If you build it, they will come… In early 2014, the pollinator garden at the Bayer Bee Care Center (top left) was just an empty canvas, waiting for some pollinator-attractant plants to fill up its landscape. Today its gardens are thriving, and attracting a diversity of approximately 35 species of bees, plus other pollinators and wildlife, to the site.
Since the opening of the Bee Care Center, plants continue to be added to the site’s garden to provide more forage for its growing number of bee hives and to encourage more bee and pollinator diversity. The two acres of gardens immediately surrounding the Center are a work in progress, but already are attracting approximately 35 species of bees
, pollinator safety scientist at Bayer, has a degree in entomology and is a certified master gardener, but notes that for all gardeners, establishing a pollinator garden is a learning process. “Don’t be afraid to jump into pollinator gardening,” Stephanie says. “Our Bayer garden is a work in progress – we’re looking at what works, what flowers are attracting which pollinators, where we can add plants, what time of year works best for cutting back plants – but despite its evolving nature, within six months of establishing our first plants in the Bee Care Center gardens, we have observed a diverse array of visiting pollinators.”
Bayer “bee ambassadors” volunteered to help plant the 1,700 seedlings, which were native plants started with seed from an Ernst contract grower in Smithfield, NC.
Changes are easy to make as your garden evolves, Stephanie adds. For example, when the Center garden was first established, Knock Out®
roses were added to fill in some empty spots. Center staff knew that these roses were not preferred by bees, but they offered a beautiful filler until other plants in the garden became better established. So they will be moved to another area of the Bayer site to make room for more bee-attractant offerings.
In July 2015, Ernst Conservation Seeds
, a Bayer Feed a Bee partner, donated approximately 1,700 plants to the site, which are offering some great filler for open spaces. “Ernst wants our help assessing how these plants would do in our garden and what pollinators are coming to them,” Stephanie says.
Ernst provided characteristics about each plant including its flower color, what season it blooms, the size it will grow to, and even whether it attracts short- versus long-tongued pollinators. Stephanie notes that such information is helpful when planning a pollinator garden.
Having information about flower color helps with color-coordination within the garden, and ensures you are planting plenty of bee-attractant colors, such as yellow, blue or purple. The size of plants is important to consider so plants that will grow taller won’t hide smaller plants. In addition, knowing what season plants bloom is important so that your garden has plants that flower across all seasons for bees. Stephanie notes that knowing the correct flower-timing is helpful since transplanting can sometimes knock bloom cycles off-schedule. “The following year, transplants should be better established and blooming on a more ‘normal’ cycle,” she explains.
Certain characteristics of plants can add interest to the garden. “I think the Virginia Spiderwort is one that will make a good story for visitors,” Stephanie says. “Each flower will open in the morning, and it is thermotropic, meaning that its flower will close in response to warm temperatures.”
Some plants recently added to the Bayer garden include: