Win-win pollinator gardens

By Cassia Read.

How do you make an inviting home garden that supports a diversity of native wildlife? I’ve settled on one stand-out element to achieve this multi-use purpose: a garden for native pollinators.

Flower gardens for pollinators are ‘win-win’; they bring beauty to your garden and they attract a busy community of pollinating insects. As you can see from the illustration below, many pollinator insects in turn feed frogs, predatory insects, birds and lizards.

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Food web observed in my garden, showing who eats who by illustrating the flow of energy (arrows) up the garden food chain (illustration: C. Read).

Another garden win is many plants favoured by your local pollinators are adapted to local rainfall patterns, so your flower garden will be low water-use.

Pollinators such as butterflies, beetles, hover flies, tiny wasps and native bees all visit flowers for a food supply of nectar and pollen. If you keep their needs in mind, your garden will hum with life and colour. Here are some guiding principles for creating your own win-win flower garden.

Love your locals

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Basalt Daisies (Brachyscome basaltica) are a long-flowering, local favourite of native bees (photo: C.Read

 

Local bushland flowers are guaranteed to provide food and shelter for local pollinators. They are also adapted to local rainfall patterns, so they don’t require much watering. Favourites in my Castlemaine garden are Drumstick Daisies, Yellow Sunray’s and Common and Sticky Everlastings. Their golden blooms last through Spring and into Summer.  Native Bluebells and Basalt Daisies are generous and long flowering and they quickly fill gaps with their creeping habit.

Use old-fashioned favourites

If you sigh for old fashioned cottage flowers, go ahead and plant them. Many native

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A tiny native wasp, feeding on parsley flowers in my garden (photo: C.Read)

pollinators are generalist feeders and will feed on exotic plants too. Just be mindful that new cultivars and hybrids have been bred for show and may not produce pollen or nectar. Old-fashioned varieties will keep your plantings pollinator friendly. Flowers favoured by pollinators include those in the daisy family (Asteraceae), the carrot and parsley family (Apiaceae) and the sage, lavender, mint and rosemary family (Lamiaceae).

Variety is the spice

Mass plant a limited range of species and your garden may be striking and orderly, but it will provide little cheer for people or pollinators. Diversify your plantings. Plan for flowering over many months of the year with a variety of early-, mid- and late-season flowers, and you will thank yourself. The pollinators will too.

Feed the young ones

Many insect larvae, such as caterpillars, feed on native grasses.  Planting a swathe of perennial grass tussocks will ensure the next generation of pollinators can emerge. You will create a visual harmony in your flower garden by planting a matrix of grasses with flowers scattered throughout. Native perennial grasses have deep roots, making them drought tolerant.

Insect larvae also live and feed amongst leaf litter. There will be no handsome Spotted Flower Chafer beetles in your blossoms without litter for their larvae to feed on. That said, do leave some bare earth in quiet corners of your garden. Many solitary native bees and wasps nest in holes in the ground.

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A Blue Banded Bee visiting Germander Sage (Salvia chamaedryoides). These solitary bees nest in burrows in the ground (photo: C.Read)

 


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