Native pollinators are having a hard time of it these days. A lot of citizens are looking for things to do that will help them out. Essentially, these allies of ours need sources of food and nesting habitat, two elements that we can easily provide them with at home. The Insectarium’s Pollinator Garden, recently inaugurated, provides a space for discoveries and for experimentation, as much for the institution’s staff as for visitors, and is aimed at outfitting citizens in their own approach to helping pollinators.
The Pollinator Garden, a space for discoveries
Since its inauguration, the Pollinator Garden, designed by landscape architects from atelier le balto, has contained more than 75 plant species, for the most part nectar-producing, including annuals, perennials, shrubs and bulbs. The Garden was designed in such a way as to supply sources of nectar throughout the season, as well as host plants sought by butterflies. This diversified arrangement, at the heart of one of the city’s most important green spaces, will provide an opportunity to document the use of these resources by a host of pollinator species. But how can we maximize pollinator diversity in our own gardens?
Different strategies for ensuring pollination
Evolutionary processes result in different strategies being used by plants to ensure their pollination. The community of pollinators associated with a plant species varies according to a number of the flower’s characteristics, and of course its flowering period. A flower with a short corolla (like Achillea, Centranthus or Coreopsis) will be visited by a large number of pollinator species, because the nectar is readily accessible. Whereas a flower with a long corolla or one featuring spurs (for example, Monarda, Salvia or Stachys) will for the most part be visited by insects with an extended tongue or proboscis. The aroma, the color and the positioning of the flower are also important. Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) is a good example. Its reddish-brown flowers, which emit a faint odor reminiscent of carrion, are situated almost at ground level and are primarily pollinated by flies or beetles generally on the lookout for animal carcasses. It’s therefore possible to encourage a greater number of pollinators by selecting plants with varied characteristics and flowering periods.
A garden that will evolve with time and experience
Every garden will change over time. Certain plants, less adapted to local conditions, or others with a shorter lifespan, will disappear and be replaced by different species and varieties that blend harmoniously into the garden’s design. These new introductions represent wonderful opportunities for documenting plant-insect relationships. It will also be very interesting to introduce some arrangements that are conducive to certain insect species building nests, such as bare surfaces of soft soil, used by solitary bees, or piles of stones offering nesting opportunities to several species of bumble bee. One thing’s for certain, keep your eyes open as you stroll through the Pollinator Garden: we guarantee you’ll be making a lot of discoveries!