Building a Pollinator Garden

Bee on Coneflower

The Frankie Flowers Inc. offices are located in a beautiful historic house situated in the middle of a forest. We love it here! The building is also home to the Windfall Ecology Centre, an environmental-based non-profit group.  A large pile of mulch was donated last year for Windfall's demonstration rain garden. The leftovers sat for a while, killing all the grass underneath. They were not sure what do with the space once the mulch pile was moved. Being next to their rain garden, they needed something to compliment it that also provided benefits to the environment. Seeing the potential to build a pollinator garden, Team Frankie got to work to help design and install the new garden. The garden was in full sun, in growing zone 5b, but it posed a few challenges for us to design. The Challenges:

  • Sandy soil, with low organic matter, meaning limited nutrients and water available for the plants.
  • Small space and budget (10ft by 5ft wide, $500 budget).
  • Deer and rabbits are abundant and like to eat our plants.
  • Had to be drought tolerant, low maintenance.
  • Required three seasons of interest, minimum.
  • All plants had to be non-invasive and well-behaved perennials.
  • Plants for the pollinator garden needed to include native plants as well as pollinator plants for the both the bees and butterflies.

With these challenges in mind, we set out to build the perfect plant list and design. Here's what we chose and why:

Pollinator Garden Plant List:

Common/Sea Thrift  - Armeria maritime- A nice border plant for the front edge. Drought tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant. Blooms Mid spring to summer. Added bonus: Its salt tolerant.

Butterfly Milkweed  Asclepias tuberosa An awesome native plant that loves well drained soil, blooms late summer with brilliant orange flowers and it is the host plant for the Monarch Butterfly. Drought tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant.

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Foxglove “Husker Red” Penstemon digitalis - A cultivar of a native plant that bees love. The red foliage adds extra colour to the garden when the flowers aren't in bloom.  Drought tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant. Blooms late spring to mid summer/early fall.

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Bluebeard  Caryopteris x cladonensis- A small shrub (up to 35 inches) that blooms with pretty blue flowers in the late summer, early fall. We had barely got this one out of the car and bumble bees were at it. Drought tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant.

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Catmint Walkers Lo Nepeta racemosa- Some mints can be invasive and unruly in the garden, but this one is much better behaved. It blooms from May through to late fall without any deadheading needed! Very drought tolerant and the bees and other pollinators are all over it, from spring through to late fall. Deer and rabbit resistant.

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Sedum “Autumn Joy” Sedum sp. - Our fall and winter interest feature plant. An easy plant that will love the well drained soil, helping it from getting too floppy as it would in heavier soils with too much water. The flat topped flowers are used by butterflies and bees. Drought tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant. Blooms late summer/early fall.

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Cranesbill geranium Geranium sp. -  This hardy geranium really works for you in the garden! A mounded plant  with a long bloom period of late spring to fall. Drought tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant .

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Giant Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis-   A native plant that blooms later in the summer and the bees LOVE it  , as do the butterflies. Easy to care for and adds a bit of height to the garden (up to 3ft). The seeds provide a winter food source or birds. Drought tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant.

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The unplanned addition...

Crocosmia "Lucifer" Crocosmia sp. - This is a perennial bulb with beautiful bright red summer flowers that bring all the hummingbirds to the garden. This one is a risky one as they don't always overwinter well, but we love this plant so much we just had to try! It also adds a bit of height to the garden, about 2 feet. Water efficient more than drought tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant.

 The Before...

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The After....

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Check out the buzz at the gardens - Proof pollinator gardens work!

The design:

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