(Editor's note: We are once again blessed with a guest column by June Flanagan, published author and horticulturalist - and just in time for you to register for a
FREE GARDEN TOUR!
To register - we do need to know how many refreshments to tell our
generous sponsors to have at the ready - please visit: http://www.prairieurbangarden.ca/
The tour is Saturday, June 21st).
Garden for pollinators
As masses of wildflowers appear this month, the Oldman River watershed is humming with activity, and I love watching insects dart among the blossoms, madly sipping sweet nectar. A brief glimpse of a magnificent butterfly, flitting from one flower to another, can frame a perfect moment against a southern Alberta blue sky.
We enjoy wildflowers for their beauty - but insects see them as food. In addition to serving floral elixirs to winged creatures, native plants supply leafy meals to voracious larvae before they morph into adults.
After you gather inspiration from other water-conserving Xeriscapes on the OWC's upcoming Prairie Urban Garden tour, consider cultivating your own environment-friendly oasis of native plants. Urban pockets of native species contribute valuable food sources for pollinators and these plants make great candidates for a water-wise garden.
Plant your pollination garden with wildflowers that bloom at different times during the season and choose species that have a variety of blossom shapes and colours, like smooth blue beardtongue (Penstemon nitidus) with its tubular landing platform for bees, and daisies like blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata) and prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) that pose good perches for butterflies.
Add native shrubs, such as saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia), which offers shelter from the wind and foliage for caterpillar food, as well as fruit for birds (and for the gardener to make pies, muffins and jam!). Clumps of prairie grasses, such as green needle grass (Nassella viridula) also provide desirable larval food for some insect species.
Find commercial sources of native plants for your garden through the Native Plant Source List published by the Alberta Native Plant Council <www.anpc.ab.ca>. A number of growers around the province specialize in producing seeds and plants of native species. Lethbridge gardeners can find seeds of local species, and view mature plants in the "Garden of Native Prairie Plants" at the Galt Museum <www.galtmuseum.com>.
You'll likely find that native plants attract a diverse number of pollinators to your landscape, which helps strike a good balance between beneficial and undesirable insects that will minimize pest problems. If you're curious about what's buzzing around your plants, check out the great photos and information at <www.insectsofalberta.com>.
This season do something wonderful for your garden and for our environment - grow native plants. I can't think of a better way to connect with our natural heritage.
Warm wishes for a successful growing season,
June Flanagan is a Lethbridge botanist and environmental horticulturist with a passion for native plants. She has published five regional books, including Edible Plants for Prairie Gardens and Native Plants for Prairie Gardens. Check out her web site for more gardening tips www.juneflanagan.ca
To see what's blooming in the wild and in the garden "like" her Facebook Author Page: facebook.com/pages/June-Flanagan/616537095101785 and follow June on Instagram www.instagram.com/juneflanagan