The drastic decline in bee populations presents a troubling ecological disaster waiting to happen. Thankfully, as you’ve probably read this past week, the White House is taking action to protect our precious pollinators. And one of the calls to action is to encourage more pollinator-nurturing gardens.
If you live in an urban neighborhood, you may feel powerless to help. To all suburban/urban dwellers, I say to us, “We too can help save the bees ... with vertical gardens!”
Vertical gardens let us grow a lot in a very small space. I use the EarthTower Vertical Garden (www.earthtowergarden.com) – a 4 feet high, 4-sided tower garden on wheels that gives me 46 feet of garden row in only a 2x2 foot space.
The important thing, when vertical gardening, is to choose plant varieties that are “dwarf” or “container friendly”. This means that the plants won’t grow too tall for your vertical garden and start looking like some prop in a Jack & The Beanstalk play.
So, in preparation for my “Pollinator Tower,” I researched bee-feeding flowers. I then pared down my list to include those plants that would stay in the 6-12” range or at least hover below two feet.
Let’s help save the bees! Here are the bee-friendly flowers I recommend for your Earth Tower or other Vertical garden:
ASTERS (Symphotrichum) These bright little varieties will provide bees a delightful belly-full through the Fall! COLORS: Pink, Purple, Blue LIGHT: Full Sun to Partial Shade HEIGHT: 6-8” BLOOMS: Late Summer and Fall
BABY BLUE EYES (Nemophila Menziesii) Low spreading border plant with soft, beautiful pastel-blue petals that form nectar-filled cups. COLORS: Soft Blue, White LIGHT: Full Sun to Partial Shade HEIGHT: 6-12” (can spread over a foot wide) BLOOMS: Late Spring through Early Summer
CALENDULAS (Calendula Officinalis) Bright flowers similar to marigold play good roles in the kitchen and medicine cabinet. COLORS: Bright Orange and Yellow LIGHT: Filtered Sun or Shade HEIGHT: 1 to 2 ft (pinch regularly so stems don’t grow too tall and spindly) BLOOMS: Spring through Fall (and beyond!)
CALIFORNIA BLUEBELL (Phacelia Campanularia) This vibrant wildflower also serves as a wonderful cut flower for arrangements COLOR: Bright Cobalt Blue LIGHT: Full Sun HEIGHT: 12” BLOOMS: Summer
CANDYTUFT (Iberis) Showy white flowers with rich dark green narrow leaves create a stunning display. COLORS: Pure White LIGHT: Full Sun or Partial Shade HEIGHT: 8-12” BLOOMS: Spring and again in the Fall (gently trim after bloom to stimulate new buds)
FIVE SPOT (Nemophila Maculata) Fast growing wildflower that blooms prolifically during an extended season. COLORS: Stunning White with a striking purple spot on the tip of each petal LIGHT: Full Sun (or Partial Shade if growing in a hot climate) HEIGHT: 6-12” BLOOMS: Early Spring and all Summer until the first frost
FRENCH MARIGOLD (Tagetes Patula) Fancy, frilly marigolds with dignified deep green foliage COLORS: Orange, Red LIGHT: Full Sun HEIGHT: 8-12” BLOOMS: All Summer Long
GLOBE GILIA (Gilia Capitata) This sun-seeking annual likes a hot and dry climate... a fast-grower and heavy-bloomer. COLOR: Bluish Purple LIGHT: Full Sun to Partial Shade HEIGHT: up to 12” BLOOMS: All Summer until the first frost
GODETIA DWARF MIXED (Clarkia Amoena) Bright and beautiful blooms, each one like a chalice made of crumpled silk gazing toward the sun. COLORS: Varietal Mix of Bright Colors LIGHT: Full Sun HEIGHT: 12” BLOOMS: Late Spring and all the way into Fall
GOLDENRODS [DWARF VARIETIES]: Golden Fleece (Solidago Sphacelata); Baby Gold (Solidago) One of the best bee flowers for late summer and fall! COLOR: Bright Yellow LIGHT: Full Sun HEIGHT: 12-18” BLOOMS: Late Summer and Fall
INDIAN BLANKET (Gaillardia Pulchella) Daisy-like wildflower that will beautifully blanket the ground in colors often found in Native American blankets. COLORS: Red, Yellow, Red/Yellow Bicolor, Orange, Maroon LIGHT: Full Sun HEIGHT: 12-18” BLOOMS: Late Spring to Fall
MIGNONETTE SWEET SCENTED (Reseda Odorata) Spear-like, insignificant blooms that surprise you with their fragrant punch. This plant will turn your patio into a perfumery! COLORS: Spiked clusters of small reddish unassuming flowers LIGHT: Full Sun to Partial Shade HEIGHT: 12-24” BLOOMS: All Summer
PINCUSHION FLOWER (Caprilfoliaceae) Long bloomer with frilly petals that surround what really looks like its namesake -- a domed cushion in the flower center with stamens that look like pins in a pincushion. COLOR: Lavender-Blue LIGHT: Full Sun (tolerates Partial Shade in hot climates) HEIGHT: 12-15” BLOOMS: Early Spring until first frost
SWEET ALYSSUM (Lobularia Maritima/Alyssum Maritimum) This member of the mustard family emits a zesty fragrance from its clusters of miniature blossoms. COLORS: Pink, Purple, Salmon, Yellow, White LIGHT: Full Sun to Partial Shade HEIGHT: 3-6” BLOOMS: Spring until Frost
TIDY TIPS (Layia Platyglossa and Layia Fremontii)
Perky Yellow/White daisy-like wildflower. COLORS: Yellow and White LIGHT: Sun HEIGHT: 6-12” BLOOMS: Spring
Thanks for reading and happy bee gardening!
P.S. Special Shout Out to honeylove.org! Learn more about Urban Beekeeping!