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Changes can be made in your own back yard

Photographer and author Rhonda Fleming Hayes has this colorful bee photo on the cover of her book, "Pollinator Friendly Gardening."

“As gardeners, you can make up for some of the habitat loss,” Master Gardener Rhonda Fleming Hayes advised the audience.

     “There are changes you can make in your own backyard,” said the author of the recently-published “Pollinator Friendly Gardening.”

     “I’ve been gardening my entire life,” Hayes said of homes across the U.S. and in England for a time.

     Her maternal grandmother sparked the interest. “Plants were my source of joy, fulfilling a need to nurture. By 4, I spoke of eucalyptus, dichondra and phylodendron. I was a geek in the making…

     “But I hadn’t looked at bees before,” she admits, prior to an “aaah haaah moment” when she “decided to go forward to aid pollinators.”

     But in her quest for information on the “fuzzy, muscular, athletic, comical, downright futuristic, graceful and magical creatures” she found “confusion, misinformation and intimidation.”

     She pulled out her pen and camera and set off on a quest.

     “Are native plants the only way to support pollinators?”  Hayes asked.

     From trips to garden centers, she would discover honeybees are not a native species. “And bees are generalists. They don’t discriminate between native and non-native. There are lots of roses that bees love.”

     Hayes determined, “we need more flowers for pollinators.”

     “Eccentric?” Admittedly so.

     “Lawns are a vast wasteland for pollinators,” she maintains.

     “Gardening is about joy. Plant something rather than nothing. Evaluate your garden. Chances are you’re doing good things.”

     The horticulturalist advises looking at noticeable gaps between bloom times, and plant three bloomers per season (spring, summer fall) so the garden is always is a dazzler.

     “Bloom sequence is important,” she said, likening the garden to a grocery store that shuts down for a couple of weeks.

     “Evergreens have a place. They’re a shelter for bees.” One sits amid her flowers in the front yard.

     “Think about how a plant contributes before you write it off. There are opportunities all over the yard,” she counsels. “Consider flowering trees, shrubs, groundcover and vines for “structural diversity.”

     Think of a yard as potential habitat, she advises. Birds, frogs and toads arriving will offer “free and natural pest control.”

     Tomatoes provide insect pollination and high quality fruit.

     Plant an herb garden; harvest half and let the other half bloom. “You will be amazed at the bees and insects” patronizing the plot, she predicts.

     Violets, once considered less than elegant, are an important larval host plant.

     “Gardening is a great project for grandchildren,” she said of battling “nature deficit disorder.” Many kids today are able to identify only five local plants. She suggests planting zinnias, cosmos and nasturiums to tickle their fancy.

     “Talk to plants.

     “Play with bugs.

     “And grow the next pollinator-friendly garden,” Hayes advised her audience.

     Hayes’ pollinator-friendly plant suggestions are:

     Annuals: sunflower, zinnia, cosmos, Brazilian verbena and poppy;

     Perennials: aster, goldenrod, coneflower, Joe-Pye weed and salvia;

     Herbs: basil, thyme, anise hyssop, mint and borage;

     Larval hosts: milkweed, hollyhock, dill, willow and oak and

     “Weeds:” dandelions, henbit, creeping Charlie, clover and vetch.