Last month, I shared my process for designing a simple pollinator garden in my yard using native plants. In this post, I describe selecting and installing the 50+ plants in the new garden.
The criteria I used to choose the plants included:
- Attractive to native pollinators
- Tolerant of clay soil
- Thrive in hot, dry, southern exposure
- Provide waves of color from spring to fall
- Minimally aggressive
- Varying height and width
From a design perspective, I wanted taller plants at the back near the house with shorter plants toward the front of the bed. I focused on perennials and grasses. Color is important to me; so despite online design advice to create large swaths of a few colors, I decided on a mixed rainbow effect using 3-5 plants each of about 12 species. I used several websites for plant information – CoNPS, CSU Extension, and City of Boulder primarily. Two of these sites also had a list of native plant retailers.
With my criteria and the garden dimensions (41’ x 13’), I created a plant spreadsheet and used it as my buying guide. I ordered most of the plants online from garden centers during the shelter-in-place order and picked them up curbside the following month. Also, I verified with the garden centers that the plants had been grown without the use of neonicotinoids.
Here are species I bought and their color families.
Yellows: Berlandiera lyrata, Zinnia grandiflora, Rudbeckia hirta, Solidago rigida
Reds: Salvia gregii, Callirhoe involucrata, Mirabilis multiflora, Penstemon pseudospectabilis, Agastache rupestris, Ratibida columnifera
Blues: Linum lewisii, Liatris punctata, Machaeranthea tanacetifolia
The two grasses, Bouteloua gracilis and Schizachyrium scoparium, added green/yellow and blue/green to the palette.
To be honest, not all the plants were strictly Colorado natives. For example, I included a couple of Hesperaloe parvifloras which could be considered regional natives. I like the texture they add; and hummingbirds love the red flowers.
Before putting in the plants, my husband and I removed the arborvitae, existing foundation shrubs, dug out turf, edged the bed and placed stepping stones.
Since native plants here generally don’t do well in rich soil, I didn’t amend the soil other than to mix a small amount of expanded shale with the planting dirt. And that was only for a couple of species like Hesperaloe that prefer somewhat rocky soil or good drainage. I mulched with 3” of pea gravel and lined the bed with river rock.
From June to mid-July, I hand watered the plants almost daily. Many have grown by at least a third, and some have doubled in size. I’ve now cut back the watering to twice a week and will gradually decrease it heading into autumn. By next year, they shouldn’t need any additional water except during a drought period.
A couple of lessons I learned: 1) design-wise, a garden needs height and visual weight, so I’m adding a native deciduous shrub; and 2) be careful of irrigation overspray when turf adjoins a garden of native plants that like dry conditions.
I’m happy with my new pollinator garden. Already, several neighbors have complimented it. And unless it’s wishful thinking, I’m seeing tiny bees which I’m guessing are native. So on to the next adventure – identifying native insects!
Ann Winslow, Master Gardener volunteer since 2019