By Mary Peryea
Last fall I moved from an apartment in Tupper Lake, surrounded by flower beds that I had planted over several years, to a home in Saratoga Springs that was devoid of a garden. I was determined to remedy that situation, so I transplanted some of my perennials to my new home. I brought Asiatic lilies, lupines, coneflowers, poppies and more. My husband dug some beds and I got everything transplanted by November 1.
Spring arrived. I was happy to see that most of my transplants had survived the winter, thankfully an unusually mild one. I wanted to make my flower beds pollinator-friendly, so started to research what I needed to do on the internet. I was happy to see that some of the plants I’d brought were just right, but knew I had more planning to do.
Enter the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, with a plethora of experts on both flower and vegetable gardening. The vendors were more than happy to share their knowledge with a newbie like me. All of the vendors I spoke with emphasized the same thing: Native plants, which are well-adapted to local soils and climates, are the best sources for nectar and pollen for native pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds.
Pollinators help maintain healthy plant communities that provide food that sustains wildlife, and they play an essential role in crop production. The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that one of every three bites of food Americans consume comes from a plant visited by bees or other pollinators. Sadly, however, pollinators are threatened by habitat loss, disease and excessive use of pesticides.
I added more of the types of perennials that can be found at Dawn Foglia’s Wild Things Rescue Nursery stall such as rudbeckia, liatris, spiderwort and asters to my garden. I left some milkweed that had sprung up in the back yard. I chose annuals that are readily available from such vendors as the Balet Flowers & Design and the Burger Farm that attract pollinators such as zinnias and cosmos. And despite an attack by the red lily beetle, I avoided using any pesticide. Instead, I picked the pests and their larvae off by hand. I put up a hummingbird feeder as well.
So how did I do? Well, my flowerbed was beautiful and colorful. But I saw not a single bee, butterfly or hummingbird. What did I do wrong? I don’t know, but I’ll have plenty of time to ponder that and research this winter. I want to add more flowers, but I’ve read that modern hybrids, especially those with “doubled” flowers, do not attract pollinators. So much for the gorgeous daylilies I’ve been eying.
Now if I could only figure out how to outwit that groundhog that’s been eating my flower buds…
Visit the Saratoga Farmers’ Market 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through the end of October at High Rock Park.