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The Standing Winter Pollinator Garden

There’s a good chance that pollinator gardening will introduce you to an array of new plants. It’s to be expected. But what may surprise you is that the way in which we garden when planting for pollinators is quite different. Take for example the fact that we are not cutting our gardens back at the end of fall.

The reason behind the delayed cutting is that within still standing pithy stems of the pollinator garden are insects, riding out the winter. The last thing we want to do is destroy their habitat.  We take this maintenance cue from nature as well as the experts at the Lurie Gardens in Chicago. On their website they share why they opted not to flush cut all their gardens in the fall. According to insect expert, Heather Holm, “Cavity nesting insects which include most cavity-nesting bees and some solitary wasps use the hollow stems. A few bee species, including small carpenter bees and mason bees, construct their nests in pith-filled plant stems, chewing the pithy material from the center of the stem to create a nesting cavity.”

Where they can, Lurie Garden workers cut back, but leave 15” of stems above the ground. At the Wimberg Pollinator Garden, a much smaller, and thus easier garden to manage, we opted not to cut anything back. In the very early spring, we will cut and drop the plants into the garden, and if needed to give the garden a tidier look, finish with a layer of pine straw.

When we garden for pollinators, we like to garden as naturally as we can, while considering the location of the garden- is it set within a formal neighborhood or in the country? We also consult with our clients to determine how comfortable they are having their garden in a more natural state or if they prefer a bit of tidying up.

Whenever we incorporate more pollinator plants into our landscape, opt for pine straw, and leave some, if not all, of the plants standing through winter, we are contributing to a healthier eco-system for the pollinators.

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