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Gardener Gone Wild: My New Pollinator Garden

Thread Waisted Wasp on Variegated Joe Pye Weed.I have been eyeing the large untamed space beyond the arbor garden for years, thinking I may eventually get around to landscaping the area. In a moment of madness and inspired by an unusual cool summer day, I began the project about a month ago. Undaunted by the resumption of high temps and humidity, I purchased a few plants to inspire me. Variegated Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium fortune 'Pink Frost', was one of the first plants I bought for the new pollinator garden.

Then I began working like a wild woman. I sprayed glyphosate over the thick layer of vines and other weeds that covered the soil. When most of them were dead, I spread pine straw to define planting beds and winding paths. One entrance to the pollinator garden is through the arbor garden seen here in the background. That's another 'Pink Frost' Joe Pye Weed on the left.By night, I studied garden books, magazines and websites for guidance. By day, I dug and and planted. I was pleasantly surprised by the nice loamy soil that hid under the weeds. I remembered that over half a century ago, this was a working farm. Perhaps cattle roamed the area, or maybe vegetables grew here.

OK. I worked that out of me. I am not finished yet; I still have to mulch the paths and put in more plantings, especially those that bloom in spring and early summer. But I have accomplished enough that you can get an idea of what it will look like - if you have an imagination! I am calling this my pollinator garden, because many of the plants are friendly to butterflies and bees.Little Sulfur butterfly on a perennial lantana.

This bumble bee has pollen baskets tightly packed with pollen it has gathered from Giant Ironweed, Veronia gigantea.

I am limited somewhat, because trees that surround the area prevent plants from receiving full sun. Most plants I am using will do well in sun to partial shade. Sometimes plants that need full sun farther north will grow and bloom here with some shade because of our intense summer heat.

The place is in the "little dot" stage now. I am drawn to plants that have the word "weed" or "wild" attached to their common names: Joe Pye Weed, Iron Weed, Wild Ageratum. I hope they are tough and that they will fill out and spread like their names suggest! 

Here are some more images taken in my new pollinator garden. The paths will be better defined when I add mulch, which will also help suppress weeds.

Some flowers in the pollinator garden that are currently blooming, clockwise from top left: Iron Weed; Solidago 'Sweety', a dwarf goldenrod; Salvia 'Black and Blue'; Sedum 'Autumn Joy.'

Other plants, not previously mentioned in this post, in the pollinator garden:




Cranesbill (perennial geranium)




Pink Muhly Grass


Purple Oxalis


Creeping Fig, as a ground cover along one side of the pollinator garden

Lorepetalum 'Emerald Snow', a semi-dwarf with white blooms, planted on back edge for structure

Spirea 'Candy Corn', noted for its colorful foliage as well as spring blooms, also on back edge for structure

That's it for now, but much more to come! I am excited that some things are already blooming, but the real test will be how things look in year three. Always hopeful!    Deb



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Reader Comments (12)

How exciting, Deb! I can see why you want to make use of some of that space and I'm impressed by the progress you've already made. I've found that many plants advertised as suited to full sun prefer partial shade here as well. I have dreams of taming my back slope one day as there's a lot of space down there but I made little progress once summer's heat set in here and, when we were hit by what I called our "nuclear" heatwave in early July, almost everything down there was damaged so badly I haven't even had the stomach to look at it lately. It doesn't help that it's out of sight and therefore easier to ignore...

September 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

Looking very good so far and I'm sure all your pollinators will appreciate all your hard work!

September 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPauline

I can't wait to watch this come together! What a lovely addition to your gardens!

September 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChristi {Jealous Hands}

You are off to a great start! Can't wait to see how things fill in over time and what pollinators end up visiting your new space.

September 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I am so happy about your pollinator garden. Don't forget some milkweed. There are many varieties. The butterflies have really given my Pentas a work over this past month.

September 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLinda @ Southern Rural Route

Oh, it looks great! And your visitors are showing their appreciation! I love Lantana, and I grow it every year now. :)

September 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBeth @ PlantPostings

I'm going to have to make a trip for this one Deb!!!!

September 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEve

It is always so exciting to start an new area in a garden. This post was a surprise as I thought you had decided on many trees and shrubs (which are all stunningly beautiful in your garden. A pollinator garden is the perfect addition. I look forward to many more posts about it.

September 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

What kind of Campanula are you growing? Is it American Bellflower (a biennial)?

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Your ironweed looks awesome. Great pollinator pics :)

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

Wow these garden images are too cool especially the flowers implement on this garden looks elegant & classy. I hope to grow the same in my home garden. Some more gardening guide here @ fencestore discount code.

September 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterShane Radcliffe

Hello everyone, thank you all for your comments! Jason, I am growing two types of Serbian Bellflower, which are perennial: Campanula poscharskyana (blue) and Campanula poscharskyana 'Ryan Gainey' (pink). they are new to me; I will have to see how they do, but so far they are growing and looking great. They should bloom in April to May.
Best wishes! Deb

September 28, 2018 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

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