Bees need our help. Bee populations around the world are in sharp decline, with honey bee hives collapsing and native bee species threatened by extinction. And while it may sound like no big deal to lose a handful of the 4,000 bee species indigenous to North America, every loss means a big hit to the diversity of the natural world, and that affects everyone, including right here in Dallas.
Bees are responsible for pollinating everything from the vegetables that feed us to the wildflowers that color our grasslands. Many plants rely on a specific bee species to pollinate their flowers; without the right bee, those plants can’t reproduce, and their survival too becomes threatened.
People who live in a dry climate understand just how precious every native plant is. When only certain plants can thrive in your challenging environment, you cherish the few that bring vibrance and beauty to the landscape without using tons of water.
Luckily, native drought-tolerant plants are exactly what you want in your yard to help your neighborhood bees. Through xeriscaping and practicing permaculture, you can create a yard that’s as easy on the environment as it is on your eyes.
What is Xeriscaping?
Effective xeriscaping has plenty of nuance, but the concept is simple: Derived from the Greek word for “dry,” xeros, xeriscaping is landscaping that conserves water. This waterwise landscaping method is important in areas prone to drought. It’s also a great option for homeowners seeking a low-maintenance yard.
The specific plants used in xeriscaping depend on your location. In the American Southwest, gardeners should choose drought-tolerant plants that can survive in their arid climate. In the southeast, a xeriscaped garden is one that relies on rainfall without supplemental watering — but since natural rainfall is more plentiful than in the desert, a xeriscaped garden in Alabama will look very different than xeriscaping in New Mexico.
How Can I Use Xeriscaping in a Pollinator Garden?
Xeriscaping lends itself well to pollinator gardening. Native bee species do best when they forage the plants they evolved alongside, and native plants are the go-to choice for a waterwise garden. This is because plants native to your region are uniquely adapted to the specific soil conditions, rainfall, and temperature that exist there.
To create an effective pollinator garden, shop for native flowering plants at your local nursery or garden center. Install several plant varieties so your garden has a different flower blooming every season. You can include annual species like wildflowers as well as more permanent fixtures like fruit trees, flowering shrubs, and other native perennials. Instead of buying just one or two plants of each type, aim to install clusters of every variety to make them easy for bees to find.
Why Use Native Plants in a Pollinator Garden?
Bees specialize to forage the flora of their ecosystem. For some bees, the speciality is evident in their name: In North America, you can find the blueberry bee, the squash bee, and the blue orchard bee, among others. By focusing on just a few plants, rather than every flowering plant in the ecosystem, bees become more effective pollinators.
When you plant native species in your garden, you create a landscape that’s perfectly tailored to the bees you’re seeking to attract. While bees will stop by to investigate any kind of flower, they might move on if it’s too difficult to forage or not their food of choice.
What Are the Other Benefits of a Xeriscaped Garden?
A healthier environment with healthier bees isn’t the only reason to plant a xeriscaped pollinator garden — although it’s certainly a good one. A waterwise garden also means less work for you. Watering with the hose is a rare chore, you don’t have to worry about adding tons of compost to the soil, and perennial plantings mean minimal replanting each year. Not to mention, you’ll enjoy big savings on your water bill over a conventional garden.
Image via Flickr