A Secret Pollinator Garden: Progress and Process

A year ago this month Wayne rebuilt one of our raised garden beds and this is what our backyard looked like:

I suddenly had a vision of a little English-inspired pollinator garden behind our house that would attract hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, butterflies and more bees then we already have. We don’t “treat” our yard with herbicides or pesticides, so wild strawberry thrives behind our house. Some see this as a detriment. Besides creating a low-maintenance green carpet, bees love the blossoms. The tiny little fruits are enjoyed by the birds and wildlife. Wayne loves that it requires little mowing. But I rarely saw hummingbirds, just a half-dozen butterflies and never a hummingbird moth in our yard. It was time to create a new reality in my own backyard!

At the base of the bird bath I ordered online I used flagstone from behind our shed that was leftover from when our home was built in 1950. When the sun is bright an inexpensive ($12) solar-powered sprayer transforms it into a fountain.

Next we purchased Bee Balm which I planted along the back of the house beside two rose bushes and in pots by our deck. For edging I used rocks from our woods. In the center of them (hidden here as he was overtaken by the plants) was a Saint Francis of Assisi statue we had purchased at the flea market on the way home from our wedding celebration in 2018. (I spotted him on a table from the car window as we drove past.) We bought no-dig lattice panels and I placed two pots of annuals on two very old rusty metal chairs I had retired the previous fall after we bought a new outdoor set for our deck.

Everything was looking so pretty, but then I learned something awful. I was shocked when I found out about neonicotinoids, something that is frequently put IN plants and it KILLS pollinators! I had no idea that a seed could be coated with a chemical that would then infiltrate the plant and stay inside that plant for at least a year, but it’s true. Many plant nurseries are selling “pollinator plants” that are actually killing them and even birds! This link has a good infographic and summary. I ended up returning the potted annuals from the big box stores. I contacted the local nursery where I had purchased the Bee Balm and spoke with the owner who said he was “pretty sure” none were in his. However I have since learned that nurseries often buy seedlings in bulk and do not always know if they were grown from seeds treated with neonics. The roses have been there for a few years so they were in the clear since potency declines after over a year is my understanding. The Bee Balm had been overwintered by the nursery so I felt comfortable leaving them in place.

The take-away for me is that, moving forward, to protect pollinators and birds, I have to either buy certified organic seeds and seedlings, whether flowers or vegetables, or buy from a reputable seed and plant seller with a published statement on their website that there are no neonics.

Back to the Bee Balm, instead of a rare hummingbird sighting, I had two regulars! I named these delightful guests Emmy and Felicia. Emmy was very friendly! She would fly in place about a foot from my face for a few seconds when I came outside whereas Felicia was very much a “bye!” and fly away type. Emmy is in the featured photo of my post.

One day in August it finally happened– a hummingbird moth was here at our cottage! Wayne spotted her first. I named her Lucinda and she visited daily for about an hour. She and the bees didn’t mind one another, even when they were on the same flower.

Last fall I went to an estate sale on the Cumberland Foreside and purchased another beautiful old Saint Francis statue, and this one was only $10. Here he is shown as he was found in a very tranquil setting:

I decided to use him this year because he is about twice the size and weight of the other Saint Francis statue which is now living in our sunroom. Wayne and I also talked about replacing the little vinyl lattice panels with something more substantive and natural for framing, privacy and architectural interest. We picked a local company right in our town that makes custom cedar fencing in-house to give us a quote. It was more than twice as much than what we would pay for literal run-of-the-mill big box store wood panels, but this is one of those times where it is worth every penny. Yankee thrift isn’t frugal in all things which you may hear me say often. It’s also worthwhile to support a Maine made product and family business.

Isn’t our new fence lovely? While the two nice fellows were installing them I watched a black butterfly fly out from our woods and around inside this special space. I’ll take that as a very good sign!

Cedar does not need to be treated chemically which is even better for the environment.

We have relocated the lattice panels to the other side of our little garden where we are busy designing this year’s additions and changes. Is anyone reading interested to see the progress of our garden “secrets” behind the fence?

11 thoughts on “A Secret Pollinator Garden: Progress and Process

  1. Love this
    Beautiful transformation! I love how you are creating a garden that attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and bees while also being mindful of not using herbicides or pesticides. It’s also great to see your commitment to protecting pollinators by buying certified organic seeds and seedlings or from reputable sellers with no neonics. The new fence looks fantastic, and I can’t wait to see the progress of your garden “secrets”!
    Easy Landscape Gardening

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful haven you have created! I love it! Am going to check out one of those little solar powered fountains! Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 🙂 🙂

      I tried to link to the fountain but it’s not working in the comment. On Amazon look up “Solar Fountain for Bird Bath, Solar Powered Fountain Pump 1.5W Free Standing Floating Birdbath Water Pumps for Garden, Patio, Pond and Pool”


      1. It’s particularly nice because we’re visiting Maine right now (staying in Portland), and driving out to Bath for a wander and lunch now that the rain has stopped.

        Liked by 1 person

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