We will offer a pollinator mix later this year that should work in a range of conditions: compacted urban soils, hot spots in parking lots or boulevards, droughty sites with sandy or very well-drained soils, and even average garden soils. The pictures seen here are arranged in the approximate order of bloom (not all are pictured).
A successful pollinator mix needs to provide flowering throughout the season. Pollinators attracted to this mix include moths and butterflies, bees, wasps, bugs, and even birds. I have seen orioles work over a row of shell-leaf penstemon seeking nectar.
Our mix will likely change from year to year depending on growing conditions at the farm. Think of it as wildflower terroir. We often talk about drought “years” but the growing season is really more complex than that. Fall rain is needed to jump start spring blooming flowers like shell-leaf penstemon. A dry spell may hamper flower development or quantity in sunflowers. Extreme heat might decrease seed quantity and quality as it ripens. Several days of rain can reduce the number of pollinators visiting a given flower. All of these variables will contribute to the relative abundance and diversity of flowering species in a given year.
Exemplifying the notion that every growing season will yield some variation in species and relative composition of the mix, the grasses we have this year are limited to little bluestem, sideoats grama, and big bluestem. In this case the weather isn’t to blame; we harvested a fair amount of grass seed last year but we need to overseed several areas and expand our production plots.
So, here it is. The base mix has 20+ species.
Western yarrow, Achillea millefolium
Shell-leaf penstemon, Penstemon grandiflorus
Slender beardtongue, Penstemon gracilis
Prairie larkspur, Delphinium virescens
Narrow-leaf coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia
Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta
Leadplant (prairie shoestrings), Amorpha canescens
Prairie clover, white & purple, Dalea candida, D. purpurea
Hairy goldenaster, Heterotheca villosa
Upright prairie coneflower, Ratibida columnifera
Yellow flax (annual/biennial), Linum sulcatum, L. rigidum
Evening primrose (annual/biennial), Oenothera biennis
Hoary vervain, Verbena stricta
Dotted blazing star, Liatris punctata
Roundhead bush clover, Lespedeza capitata
Prairie goldenrod, Solidago missouriensis
Showy goldenrod, Solidago speciosa
Stiff goldenrod, Solidago rigida
Sweet everlasting (annual/biennial), Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium
White sage, Artemisia ludoviciana (if I can remember where I stored the seed)
Heath aster, Aster ericoides
Up to 10 species can be added to the base mix depending on the buyer’s local planting conditions. The base mix should work on a wide variety of sites and features lower growing plants that should not flop or become leggy. The optional species are a different story. Some of them are too aggressive for a residential setting, or require special growing conditions, or may be out of scale with and overpower the surrounding landscape. Here are this year’s optional add-in species for upland to average sites:
Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca – notoriously aggressive but I’ve made good pickles from very young seed pods. All milkweeds are host plants for monarch caterpillars.
Thistle, Cirsium plattensis, C. flodmanii, C. altissimum depending on the site. Fear not the spine! These are some of the best plants for pollinators in our region.
Stiff sunflower, Helianthus pauciflorus – rambunctious plant, not for confined spaces
Narrow-leaf beardtongue, Penstemon angustifoli – best in very dry site and well-drained.
Prairie Rose, Rosa arkansana, definitely a rambler in the home landscape but few native forbs can beat its fall color and persistent winter fruit.
Compass plant, Silphium laciniatum, flower stalk bolts up to 7′ but the leaf rosette lingers around 2′
Prairie spiderwort, Tradescantia occidentalis, found in the sandhills
And for damp to flood-prone sites:
Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata
Sullivan’s milkweed, Asclepias sullivantii – not your average milkweed, this one is fairly finicky about soil and site. Reserved for relatively moist, undisturbed sites.
Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum
Great blue lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica
Golden glow, Rudbeckia laciniata – big plant, will probably lodge (lay down) in a residential setting
We plan to have demonstration sites around Lincoln and will evaluate how the base mix performs in various urban conditions. The mix is still being tested for purity and viability so it isn’t available yet but we should have it in time for spring planting.
What do you think? Post here or on our Facebook page!