This week is National Pollinator Week, an annual event that celebrates pollinators, addresses the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations, and supports all we can do to protect them. Education is key when it comes to truly understanding the depth and breadth of the invaluable ecosystem services that bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, moths, wasps, and flies provide us—and what we can do to help maintain their health and longevity. One thing you can do to support pollinator health in your own backyard is making informed, conscious decisions when planting. Here in Longwood’s Ornamental Kitchen Garden, we have a variety of edible flowers and plants that attract a diversity of pollinators and beneficial insects—and you too can create an ecologically rich garden in your yard that not only provides food for humans, but food for pollinators.
Some of the plants found in our Ornamental Kitchen Garden may seem more “ornamental” than “kitchen”—you may be surprised to learn that plants like bachelor’s-buttons are not only beautiful, but also edible, and pollinator-attracting. Often called cornflowers, bachelor’s-button (Centaurea cyanus) works well in full sun and reseeds freely, meaning they’ll come up year after year if you let them—and in turn provide valuable food and habitat for a host of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and goldfinches.
Many members of the carrot family (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae) can be found in the Ornamental Kitchen Garden, and for good reason. Members of this family include celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), coriander (Coriandrum sativum), dill (Anethum graveolens), parsley (Petroselinum crispum), and many more. They’re also among plants that are typically not grown for their flowers, but if you let them flower, they will attract a variety of pollinators. Remember, though, the rule of thumb is if you are growing those plants for human consumption, be sure to harvest and eat them before they flower.
Pollinators also love herbs, as evidenced by the variety we grow here at Longwood. The tall, fluffy, purple flowers of breadseed poppy (Papaver somniferum), for one, are lovely in the garden, and are pollinated by bees.
These plants are just a few of the many, many pollinator-friendly selections that can be easily incorporated into an ecologically diverse edible garden. Gardeners who include plants for bees, butterflies, birds, and other pollinators not only create an important habitat for these species, but often enjoy a greater bounty come harvest-time, thanks to our pollinator friends.