Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
May, 2004
Regional Report

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Ahh, the joys of pollen!

Wild at Heart

Several times each spring and summer I take my garden's pulse. Sitting quietly near a flower bed, I listen for the healthy buzz of bees. I'm reassured when they come in droves, because I know they are spreading the word: my garden is a safe place to visit and there's a wealth of nectar to be had!

Bees are the most beneficial insects imaginable, pollinating flowers from spring through summer. In fact, without bees, everyone would be eating mostly rice, wheat, and corn instead of the wonderful variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts we grow in our gardens. Bees are truly remarkable garden companions.

Our honeybee population has been dwindling over the years, mostly due to mite infestations, and I'm worried about their fate. I continue to encourage their visits, though, by providing a bounty of colorful blooms all season long. While there are fewer honeybees making an appearance, I've noticed that the bumblebee population has surged, and I'm thankful for their faithful work on my garden's behalf.

What Bees Need
Bees' only requirements are food, water, and shelter. I make sure there's an endless supply of food for them in the form of pollen and nectar by planting a variety of flowers throughout my landscape. This guarantees a delectable assortment of blooms from which to choose, and keeps them coming back from March through October.

Water can be made available in a few simple ways: birdbaths are a convenient source, but I've also found that a pie pan filled with pebbles and splashed with fresh water every day makes a popular watering hole for bees, wasps, and butterflies, too. I welcome them all; a healthy garden needs an abundance of pollinating insects!

Favorite Food Sources
The bees that frequent my garden are especially fond of flowers on spikes. Delphiniums, lavender, and salvia are among their favorites, but they also feed on nectar and collect pollen from daisies and zinnias. Masses of brightly colored blooms attract bees better than individual flowers. Many of the flowers they choose in my garden are blue, purple, pink, or white, but I wouldn't discount orange, yellow, or red. In fact, most bright colors will do a good job of attracting bees.

Provide a Safe Haven
To avoid harming the bees, I'm careful with pesticides. In fact, I rarely use anything stronger than insecticidal soap to combat pests. To be truthful, I'd rather do without a plant than keep one that won't grow without the regular use of chemicals.

My garden would be a poorer place without the buzz of bees busily working the blossoms. With their presence I know I can count on perfectly pollinated apples and zucchini, and a wealth of seeds from my favorite annuals.

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