In the Garden – May

By Scott Hackleman

Turning Tyee Drive into a Pollinator Corridor

Point Roberts has been called many things, such as a gated community or an island with water on three sides and a border on the fourth, but here’s a new one: it’s an oasis.

That’s how the Point was referred to in a presentation to the Point Roberts Garden Club not long ago. This oasis is obviously not a pond in the desert, but rather an oasis for pollinators.

We usually just think of bees as pollinators, but they are a part of a broad selection of critters that relentlessly busy themselves with going from plant to plant searching for food (nectar) and inadvertently pollinating all they touch. Besides bees, there are butterflies, moths and hummingbirds.

The presenter mentioned that, as the land to our north became more inhabited and developed and more plant life was removed or replaced with turf or asphalt, this same shift in environment was not happening so much on the Point. Little by little, our tip of this peninsula became somewhat separate from the rest and so became an oasis for pollinators.

The two main reasons the Point became something of an oasis is because these tiny creatures have a limited range. They can only go so far from home before they run out of energy. The other reason is the diversity of plants. They need some source of energy available to them throughout the seasons.

This was not a big problem to the tiny inhabitants of this peninsula when there was plenty of places to find rest or resuscitation, but as the years have passed, that’s not so true anymore.

Inspired in part by the pollinator pathway project in Seattle (pollinatorpathway.com) and by the efforts of our local friends at the Earthwise Society and Feed the Bees, the Point Roberts Garden Club has been creating a pollinator corridor as part of our beautification project on Tyee Drive.

Our main purpose is to provide nectar and pollen from March through October. By doing this we support the health of all our pollinators as well as both honey bees and native bees. Keys to fostering healthy pollinator populations are herbs, heirloom plants and eschewing use of pesticides.

Our emphasis will be on affordable, long-blooming plants. We are starting small and gradually expanding as we learn what works best, but here is a taste of what we are experimenting with:

Late winter sees pollinators gathering on Mahonia (Oregon grape), leopards bane, sea thrift, Brunnera and Sedum spathulifolium, followed in early spring on native Tellima (fringecup), Aquilegia formosa and lupins. Old fashioned varieties of Ceanothus, Campanula and perennial geraniums are also attractive. Midsummer attractants are Echinacea, Penstemon, Scabiosa and verbenas.

As we move into autumn, pollinators switch to Sedum Autumn Joy, sea holly, Joe Pye weed, Coreopsis, hyssop, aster and rudbeckia.

In creating a pollinator corridor, we help extend the range of our tiny helpers so our oasis does not become an outpost. The added bonus to us all is the addition of lovely, flowering perennials which we can enjoy throughout most of the seasons. So consider this an invitation to take walk on Tyee Drive occasionally rather than blasting by in the car, or perhaps take a break on our bench and join the bees and butterflies in watching the rest of the world blast by.

Earthwise Society (earthwisesociety.bc.ca) has long been a partner in Delta’s Feed the Bees program (feedthebees.org), helping develop bee-friendly streetscapes, selling pollinator-friendly plants, and maintaining a website that lists bee-friendly plants.

Be sure to take in the Point Roberts Garden Club Biennial Plant sale on Saturday, May 18. Please join us at 105 Park Drive where you can purchase all manner of plants, trees and garden tools. Sale begins at 9 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m. (or when we run out of things to sell).

(Scott Hackleman, president of the Point Roberts Garden Club, has a small cottage garden where he tries to keep the bees and hummingbirds happy. His grateful bees like dandelions.)

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