Bring Back the Pollinators

Posted by on Jan 25, 2015 in Frugal For Everyone, Gardening, Green Living, Health, Herbs | 64 comments

Bring back the pollinators

wm.dam seeds # 555 Phacelia

Winter has settled in, making this a perfect time to browse through seed catalogs to dream and plan the Spring garden. While browsing through the William Dam catalog I came across some important information that I want to share. The following is taken straight from that catalog:

 “The Humble Bee.                               Such a small creature in this vast world, but such an important part of our lives. In the last year every paper, blog, and social media site has made comments on the humble bee. From our local 4H clubs to our churches, even to the great office of the White House, people are waking up to how we impact creation. As a seed company the bee is vital to our survival: without some form of pollination there would be no seed, and natural pollinators always work best.

There is great debate into what has caused the decrease in the bees and other pollinators. While seed treatments have taken a lot of the blame for bee population decline, ecologists all agree it is a combination of causes. So what can we do as growers and gardeners? University studies have shown that increasing habitat and providing a wide range of flower pollen and food will make for healthier bees. Healthier bees will be able to withstand virus, predators, and chemical contamination. We believe increasing diversity of habitat is very important to the bees – growing food and providing pollen plants is at the top of the list.

This summer we dedicated half of our flower trials to studying which flowers and plants benefit bees and other pollinators. It was amazing to see the results, and actively feeding bees did not sting us. A simple thing like allowing broccoli to flower gave the bees a month of food.

As stewards of this Creation we live in, simple things can make a difference. Grow a flower, save the bees.”

For the first time ever, they have devoted two pages in their catalog to plants that benefit pollinators. This really helps in choosing the right plants. We have a quarter acre of wasteland that needs to be planted which we will now do by spreading their Bee Feed Mix. Our yard has been a bird and butterfly friendly habitat for years – to attract even more varieties we’ll also spread their Bird and Butterfly Mix. Their Beneficial Insect Mix and Northeast American Wildflower Mix are two mixes that will have to wait till next year. Won’t the flowers in the picture below pretty up an area that is now waste land?


wm. dam seeds #2297 Bee Feed Mix

There are a number of individual plants which can be tucked into any flower bed, vegetable/herb garden or even window boxes. Besides attracting pollinators, any of these will add beauty to the yard. They include:

  • Achillea, Agastache, Alyssum, Asclepias, Aster, Basils, Borage, Buddleja, Catnip, Centaura, Clover, Coreopsis, Dill, Dracocephaleum, Echinacea, Flax, Gaillardia, Gaura, Helianthus-garden types, Helenium, Heliotrope, Latavera, Lavender, Malope, Marigolds, Monarda, Mustards, Oregano, Orlaya, Parsley, Phacelia, Prickly Poppy, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Thyme, Tithonia, Tomato, Verbena, Zinnias.

A few other facts  about pollinators:

  • Monarch Caterpillars eat only Asclepias (Milkweed) during their life, however, the adult butterflies have a more varied diet that includes: Aster, Buddleja, Echinacea, Verbena and Zinnia;
  • Butterflies like flowers that give them a platform to hold onto while they sip the nectar, so include flowers like Achillea, Rudbeckia, Tithonia, and Zinnias;
  • Bees love broccoli. Leave some of your broccoli, arugula and other mustards to bolt to provide a month of food for bees.
    bring back the pollinators

    wm. dam seeds #2200 Zinnia

Since herbs play a large role in my own gardening efforts it was good to read that many of them attract pollinators. Milkweed and mustard is already growing wild on our conservation land. We had planned to enlarge our lavender gardens; it will be a small matter to add a few pretty herbs, like borage, around the edge. Broccoli and arugula will definitely have a spot in the garden this year, if only to allow them to bolt.

The decline in pollinators is a serious global problem and can lead to food shortages everywhere. Why not create your own pollinator attracting garden? If we can become part of the solution while making our yards beautiful, doesn’t that sound like a win-win situation?

We can help stop the decline of these valuable pollinators.

Talk to you again next week,


Bring back the pollinators

wm. dam seeds # 2561 Lance Leaf Coreopsis

Please share with all your gardening friends and help stop the decline.

The bee and butterfly thank you.

All images courtesy of Wm. Dam Seeds

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with William Dam Seeds other than as a customer. I will receive no compensation of any kind for this article.




  1. Agree with you that we need to bring back the pollinators, Lenie. Good suggestion of how to contribute to doing so.

    • Catarina, it seems to me that the solution is pretty simple – make your yard beautiful, just use the right plants.

  2. Lenie I like your solutions to saving the bee pollinators. I already have butterfly bushes and when spring comes and they start swarming, guess who visits it at the same time – bees! I think I can also try either one other of your flower suggestions, or I like that broccoli idea too! Thanks.

    • Hi Patricia – last year we didn’t really notice the decline of the bees so much as we did the decline of the butterflies. We used to almost have to duck to avoid them, last year I think we may have seen half a dozen, We’ve got a fair bit of acreage so I’ll be doing whatever I can – including the broccoli.

  3. Coming from a nation of avid gardeners it is a sign of good health when the bees start residing in your backyard. Spread the word, spread the pollen Lenie 🙂

    • I totally agree Tim, hence this post. When I read that article I felt I had to share it. If the bees die out, so would much else in Nature, not something we want to think about.

  4. Lenie, for the first time in my life, I planted milkweed (in the fall), courtesy of two bloggers who write about pollinators. I will continue to plant flowers that you mention, such as alyssum, aster, marigold and zinnia.

    • Leora, I am so glad that others are spreading the word and people like you are paying attention. Can you imagine what life would be like without the pollinators – pretty scary stuff. You wouldn’t know the other bloggers who wrote about it? I would love to connect with them.

  5. Ahh Lenie… those much maligned pollinators. Love them (and in near 7 decades, never been stung yet – is there some relationship here?). A huge swarm has lived in the chimney of one of our old farmhouse’s closed off fireplaces for maybe 14 years. It’s not far from my clothesline, and I’ve always talked to them when I’m out there, and told them gently to ‘tick off’ when they zzz around near me, but never flap my arms or try to harm them. I swear they know it and have taught all their offspring there’s a safe haven atop our roof.
    Sounds like love is a large component in your beautiful flowery garden also… maybe the secret ingredient in your Bee Feed Mix?

    • Christine – I really like your last sentence – we never think about love being a component but now that you mention it, don’t we really find love and contentment when we are working or just walking through our gardens. I know that i’ve never been stung by a bee – a yellow jacket yet but a bee never. And I sure miss my butterflies.

  6. I have been aware of the problem but hadn’t heard of any solutions. I am so glad to hear that we all can help! It’s a struggle to grow things where I live in mountainous Arizona, especially since we have lots of deer and javalina roaming our lot, eating most of our plants. Fortunately, they don’t like herbs and we love to have lots of them.

    • Hi Beth – I guess we were all kind of in the same boat. Until I read that article I rather believed that the answer lay with scientists and breeders – i didn’t realize that we could aggressively tackle the problem in our own yards – i kind of like that idea. A little bit like controlling our own destiny. Good luck with your gardens – I love herbs too and you’re right, most animals don’t.

  7. Hi Lenie, I agree, it is important that a we do anything we can with our gardens to help with the bee population. I do have lots of different plants in my gardens that I know they love, lavender in particular they seem to really enjoy. Didn’t know about broccoli though. I’ll have to give that a try. 🙂

    • Susan, we have been growing plants that we knew pollinators, especially butterflies would like but it was more for our own enjoyment – we love seeing them around. But not leaving the solution to others but taking an active role is a pretty good feeling. I do like the broccoli – I’ll be growing that for sure.

  8. I’ve just downsized from a home with large garden areas (that I created) to one with only a couple of beds bordering the house, mostly already filled with perennials. I will be adding a few annuals however and will remember the pollinators you’ve listed. By the way, the beginning of your post reminded me how the spring seed catalogs always seemed to arrive on the coldest day in winter.

    • Hi Donna – Isn’t it nice when the seed catalogs come just as the right time. I love sitting back, looking through them and dreaming away. Mostly my dreams are greater than my energy but that’s all right. We do what we can. Enjoy your snowbirding.

  9. Lenie, I’m inspired by this post to once again attempt to grow anything besides rocks this spring.

    • Hi Kire – hope you do. The pollinators need all the help they can get. If you can’t grow directly in the ground, you might want to try some container plants.

  10. I have been aware of this problem for some time…but this is great information in terms of a real solution. I live in a condo building and I will bring this to the attention of the gardening committee! They do planting every year for aesthetics…time to contribute to greater cause too:) Thanks Lenie! Terrific post!

    • Hi Jacquie – I knew you lived in a condo but didn’t know you had a gardening committee. Are you involved with the gardening at all, the farm girl at heart that you are. There are many pollinator plants that work well with aesthetics – great to combine the two.

      • I am a renter….LOL we have no role and very little voice. But I will still mention this to them. I think it’s brilliant AND so easy to do

  11. I think it is necessary for our lives to help pollinators grow. My brother is always into vegetation and gardening. He has large land around his house. I will send him list of plants from this post to grow and help bees and butterflies. First time I came to know that Bees love broccoli.

    Thank you for an important and informative post Lenie.

    • Hi Andleeb, I hope your brother can make some use of the list. Wasn’t that interesting about the broccoli – I didn’t know that either until I read the article. I am glad that we can actually do something to help the pollinators.

  12. Bees love broccoli? Who knew? This is an interesting and informative post. It is something of a challenge to get people to see it as a good thing when they see bees in their yard or garden.

    • Actually if people would stop being scared of bees, they could work right next to them and never get stung. I’ve done that often without a problem. As to the broccoli, I think that’s really neat. Can’t wait to try it.

  13. Hi Lenie. Great share! This is interesting timing as I have been thinking of starting a small garden on my balcony. This definitely provides something to think about.

    For quite a few years my husband’s job was as an animal educator (educating humans about animals) and he talked a lot about the inter-dependence in the ecosystem of different species and also about rare or endangered species. It is amazing to think that what can seem like a simple change can have a disastrous trickle affect and how we have to start paying attention to what will benefit the long term health of the planet.

    • Erica, you are so right. We are all so interdependent and we have also been so careless with out planet. I am glad that we are finally waking up to the fact that it can’t continue. We’ve started with recycling, then composting and if we can now bring back the pollinators we are at least trying to make amends. Let’s just hope it’s not to little to late.

  14. Living in the desert southwest, we care about two things in gardening: water and pollinators. Fortunately most plants that take less water are also good for bees and butterflies. We have so many bees that I’ve thought about becoming a beekeeper, but I’m too much of a wimp…

    • Keep those bees happy Meredith. How about butterflies – have you seen as many of them as in the past. Those are the ones that are really missed around here.

  15. Hi Lenin. Thanks for sharing the fact that bees love broccoli and more. As a keen gardener, I’mean now equipped with some great tips!

    • Bola, thank you so much for this comment. I loved learning about the broccoli thing too. That is so simple and can do so much. I’m going to buy a package of broccoli seed and start my own. We live on ten acres so would certainly have the room to plant a dozen or more. It will be fun to watch.

  16. I have read about this problem and you’ve provided some very helpful suggestions and information. I live at the top of a hill and while I really don’t have a yard to speak of I do have a nice big wrap around deck. I’ve tried to grow flowers in pots but I have yet to find a plant that can withstand the brisk trade winds (which thankfully keep our Island from turning into one big sauna!) and the salt air because I live close to the ocean. But I’m nothing if not determined so I’ve copied the list of plants you provided and you’ve inspired me to give it another try.

    • Marquita – If you’ve copied the list, try and google some to see which ones stand up best in the environment you’ve described – winds and salt air. For the wind, I would think low-growing ones – how about checking out some of the thymes: lemon, lime, orange balsam, lavender, nutmeg, rose petal, and more varieties. As for the salt air I’ve heard that Rosemary and Rosa Rugosa (a wild type of rose) will grow well under those conditions. Not being near salt water, I don’t know that first hand but it’s worth a shot. BTW, all of those attract pollinators, which is the whole idea, right?

  17. Lenie, perfect spring information as Pittsburgh gets a pounding of snow! We have an abundance of bumble bees, which I have madly loved since childhood. This information will help me plant even more flowers to bring the little buzzers around. Thanks. Hm…I think I’ll share this on Facebook! My Montanan and Canadian friends need to look forward to spring, too!

    • Rose, I know all about snow – I live in Ontario just off Lake Huron so we get the lake enhanced snow. It is nice then to think about Spring and what you’re going to be doing in the garden. Don’t you just love going through those catalogs with all those gorgeous plants – flowers, herbs and vegetables? Thanks for the share on Facebook – appreciate it.

      • I love sharing good stuff, Lenie! (I used to travel to Guelph for work. Loved it in the spring and summer!)

        • Thanks Rose – driving to Guelph, I’ll bet it wasn’t much fun in the winter. I used to drive everywhere in the winter – now that I’m retired I just sit the winter out dreaming about our Spring gardening.

  18. I work in a different city and drive back home on the weekends. I miss being able to keep my garden up as I should. My mom took great pride in this garden. I think this spring I might plant some of the flowers you suggested. I miss the life, such as bees, hummingbirds, butterflies that a good garden brings to your yard.

    • William, I’m with you. There seems to be something so calming seeing the bees, butterflies, hummingbirds flying and buzzing around. My husband feeds the birds all winter and it is so nice to spot a cardinal or woodpecker. Really brightens up your day. I wish you success with the garden.

  19. Hi Lenie

    Interesting read about pollinators. It shows that we still need nature. We need to save the bees. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Ikechi – if the bees go, we are in big trouble. We need to do whatever we can to make sure that doesn’t happen.

  20. I totally plan on planting some bee friendly plants this summer, love the flower pictures above! Sometimes, it’s hard to remember the impact on all of us of even the smallest things.

    • Hi Steve – over the past number of years we have done so much damage to the environment that we are killing off the very things we need to sustain us. Sad, but true. But if by planting a few flowers or herbs can turn things around I believe we must give it a shot. Glad you’re on board with that.

  21. I attended a conference recently where the issue of declining pollinators was discussed in depth. It is a real issue and I feel most people do not comprehend what will happen if we lose our pollinators. There are already countries where hand pollinating is being done as a result of losing those precious pollinators. Think food supply and what happens to it if we lose the pollinators. Good discussion!

    • Hi Cheryl – thanks for this information. It really is urgent that we get the word out, isn’t it. I may do some more research into it and do another post on it later. We have large apple orchards around here – can you imagine the price of apples if they have to include the cost of hand-pollinating in their product price. And of course, it wouldn’t be nearly as efficient. We are really starting to pay for our carelessness, aren’t we?

  22. When it is time to get back into the yard I will make sure we add some pollinator. I will give this to hubby for his to-do list!

    • Hi Alice – I’m glad. Did you read Cheryl Therrien’s comment how in some countries people are already having to do hand pollinating. So I’m glad you’re giving this to your hubby (they are rather useful to have around, aren’t they). This is so important.

  23. I had no idea that bees love broccoli! I learn something from you all the time, Lenie!

    • Lorraine, that works out well because I learn from you all the time too. Isn’t sharing fun? And be sure to plant lots of broccoli.

  24. Lenie — I’ve read a lot about this problem, too. Isn’t nature amazing that a simple little bee can be so important to our survival. I live in NYC and thanks to Bette Midler for starting the New York Restoration Project that has renovated gardens and parks throughout the city. Their current goal is to plant 1 million trees by 2015 through public and corporate donations. They have planted 943,205 trees to date that help to reduce carbon in the air and capture water. It shows what one person (albeit a celebrity) can accomplish.

    • Jeannette, Not only do trees help reduce carbon and capture water, they also have a positive impact on people’s physical and mental health. Haven’t they added a lot of beauty to the city? This alone makes people feel better. So hats off to Bette Midler and to NYC managers for carrying on with the idea. With that kind of thinking, you will have more parks with more flower beds which bring in the pollinators. Everyone wins.

  25. Bzzzzz…bzzzzzzz…bzzzz…

    Perhaps you should market yourself as a Pollination Event Coordinator, Lenie.

    • Hi Andy – this is one of the times I wish I was younger and able to play a larger role in helping to stop the decline. Since that’s not the case, I will do what I can through my blog and my gardens. Gotta keep the little beggars buzzin.

  26. Hello Lenie,
    I don’t know much about this topic but I loved the broccoli fact, nice to read about something I have no knowledge on but it was nice to learn.
    Thank you.

    Love, Husnaa x

    • Hi Husnaa – Here’s a very quick lesson on why we need bees and butterflies, the pollinators. They pollinate the plants that produce all food. Without them you need to hand pollinate which means taking a small brush and taking it from flower to flower to spread the pollen. This is not only time consuming but very ineffective. There are all kinds of reasons for their decline but this can be stopped by people taking whatever action they can.

  27. I don’t have a garden but I’m in agreement with everyone else here. The bee pollinators must be brought back.

    • Jason, you don’t need a garden to spread the word. You’re right, if we don’t stop the decline, we are in BIG trouble.

  28. What a wonderful article, Lenie! Practical, nutritious and beautiful are your wise suggestions. Are bees fond of dandelions and other of Nature’s “free” flowers, called “weeds” by humans? (I like dandelions.)

    I live in an area of Victoria with a big deer population. They will eat just about every kind of vegetable and flower. They generally won’t touch helleborus, heather or rhododendrons, hence plenty of those in our neighbourhood. Deer will not, however, climb steps to our deck. You’ve encouraged me to plant flowers in pots to accompany our tomatoes in pots. Thank you. 🙂

    • Hi Ramona – bees do like dandelions and they are an excellent source of nectar before other flowers appear. So enjoy your dandelions and know you are contributing to the return of the pollinators. Actually bees like all kinds of weeds – they are more natural and provide more pollen than many of the ‘garden’ flowers.
      As for the deer – they are a beautiful problem, aren’t they? We live in the middle of a conservation area with plenty of deer. One early morning last summer I was tending to my gardens and looked up to watch a doe watching me – it was a delightful moment, even though as a gardener I’m not supposed to like them. But secretly I do.

  29. Wow Interesting read about pollinators. We need to save these Bees. Didn’t know bees love broccolis. You learn every day! Thanks for sharing Lenie x


  30. Lenie, I am so fortunate here in North Dakota. I have just about everything in my vegetable and flower gardens and the bees abound… all types. We have many honey bee aviaries here in the state, and that may explain it… but my favorites are the HUGE bumble bees which appear in late summer. Their bodies are about as fat as grapes and the fuzzy stripes are beautiful. I plant echinacia, zinnia, milk weed and a host of other flowers… It is lovely and I am never afraid and have never been stung. Jill

    • Hi Jill, how lovely to hear from you. I love those big bumble bees too and we have to do everything we can to keep them coming back. It sure sounds like you already have a great headstart on a pollinator attracting garden. I would really enjoy if you would keep in touch and let me know how your garden is doing. I would think your zone would be about the same as ours 5a to 5b. Thanks so much for commenting.

  31. Actually, Lenie, I am in zone 4!!!!!

    • Oh wow, how do you manage – that is one short season.