I visited the Chatham County Extension Pollinator Garden for a lecture and tour last week. What amazing resources we have in our NC State Extension offices! They offer all types of classes and garden assistance for farmers and homeowners. Our extension agents are true friends to native NC pollinators – not just honey bees (which actually aren’t NC natives) but all the bees, butterflies, and moths that help our plants go from flower to fruit.
Now, I count myself as somewhat of a gardener. I know the difference between an asclepius and an agerarum, but I had no idea the wealth of species, let alone cultivars available to attract our pollinators. Their garden (like mine) was tired this time of year, but still remarkably beautiful (unlike mine) with seed pods, vertical structure and late blooming beauties. The variety of native plantings really
struck me. Why plant fussy roses that mildew or the ubiquitous annuals when we have a wealth of beneficial plants available with a southern accent? These gems are from these parts and gladly spread their offspring to fill in garden space at a low cost. And they don’t need watering once established. Check out the Bat-Faced Couphea in this photo. It’s an annual, but one of the few flowers the honey bees were working at the time. Can you find her?
I left the garden at Chatham Mills feeling like a horticultural toddler. There is much to learn, but as I left clutching my sample milkweeds I was excited for Fall. It’s the time for planning and planting! We are also fortunate to have fantastic nurseries offering native plants all around us; from Tony Avent’s Plant Delights Nursery to Mellow Marsh, and Niche Gardens. So while most plants are yawning for a winter rest, I’m rolling up my sleeves to start work a true pollinator garden on the farm. If you are interested in visiting the Chatham Pollinator garden or in planting native species, check out Extension Agent Debbie Roo’s site https://growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu/growingsmallfarms-pollinatorconservation. I’m starting with her Top 25 list, and maybe adding a few of my own favorites. Now is the time to get started with soil prep and perennial planting. Your garden and the bees will thank you come Spring. Happy Fall!