Plants for Pollinators
June – the month of many seasons
June is always a finicky time of year for weather – beautiful sunny days can quickly turn surprisingly cool with sudden rainstorms. Having spent many of these June hours watching and waiting on ideal research conditions, I often think of the pollinators at this time of year and how their short lives also follow these daily ups and downs. With the exception of hummingbirds, pollinators are cold blooded animals (ectothermic) which means they need sunshine to fly. You may sometimes find a pollinator huddled up inside a flower to avoid a recent rain shower. If the temperature remains cool, a pollinator may be stuck on her plant until conditions change in her favour.
Help bees by planting in clumps
One way to help pollinators at this time of year is planting flowers of the same type close together. Bees go out to collect nectar and pollen on “search flights” and when they do, they zone in on one type of flower to pollinate. This is very beneficial for the flowers because it means that the pollen on the bee’s body is probably from the plant’s own species. The right pollen is necessary for proper fertilization to occur. For example, a rose can’t be pollinated by marigold pollen, it must be dusted with pollen from another rose.
Therefore, if the same type of flowers are far apart, it makes visiting flowers a very energy-expensive job for the pollinator. It’s like the inefficiency of driving the kids all over town for afterschool activities – while at times it can’t be helped, ideally their activities are located close to home and school, saving both time and energy. To help a buzz buddy out, you can plant flowers of the same type close together. This way the bees have a better chance of sticking close to home and having enough energy to weather the storm…quite literally.
Here are a few floral favourites for the month of June that are clump-friendly and overall popular with local pollinators.
Not a native, but definitely popular with both honeybees and bumblebee species. This fragrant purple flower blooms throughout June and can additionally be used for aromatherapy purposes.
Make sure you get the native variety. This is the author’s favourite pollinator plants pick. While the flowers are small and inconspicuous, nothing provides more forage for pollinators like snowberry. This lovely native shrub blooms for months, and also great to use if you are trying to reclaim a garden or wild space away from invasive plants.
This heart-stopping beauty is an escapee that is now synonymous with roadsides and many an English-style garden in BC. While it is not as ‘clumping’ as some of the others listed, Foxglove has been shown to attract the most biodiverse array of pollinators to its blossoms. That gives it some serious nectar credit to stand out as a top pollinator plant in June.
California lilac Ceanothus
“Victoria”This shrub can range from 1 foot to 1 meter in height depending on the variety you choose. Its yellow
pollen on a backdrop of blue florets and lovely smell make it easy to see the pollinator appeal. This attracts pollinators of all types, and grows well in sunny coastal areas.
Alliums in general are great attractants for pollinators. If you are growing onions, garlic or leeks in the garden, you may find more pollinators visiting if you leave the flower heads to bloom. Nodding onion is a small native that grows well on Vancouver Island.