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Shopping for Pollinators and Other Critters to Observe


Yesterday was the Greenbelt Garden Tour that I’d worked for weeks to organize.  About a week ago I remembered that I needed to get my own garden ready for the tour, too, so the weeding and mulching began and finally the day came and by last night I was really tired, but thrilled at the result – over 100 tour-goers, and 14 other gardeners who’d enjoyed sharing their gardens all afternoon with eager visitors.  The visitors came with notebooks to jot down their plant and design ideas, and some even asked about real estate here in Old Greenbelt.  (And by the way, I’m REALLY glad I moved here.  Ask me about it any time.)

But about shopping.  Today to reward myself for putting on the tour I shopped for plants to help me turn this small but sunny-enough front garden into a haven for hummingbirds, butterflies and all manner of pollinators, with the help of the very knowledgeable Karen in the Perennials Department at Behnkes’ Beltsville location.  When you watch perennials all day long you KNOW what plants attract what – if you notice.  And Karen does.  She’s the one who discovered the ducks nest there in the grasses early this season.

The cart above holds these sure-fire pollinator-attractors:  Nepeta ‘Junior Walker,’ Agastache ‘Purple Haze,’ Calamint ‘Blue Cloud,’ Coreopsis ‘Gold Nugget,’ Monarda ‘Coral Reef,’ Lobelia cardinalis and lobelia vedrariensis (with purple flowers) and one Mountain Mint, which Karen says wins the prize for attracting a greater diversity of pollinators than any other plant on the lot.

Yes, I’ve been warned that Mountain Mint is a vigorous spreader by runner, and my garden is tiny, so I’ll be planting it in a pot.  I’ll also hack it back once or twice before the end of June to keep it from getting too tall (the mint is the tallest plant on the cart in the photo above).

My front garden on tour day.

Today’s purchases will join these other plants that have been attracting critters I like to watch from my little patio all season long:  Anise Hyssop, Black-eyed Susans, Goldenrod, dill and annual Salvias that I fill in with, as needed.  The plants I’m removing from the garden to make room for all these new ones are the roses and an old mophead hydrangea that was existing somewhere else on the property, none of which really fit in with my vision for the garden, which is to have lots of wildlife to enjoy watching.  This is no eco-campaign to save wildlife; just pure selfishness on my part.  I want my hummingbirds and as many gentle, interesting bugs as I can possibly attract.  With my plants, I mean.

Posted by Susan Harris.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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