Native Plants for Native Pollinators & Birds

My plan for a bird and pollinator friendly garden seemed simple. The project did not fare to my expectations. Most of the plants I ordered were feeble, or never took root, or simply croaked before they had any chance of my care.

The underlying cause of this gardening semi-failure, was my view of a pollinator garden was wrong. It was for my pleasure, not for the betterment of native species. But isn’t that just like a human? We take on an idea without connecting the dots to the big picture. I ignored the very premise of my book “Connection with 48 Natural Contemplations”—interconnecting with nature.

With the die-off of insects—up to 80% in some regions—not only will lovely blossoms in our garden cease and desist from delighting our eyes, but this die-off concerns the agricultural industry. Pollinators fertilize 75% of our food crops.

Hummingbirds probably earn a blue ribbon as the favorite pollinator in this hemisphere. Climate change, the warming of the planet, puts hummingbirds at risk. “Rather than search for food in the increasingly hotter summers, some hummingbirds simply seek shade to remain cool. They are also less social during the hotter weather, suggesting they are not as likely to mate. The hotter days are not the only problem for these birds — warm nights can also be problematic. Hummingbirds go into a slower state at night called torpor, when their body temperatures can drop by more than half, so warming nights will limit how much energy they can save,” explains Conservation in a Changing Climate.

What can you and I do to help reverse the loss of pollinators? I’ve learned the simple answer: Native species need native plants. In other words, those beautiful European bred roses, pansies, and other plants not native to where you live, do not fully provide native pollinators what they need to survive. And survival is challenging enough with urban sprawl, pollution, insecticides, and a changing climate.

So this has led me to believe that the best I can do, besides being mindful to plant organically, my new bird and pollinator friendly garden is now plants native to the Southwest, with a few non-native beauties tossed in just for my eyes and camera lens.

I spent the winter learning where to purchase truly native plants. Into the recycling bin went all those gorgeous plant catalogs from nurseries in Michigan, and any other nurseries outside of the Southwest. This turns out to be a winning choice for native pollinators, and small family owned nurseries. Yes, the plant displays are not quite like big box retail offerings. Yes, we might have to bend low to read the information sticks on plants lined up on the ground. And, yes,  there might be a slightly higher price tag than “native” plants offered by large corporate retailers. That said, I also observed that the first six native plants I purchased a year or so ago from a local nursery that specializes in native plants, they are vigorously returning to life after a winter’s rest.

The original six have already gifted me with hope for a gorgeous native pollinator garden, and helped me feel better about leaving this little spot of Earth as a refuge for our life-sustaining pollinators.

It seemed so simple at first. But like writing, more education and essential rewrites can be what turns around a feeble project to one that will meet expectations.

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