Play your part in helping to save the pollinators

As we head towards spring and mother nature starts to waken from slumber we begin to reconnect with the nature of things. My background in sustainable development and my life as a gardener and flower farmer have served as a constant reminder to our duty as stewards of nature. In this line of work we are faced with article and story after story about the decline in pollinators and the impact of our actions on the environment. Working so close to nature and ebbing with the seasons and the land forces me to be vigilant in my farming practices and personal choices on a daily basis.

As I scanned the internet today I once again found another article that prompted this blog post to share a few tips on how we can all be stewards of the land just a little better.  A scary report was featured on NPR today stating "More Pollinator Species In Jeopardy, Threatening World Food Supply"

"A U.N.-sponsored report drawing on about 3,000 scientific papers concludes that about 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species (such as bees and butterflies) are facing extinction. Vertebrate pollinators (such as bats and birds) are somewhat better off by comparison — 16 percent are threatened with extinction, "with a trend towards more extinctions," the researchers say. About 75 percent of the world's food crops, the report notes, depend at least partly on pollination. "Pollinators are important contributors to world food production and nutritional security," assessment co-Chair Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca says in a statement. "Their health is directly linked to our own well-being."

Why does this matter so much? There's an awesome organization out there called Pollinator Partnership and they state the following.

"Pollinator health affects everyone!  Worldwide, roughly 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend. Foods and beverages produced with the help of pollinators include: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds, and tequila.  In the United States, pollination by honey bees, native bees, and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products annually."

That's just one of many many reasons we need to start paying attention to the vast decline in pollinators out there. And the NPR article is just one more study that I feel like I've read over and over again raising concern. So the question we're left with what can we do in our own small way to make a difference? While massive structural changes need to be made in the way we interact with nature here are a few small things each one of us can do in our own daily lives to work towards the first steps of change. 

1. Plant your own garden (urban, rural, rooftop, suburban it doesn't matter) Before you start making reason as to why not......

2. Plant for the pollinators! Planting for pollinators is a conscience choice to grow plants that are specifically positive for our pollinators. 

  • A great resource for this is on the Pollinator Partnership website. They have a guide that allows you to include your zipcode for planting suggestions in your area. Check out their guide here.
  • Some of my favorite pollinator loving plants that we grow here at Pisgah Flowers include: (descriptions from Sunset article)
    • Aster- butterflies often sun as they sip on these daisylike blooms. Perennial; full sun.
    • Butterfly Bush- Slender cones of flowers in spring and summer. Evergreen or deciduous; sun to light shade.
    • Fennel- Airy umbrellas of yellow florets in summer also attract bees. Annual or perennial; full sun.
    • Bee Balm- Clusters of long-tubed flowers in summer also attract hummingbirds. Perennial; sun, or light shade in hottest climates.
    • Borage- Star-shaped flowers appear in summer. Annual; sun or partial shade.
    • Oregano- Draws bees and hummingbirds as long as you let the plants flower. Perennial herb; sun or partial shade.
    • Sunflowers-Bright and bold, they’re beacons for honeybees. Be sure to choose pollen-bearing varieties. Annual; full sun.
    • Lavender- Fragrant flowers all year in mild climates. Evergreen shrub (annual in colder climates).
    • Pincushion- Blue, pink, or white Scabiosa flowers resemble pincushions filled with needles. Annuals and perennials.
    • Rudbeckia- flowers in shades of yellow, bronze, and deep red; most have knobby brown centers. Short-lived perennial or biennial.
    • Coneflower- Daisylike Echinacea blossoms in pinks, yellows, oranges, or white have domed centers. Perennial.
    • Yarrow- Achillea clusters of yellow, salmon, lavender, red, or white make ideal landing pads for butterflies. Perennial.
  • A few more suggestions on planting for pollinators from the USDA include the following suggestions: 
    • Use a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring into late fall. Help pollinators find and use them by planting in clumps, rather than single plants. Include plants native to your region. Natives are adapted to your local climate, soil and native pollinators. Do not forget that night-blooming flowers will support moths and bats.
    • Avoid modern hybrid flowers, especially those with "doubled" flowers.
      Often plant breeders have unwittingly left the pollen, nectar, and fragrance out of these blossoms while creating the "perfect" blooms for us.
    • Eliminate pesticides whenever possible.
      If you must use a pesticide, use the least-toxic material possible. Read labels carefully before purchasing, as many pesticides are especially dangerous for bees. Use the product properly. Spray at night when bees and other pollinators are not active.
    • Include larval host plants in your landscape.
      If you want colorful butterflies, grow plants for their caterpillars. They WILL eat them, so place them where unsightly leaf damage can be tolerated. Accept that some host plants are less than ornamental if not outright weeds. A butterfly guide will help you determine the plants you need to include. Plant a butterfly garden!

3. Support Sustainable Farmers- Find food and flower sources that support sustainable pollinator friendly practices. 

  • Buy local- Not only is it almost always more environmentally friendly to buy local but you get to know your farmers and you can ask them first hand what their farming practices are. 
  • Gain a better understanding of what sustainable farming means. Check out this article from Sustainable Table on a basics 101.
  • Join a CSA program! Community Supported Agricultural programs are a great way to support sustainable local farms. Find one near you at Local Harvest
  • Shop at your local farmers market! One of the best ways to support local farmers and sustainable growing practices is to shop at your local farmers market. Find one near you here
  • Buy your flowers from local flower farms! (hint hint like Pisgah Flowers :) ) Find a local flower farmer or florist near you at the Slow Flowers and Field to Vase websites.

4.   Spread the word- Learn more about the importance of pollinators and make sure others do to. Here is a list of some good articles on the subject.