Think Like A Flower, Think Like A Bee

By Linda Wiggen Kraft,

Healthy Planet Green & Growing Editor

Fortunately there is a change in the way gardeners think about gardens. For too many years the only one who counted was the gardener. The garden’s purpose was to look beautiful for the gardener. Bees, insects, pollinators and wildlife were not welcome. Beauty, as deemed by the gardener, was often barren of the full life of a garden.

Many gardeners now think like flowers, bees and the other life forms of a garden. This is a changed, broader and more holistic way of creating gardens. It means learning how flowers, bees and the life of the garden interact, communicate and support the ecosystem we all live within.

The relationship of flowers, bees and other pollinators is a long and evolved dependency. Without pollinators, most plants could not produce seeds to grow future plants. Without flowers, the necessary foods of nectar and pollen for pollinators would mean they could not survive.

The dance and marriage of flowers to pollinators evolved over eons so that some flowers can only be pollinated by certain insects whose body and movement alone fits into that specific flower. Case in point, our beloved tomatoes have pollen that will only be released by the vibration of bumblebees and a few other native bees.

Both native bees and honeybees seek nectar and pollen. Nectar is the sweetness of a flower. Its name comes from Latin meaning “drink of the gods”. It is mainly sugar that contains water, vitamins, amino acids and other nutrients. Nectar is concentrated near the base of the flower where the flower petals meet the stem. The pollinator gets the nectar and in so doing brushes and collects the male pollen from the anther. Some of the pollen is transferred to the female stigma of nearby flowers where fertilization takes place.

Bees and other pollinators don’t leave all the pollen behind, many feed on it and collect it as food for their offspring of developing larvae. Pollen is a protein with fats, starches, vitamins and minerals. It also has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.

In thinking like a flower and a bee, a gardener knows that the blossoms of the garden are food for a pollinator’s survival. Flowers that have easy access to pollen and nectar are best. Flowers with many small flowers provide lots of nectar and pollen. Flowers that bloom early spring to late fall are needed. Especially important are flowers in early spring and now even late winter when warm weather appears along with honeybees, mason bees and other pollinators. The native witch hazels (hamamelis virginia and vernalis) are late and early bloomers. Lenten Rose (helleborus) blooms often in February and continues to bloom sometimes for a month or more. Its downward facing flowers are perfect. In the rainy days of spring, the nectar gets washed away from most flowers, but helleborus protects its nectar and pollen.

There are many other flowers with early and late blooms. Think healthy (no pesticides) flowers on all plants (annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees) for pollinators all growing season long. Plant mostly natives. All pollinator and plant lives and survival depend on the “drink of the gods”, pollen and the dance between them all.

Two books with much more information about pollinators and plants are: 100 Plants to Feed The Bees by the Xerxes Society and Pollinators of Native Plants by Heather Holm.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She is also a mandala artist and workshop leader. Visit her blog: CreativityForTheSoul.com/blog or on her website: CreativityForTheSoul.com. Call her at (314) 504-4266.