In the past few years, we’ve read many news headlines about problems with bees, the lack of butterflies, changing patterns of birds, and so on and so forth. As worrisome as it can be, it should give us inspiration to make a difference. I’m not one to point fingers at others -- I want to do what I can to make a difference. What can one person do? No one person can fix something so broad and vast, but collectively, with each person doing something small, we can make a huge difference.
Twenty or thirty years ago, I would be riding in the back seat of my parent’s car, curiously looking out the window in all the suburban neighbourhoods. Although it never really occurred to me back then, I now recall one thing that stuck in my memory: flowers. Every home had some flowers and there seemed to be flowers nearly all year long (except in the winter, of course). Our yellow and black striped friends had a variable buffet to feast on. They would travel home to home, enjoying a little taste of petunia here, marigold there, and so on. There was always good food to be had, and always close at hand. It was like a super-highway buffet for insects that could be followed from house to house, block to block, and even city to city.
Fast forward 30 years and I see monoculture crops in rural areas and urban subdivisions consisting of “no maintenance” plantings with little to no flowers. Our poor little friends resort to just one main meal and only tiny little snacks from occasional flowers few and far between. No more super-highway.
But it’s not hard to bring back the super-highway I remember as a kid. We all just need to do our part and plant a few extra flowers. The key is to make sure there is always something flowering in your yard for our friends to feed on. You can choose a variety of perennials with different flower times, you can add a few extra hanging baskets or planters to your patio, or just toss a bunch of bedding plants in the ground along your front walkway. The more diversity in flowers, the better. And what makes it even better is that planting flowers is usually contagious, so the super-highway will get bigger and better every year.
Let’s all learn from the bees. Although it’s hard to change the world as an individual, collectively we will change the world. Join in and be part of the hive.
Some superflowers for the birds and bees:
- Verbena bonariensis a stunning annual over 1.2m (4') tall with purple flowers teaming with butterflies all year long.
- Asclepias butterfly weed which is in the milkweed family, the food for the Monarch Butterfly.
- Sweet Alyssum a massively fragrant low-growing annual well suited for borders and a favourite for bees.
- Clover a lawn replacement which bees love, but only if you let it flower.
- Papaver better known a poppies.
- Heliotrope another super-fragrant plant with blue flowers, and bees like blue.
- Chives with their purple ball-like flowers make another favourite, and they're edible too.
- Cosmos tall and airy with delicate feathery leaves creates the perfect setting for a butterfly ballet.