Creating a Wenatchee pollinator garden

Since we bought our first home in Wenatchee in 2012, it has been my goal to make our garden as wild and plant-heavy as possible. I have always wanted to live in the country, while my husband has wanted to live in town. We settled in town and now are making our home “our own.” Because living in the country hasn’t happened for me yet, I decided our garden should reflect nature and make me feel relaxed and be friendly to city-living creatures.

Since planting our garden, landscaping the front yard from scratch and choosing plants for our yard, I have learned a few things I thought I would share with outdoor friends who may be interested in gardening and enjoying nature in the comfort of your own yard.

To increase pollinators (butterflies, honey bees, bumble bees, mason bees and leaf cutter bees) in your Wenatchee yard, plant:

Catmint — Super easy to grow, it needs very little water and the pollinator companions LOVE it. It is a perennial as well, so it will come back year after year. Just make sure to lop it back once the blooms are spent so that new flowers will grow again in the same season.

Russian Sage — Pollinators go crazy for this one as well. I water our Russian Sage maybe once during the summer and that is it. This plant is hardy and is a perennial, it tolerates crummy soil conditions and needs close to zero water (how does it do that?). Downside, this fella grows like a weed, so you will have to be proactive at keeping it’s little Russian Sage friends from growing all over your yard.

Echinacea — Bumble bees specifically love this flower. Super beautiful large blooms and also a perennial (do you see a trend here). To keep the blooms coming back you have to dead head this plant quite regularly so that those busy bumbling bees have something to eat. This plant will need more frequent watering, say 1-2 times a week.

To increase birds and bees, plant:

Sunflowers — These plants are also super hardy, don’t require much water and come back year after year once you first plant the seeds. We like to leave the dead heads of the sunflower on the stalk until the birds have picked all the seeds out. If and when your sunflowers start to droop use a stick with a “v” in it to prop it up. We also make it a family rule to never cut a sunflower to enjoy inside in a vase since the birds will use that sunflower much more than we will. We have also noticed that a whole slew of little bees and beetles visit the sunflowers for food, varieties we have never seen, so it is a great pollinator plant as well.

Ways to cut cost when adding plants to your yard:

— Only buy perennials. If you buy annuals they will not come back the following year, perennials are the way to go they come back year after year. They are like an investment of money rather than throwing it away after one season.

— Take cuts of a plant from a friend to use in your garden instead of buying it from the store. This is a fantastic way to save money, ask a friend if you can have some cuttings from their plants. Simply take a chunk of the root out with a trowel along with a bit of the plant on top attached to the root you cut, and you have a “start” now for your own garden. Keep the roots wet with a damp paper towel so they won’t die before planting them in your own garden.

I hope down the road you find your garden becoming a bustling creature habitat like ours has become. Watching wildlife in the form of birds and bees in the comfort of my own backyard is such a grounding experience, connecting me with nature even when I feel surrounded by homes and concrete.

(This post originally appeared on WenatcheeOutdoors.org. When she’s not adventuring with her family, mom blogger Sarah Shaffer is the executive director of Wenatchee Outdoors.)

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