Book Review: Pollinator Friendly Gardening

In her new book, Pollinator Friendly Gardening, author and Northern Gardener columnist Rhonda Fleming Hayes reinforces a benefit of gardening with pollinators in mind that is sometimes glossed over in other books and articles about the pollinator crisis: Having birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects in your yard and garden is good for the gardener as well as the pollinators.

“Welcoming pollinators,” she says in the introduction, “will not only add vigor to your food and flower gardens, it will fill your life with color, sound, movement and most of all, joy.”

pollinator friendlyHayes gives readers a clear sense of the facts about declining pollinator numbers and the likely causes (monocropping, pesticide use, habitat loss, among others), but she also reinforces that home gardens and the people who care for them can do a surprising amount to provide the food and shelter pollinators need.

And, it is with that upbeat outlook that Hayes takes readers through the why and how of creating landscapes that are attractive to bees, butterflies and birds. This is first and foremost a gardening book, and Hayes brings a gardener’s sensibility to the design ideas and plant information she recommends. It’s worth noting that while Hayes lives in Minneapolis now, she has gardened all over, from California and the Deep South to Kansas and England, and the book is applicable to gardeners no matter where their location.

The book covers the essentials of attracting pollinators, choosing plants for every part of your garden from herbs to the lawn, creating habitats with nesting sites, water and shelter, and gardening for the entire life cycle of pollinators, including the caterpillars and other larvae that require particular plants. The book includes plant lists galore, so it’s easy to find appropriate plants for your style of garden, whether you want to add trees, shrubs, perennials or annuals. She encourages gardeners to observe their own spaces and follow practices, such as adding early blooming bulbs or flowering fruit trees, that help pollinators during all seasons of the year.

As those who have seen her articles in Northern Gardener know, Hayes is a great photographer as well as a lively writer, and the book is well-illustrated with images of plants and pollinators. There are resources lists, project ideas and pull-out boxes throughout the book that give browsers nuggets of information. A favorite part of the book for me, though, was the interviews with experts, particularly the last question Hayes asked: “What’s in your yard?”

Bee expert Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota, for instance, has a native prairie in her front yard but a vegetable garden and perennials in the back; native plant advocate and Houzz writer Benjamin Vogt grows many kinds of liatris, and  Heidi Heiland of Heidi’s Lifestyle Gardens, grows ‘Raspberry Wine’ monarda and is not mulching her whole garden these days in order to allow for nesting sites.

For gardeners, bee and butterfly lovers and those concerned about the environment, Pollinator Friendly Gardening provides information, encouragement and a sense that creating landscapes that you will love as much as the pollinators can be meaningful and fun.