Are you able to see a variety of bees and bumblebees? Have you notice other animals or insects in the garden?
I’ve sometimes counted 5-10 different kinds of bees or wasps on a single flowering bush. It’s funny to look out into the yard and see a plant bouncing about as if it’s windy. I go out there and it’s a full platoon of bumblebees hopping from flower to flower. We grow patches of milkweed for the monarchs and see lots of different types of butterflies. Birds love picking at the perennial seeds and rabbits taste-test everything (we over-plant so there’s enough for everyone). We also have toads, chipmunks, squirrels, moles, and occasionally a fox or wild turkey.
Have you been stung? Do you think people who are allergic to bees can take steps to prevent stings?
I’ve been stung by a wasp, but never a bee in the yard. Bees in general are not aggressive and tend to be noisy. I spend a lot of time digging and weeding and when I hear a bee, I pay attention and move to let them go about their business. There are even particular types of wasps, like Potter’s wasps, that aren’t aggressive and are beneficial for a yard, since they eat pests. Most homeowners get stung by unexpectedly stepping on or mowing over a ground nest or allowing yellow jackets to build nests too close to human activity.
Is the garden in your front and backyard, both? Do you also have a vegetable garden?
Our front yard is almost all perennials now. We still have a lawn in the back that gets shrunk more each year, as we plant perennials. We also have a vegetable garden, cherry tree, concord grape vines, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries. It’s actually a bit of a mess at the moment, but like the perennial garden, each year we develop it more. I should say, too, that our yard is relatively small – we don’t have a huge property, but have discovered you can fit a lot into a small space.
What books or resources did you read to learn about bee-friendly yards? Were greenhouse staff helpful?
I’ve attended some classes and read a lot of books, but nothing really replaces just doing it. The challenge these days is to find plants that haven’t already been treated with neonicotinoids, which is an insecticide that impacts pollinators. Of course, I didn’t know this when I started gardening, so we’re not purists.
Which greenhouses do you recommend?
I’ve gone to a wide range of greenhouses and like I said, I’m not a purist. As the saying goes, one shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good. My favorite way of getting plants these days is from friends or plant sales in someone’s driveway. Whatever shape you get them in, it’s how you grow them in your own yard that makes the difference.
Are there any programs to help homeowners such as yourself with knowledge or grants?
I had considered doing a master gardener program, but couldn’t commit the time when I was working. Community education programs are often available to homeowners. I find the magical internet to be a font of information for people wishing to grow organic or pollinator-friendly yards. There’s so much information out there.