists to help me with my plans for the new year. My favorite list is what plants am I going to add to the pollinator habitat. Annual flowers, perennials, herbs, fruit trees and vegetables are all great additions to a habitat. It is also important to consider bloom time. Early blooming plants are just as important as summer and fall bloomers. If you need help with plant selection, a good list to start with is the Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification Program. This plant list has plants that bloom from March to October and are well suited for Nebraska.
The Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification Program has a new website:
Asters are one of my favorite flowers. Smooth aster, Aster laevis, is blooming now in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. This native aster produces an abundance of lavender-blue flowers through late autumn.
Smooth Aster is upright with arching branches and reaches 3 feet tall. It easily grows in dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun. Asters are a must for your perennial garden. All bees, bumble bees and butterflies flock to asters. They are an excellent stopover plant for migrating Monarchs.
Pitcher’s sage (Salvia azurea) has been blooming in the habitat for a few weeks. It has an amazing blue color. This native perennial is in the mint family, but is not an aggressive spreader. The stems are tall and erect, with the plant reaching a height of 2-5 feet. Plant it in full sun. Nearly every day this month, I see bumble bees on the flowers of this plant. They love it and so will you.
Its HOT! Bees and other pollinators need fresh water to drink too. Add a bee water station in your yard for bees and other animals to get a drink. Bird baths work fine too. Place a rock in the water station for the insects to land on when they visit.
Bee water station in Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat.
Hoary vervain (Verbena stricta) is one of my favorite native wildflowers.
Hoary vervain, a native wildflower.
It is blooming in the habitat now. The plant has beautiful purple-blue flowers and blooms for at least 6 weeks. It gets 2 feet tall and prefers drier soil conditions. I always see bumblebees visiting the flowers, as well as butterflies and solitary bees.
In the pollinator habitat today I notice a Monarch caterpillar feeding on a swamp milkweed flower. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs only on milkweed plants. Swamp milkweed is blooming now and the pink flowers are very attractive. We also have butterfly, common and whorled milkweeds growing in the habitat. Consider adding milkweeds to your perennial flower beds.
Monarch caterpillar on swamp milkweed.
The federal government in February, pledged $3.2 million to help save the monarch butterfly. In recent years, the species has experienced a 90 percent decline in population, with the lowest recorded population occurring in 2013-2014.
About $2 million will restore more than 200,000 acres of habitat from California to the mid-west, including approximately 750 schoolyard habitats and pollinator gardens. The rest will be used to start a conservation fund, the first dedicated solely to monarchs, that will provide grants to farmers and other landowners to conserve habitat.
This is exciting news. These gardens will benefit all pollinators and help raise awareness of habitat protection.
This morning Soni and I taught 4-H youth about pollinators in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. All week our office is hosting Clover College. For our Habitat Discovery session, youth did nature journaling, planted native plants in the habitat, planted sunflower seeds, installed a bee water source and made bee nesting tubes bundles for the bee nest box structure and insect hotel. At the end of the session the youth made nature journals and took home their own bee nest box to put in their landscape. Spending time educating youth about pollinators was a great way to finish Pollinator Week!
A couple weeks ago, I went through the camera still shots and pulled together some of the highlights from January-April 2015. Vicki in our office posted the photos to Flickr. The list of wildlife includes: two different skunks, two raccoons, two cats, a small herd of deer, rabbits, squirrels, birds and a wild turkey. There is a description with the date/time of day each still photo was taken.
Prairie ragwort is a native plant that blooms May through June. This wildflower is a biennial or short-lived perennial that is approximately one foot tall. It attracts many pollinators like bees, flies, moths and butterflies.
Prairie ragwort blooming now in the Cherry Creek Habitat.
Ten Ways to Celebrate Earth Day
1. Learn about pollinators.
2. Make a bird or bee house.
3. Plant native plants.
5. Fix leaky faucets.
6. Pick up trash.
7. Carpool, ride a bike or walk to your destination.
8. Give up bottled water.
9. Start buying local.
10. Go paperless.