This week’s featured bed at the Teaching Garden is the Bee, Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden (BBH). The leader is Teri Madden who has been a master Gardener since 2006. Teri describes the function of this bed as a way to provide nectar sources for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds, and habitat for butterflies to lay eggs. She waters new plants often and the rest of the bed during periods of drought. Teri loves how the bed constantly changes, the variety of plants, and the constant bursts of color throughout the season.
I asked Teri if she has made any changes over the years she has been nurturing this bed. She told me that she adds new varieties of plants every year to see how they will thrive, and is always looking for unusual bloom colors that will attract pollinators. This year she has added new Salvias, Veronicas, and a dwarf butterfly bush. Last year, she added a bird bath, an important source of water. One work day she noticed a foul odor coming from the garden! Taking a closer look she found a half eaten toad that apparently a bird had left. Teri now checks the bird bath often.
As with all gardens, there are also some problem spots. In this garden, Teri finds it a challenge under the creep myrtle, and this is probably due to shade. She is letting the “Cherry Bells” Campanula fill in because they seem “to grow anywhere”. Every once in a while there have been sprouts of an invasive vine that has been around for a while, and she has pulled these when still small.
Critters can be a problem in urban gardens, and this is the case in BBH. Deer munch on everything, groundhogs and squirrels dig up plants, and rabbits love the tender leaves and blossoms. Last year an eastern Box turtle roamed the bed, but it has seemingly moved on to another bed. One important beneficial insect seen frequently has been praying mantis.
Home gardeners can also witness these beautiful and beneficial interactions between plants and animals! The Capital region and northern Virginia are rich with butterfly, bee and hummingbird activity and are home to many beautiful species. Maintaining these gardens is easy and planting for season long activity rewarding. A few tips are important, depending on what you want to attract. Native species to our region allow for a variety of food sources that support nature, and also do better in our climate. Native species are, however, not the only plants that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
The second part of this weeks Blog will give some tips and plant lists for having your own Bee, Butterfly and Hummingbird garden.