The beginning of March is when gardeners can really make a difference – and I mean save the world.
It is the birds and the bees that pollinate our crops and forests that are struggling to survive. This can be blamed on a loss of habitat, disease and drought and – here is where gardeners can save the planet – a lack of blooming plants.
March is the month to scan your own landscape for early flowers – not a lot of blooms? Then get thee to a nursery and add new plants in bloom now to provide an early food source for the desperate birds, bees and butterflies.
Triplets of Early Delight – plant hellebores, snowdrops and crocus
These three are the first to flower sometimes as early as January and on mild days you can watch the insects as they awake from winter slumber and take their turn dipping into the center of these winter bloomers.
As a thank you for planting hellebores, the insects will trade pollen from one variety of hellebore to another so any seedlings you find near the mother plant can be similar or strikingly different from the parent hellebore that dropped the seed.
You can find potted crocus and snowdrop at local nurseries and they can be added to your landscape now even if the flowers have faded – sometimes this means they will be sold at a bargain price. Crocus and snowdrops are bulbs that will return year after year.
Pulmonaria pleases hummingbirds – and others
Pulmonaria is a shade- and drought-tolerant perennial that returns year after year and even self seeds about the garden in a polite and restrained way. The foliage is attractively spotted but also rather furry making this plant both slug and deer resistant.
Pulmonaia will persuade humming birds to visit your garden months before you even think about setting out a feeder.
Cue the natives – our pollinators are restless
Oregon Grape or Mahonia is one of the best early flowering native plants for saving birds, bees and butterflies.
Oregon Grape has spiny, lobed leaves that are evergreen and deer resistant and spikes of brilliant yellow blooms. This is one of the few plants that will thrive under the dry shade of fir and cedar trees.
The good news is that local nurseries offer potted mahonia plants in different sizes so don’t bother digging up plants from the woods – like most natives, Oregon Grape does not transplant easily from the wild state.
Mix in some native salal and sword fern and you’ll have a landscape that is not only easy to care for but easy for tree frogs, salamanders and other native critters to call home.
Anyone can plant pots of primroses and these please the pollinators
Don’t be a plant snob and walk right past those candy- colored primroses now blooming in 4-inch plastic pots at grocery stores and home centers.
The slugs may make lacework out of the leaves if you plant these in the ground but by adding a few blooming primrose to your empty pots and window boxes you’ll be attracting pollinators from the far reaches of the neighborhood – it is both the bright color and the light scent that creates the buzz around any primrose.
Life is too short to put up with empty or winter weary container gardens. Make this the week you pot up some blooming plants and save a pollinator.
Oh, and save the world as well.