The New Pollinator Border

Front_June 2017

I’m taking an online gardening course from The English Gardening School, and as part of the course, I’m creating an expanded pollinator border in the front yard.  All of my mixed borders are actually pollinator-friendly, but this one is designed from the beginning with as many pollinator-attracting plants as I can squeeze in.

Why the front yard?  Because I’ve been rather neglectful of the space and I’ve been saying for the last year or two (at least) that I was going to do something to liven things up out there.  But the garden season whizzes by and I look up in late October and find I’ve done nothing new, other than possibly add a plant or two to the existing borders that line the front of the house.

So, 2018 is the year!  See the narrow band of bearded irises above?  The bed is located on the southern side of the driveway and is currently 3.5′ deep x 12′ long.  It has two Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’, a Clematis ‘Malaya Garnet’ growing up the arbor, and many Iris ‘Autumn Circus’…that’s it.  Blah.

The expanded border, to be named the “Bee and Butterfly Border”, will be 15′ at its deepest point and 32’ long (see rough sketch below).  I don’t like wedding myself to a plan, so I’m sure it will morph to some extent as I plant.  But it at least gives me an initial list of plants to source – either buying, dividing existing plants, or growing from seed.

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The Amelanchier ‘Princess Diana’ and Amelanchier ‘Fergie’ have been purchased from St. Lawrence Nurseries, located a couple of towns over, and should be ready for pickup by late April.  The Rosa gallica ‘Officinalis’ (2) will be arriving as bare roots from David Austin around the same time.  The Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ will come from divisions of several very large specimens in the back garden.  The Nepeta x faasseniiAchillea, Alchemilla mollis, Echinacea purpurea, and Geranium sanguineum ‘Rozanne’ will also come from divisions of existing plants.  I may toss in some Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ for fall color as well.

CleomeDigitalis purpureaEchinops ritroAsclepias tuberosa, Centranthus ruber, cottage pinks, and Dianthus barbatus are being grown from seed.

The Clematis ‘Rosemoor Gardini’, Verbena bonariensis and Asclepias syriaca are arriving from White Flower Farm in CT.

Until some of the perennials beef up in year two, I’ll likely fill in the gaps this year with dahlias, zinnias and cosmos.  Oh, and of course I’ll toss some poppy seeds in the border.  And may add a little Coreopsis or Rudbeckia hirta for a splash of yellow.  As I said, things will morph.

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Now I just have to hope for some cooperation from the weather so I can do the ground work for the expanded border before the plants start arriving!

14 thoughts on “The New Pollinator Border

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  1. This sounds like a very exciting project to me. Most of those plants will do very well here, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they all go in your garden. I’m finding it quite a lengthy process filling the spaces successfully in my borders, and of course I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way!

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    1. Oh I’ve made tons of mistakes over the past 6 years, but that’s half the fun and challenge of gardening…or so I tell myself 🙂 I, too, am curious to see how all of these varied plants blend together. I’ll take photos as the project progresses and provide periodic updates on the blog.

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  2. So many beautiful plants! Firstly, I love your rustic trellis and gate,and your irises. I love a gardening plan and a project! Amelanchiers are such generous trees for a garden. I am growing Echinops ritro for the first time – love it’s sculptural flowers. Verbena bonairensis will hopefully attract hawkmoths for you. Love the poppies and foxgloves. Wish I could keep echinacea alive, but it sulks in wet soil in winter. Beautiful choice of rose. Oh, it is going to be beautiful!

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    1. I certainly hope so, and I’ll no doubt change things around several times before I get a mix that I’m thoroughly happy with. I’m excited to add the Amelanchiers – the first for the garden – and look forward to their various stages of beauty. Enjoy the Echinops! I grew them for the first time a couple of years ago and absolutely fell in love with them. The color is so rich, and the textures phenomenal!

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    1. I tend to be a little more “cottage garden” in my planting style and veggies, herbs, flowers, shrubs, etc. end up mixed in everywhere, and since we spend much more time in the backyard, potager and orchard, they have the more developed garden areas. But I do agree that the front needs to pop a bit more than it currently does, and hope the new border will help with that.

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    1. I definitely planned on adding some herbs – some anise hyssop, chives, fennel – but the oregano is a great idea! I have some in my herb border, which is also due for an overhaul this spring, that can be easily divided and added. Thanks!

      And, since the soil is thin and rocky near the driveway, I’ll need to build up the soil using some sheet mulch, but I also plan on planting some nitrogen-fixing legumes throughout the bed the first year, just to give a little boost.

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