I am pretty pragmatic about the plants I will put my energy into growing. If it doesn’t feed me or contribute to something feeding me, in general I don’t grow it. And even plants in the latter category have been few and far between, so our urban homestead has been pretty sparse in terms of flowers and pretty things.
Strangely enough, the woman who lived in our house for the roughly 60 years before we moved in was an avid gardener (and even wrote gardening articles for the New York Times – as well as jokes for the Dennis the Menace cartoon, but that’s another story). Apparently she had the yard full of a variety of plants, but had them all eventually pulled up as she aged and was no longer able to care for them. As a result, the yard was a blank slate when we moved in. Besides the ugly bushes in front of the house and an occasional stowaway lily, iris or daffodil bulb here or there, there is nothing left to hint at her former glory gardening days.
The only thing we had to attract bees into our yard is clover when it gets tall and flowers between mowings, and the passion vine our neighbour planted that keeps popping up throughout our yard and through poor lawn management on our part occasionally survives long enough to flower.
I realized, though, that many of our plants require or are benefited by pollinators for producing the foods that we eat. To try to attract bees and other beneficial insects into our yard, last year I put in a small mulched flower bed. I was originally focused on only putting in native plants, but found that many were hard to find (except at Missouri Wildflowers Nursery, which is a bit too much of a drive for me). So instead I’ve compromised on putting in what seem to be hardy wildflower-type plants that especially attract bees and butterflies. Once these things get established I have no interest in continuing to care for them, so they have to be able to fend for themselves.
I was a little too harsh with the plants I put in last year, though, and lost several by not watering them at least enough to get established. A few have come back this year, and for that I am thankful. I did put in several more this year to fill the gaps, and they all seem to be doing marvelously. For the first time ever we have a few spots of colour in the yard and bees visiting plants that I intentionally planted for them, and that is exciting.
I have dreams of ringing the entire perimeter of the yard in plants for beneficial insects, and may get there eventually. But for now I’m happy with the honeybees on the clover and the bumblebees on our handful of flowers.