By Michele E. Buttelman
Signal Staff Writer
Gardening in the Santa Clarita Valley can be challenging due to climate, drought and pests. However, a simple garden to benefit both bees and birds can transform your outdoor spaces and help the planet, as well.
California is home to more than 1,600 species of wild bees that pollinate our gardens and fields, and bee gardens are currently all the rage. However, most gardeners believe bee gardens can be any random selection of flowering plants, which is far from the truth.
A bee garden needs to be a selection of plants where bees drink the flowers’ nectar and gather the pollen.
Some flowers are not useful to bees.
Honeybees are not the only beneficiaries of bee gardens. A proper bee garden can also support native bees. California native bees include bumble bees, sweat bees, mining bees, mason bees, carpenter bees and leaf cutter bees, among many others.
A bee garden can also attract and feed wasps, flies, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, beetles and other pollinators. Supporting all pollinators is important in growing the crops that feed the world.
Poppies and cilantro are two plants perfect for a southern California bee garden. They are easily grown in the SCV with little to no regular irrigation.
It is important to plant a variety of flowers that bloom at different times of the year.
You can buy bee garden seed mixes from a large number of websites.
Botanical Interests is one company that offers a highly rated seed mix. Find out more about their seed mix at www.botanicalinterests.com.
The Save the Bees Flower Mix Seeds cost $2.69 for a small packet that covers 56 square feet and $4.99 for a large packet that covers 158 square feet.
The flowering plants in this mix provide food for many of the more than 4,000 bee species in North America. The mix includes sweet basil, bergamot, black-eyed Susan, borage, California poppy, catnip, cilantro/coriander, lance-leaved coreopsis, cosmos, dill, annual gaillardia, globe gilia, rigid Goldenrod, Lavender Hyssop, lemon mint, purple prairie clover, Siberian wallflower, sunflower and cut and come again zinni.
A great resource for serious bee gardeners is the book “California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists,” by Robbin W., Coville, Rollin E., Frankie and Gordon Thorp. A bit pricey at more than $40, used copies of the book can often be found much for much less.
PHOTO CREDIT PIXABAY
Birds like fruit and seeds. They also are attracted to water and habitat for cover and nesting, including trees.
To attract songbirds to your yard in the SCV, Tree of Life Nursery, a nursery in San Juan Capistrano devoted to California native plants, suggests planting manzanita, fourwing saltbush, coyote brush, barberry, California lilac, buckwheat, brittlebush, chaparral honeysuckle, laurel sumac, hollyleaf cherry, oak trees, lemonade berry, currants, gooseberries, wild rose, wild blackberry and elderberry.
Be sure to include a bubbling fountain for your birds with shallow areas where the birds can stand in the water and bathe.
If you have a small space, bird feeders will help attract birds you can view through your windows.
If you have the room, plant a row of sunflower helianthus annuus. Goldfinches, cardinals and woodpeckers love these fast-growing plants. Another favorite of birds is the black-oil sunflower, which can produce dozens of seed-heavy heads, festooned with birds.
Brightly colored flowers that are tubular, and hold the most nectar, are particularly attractive to hummingbirds. These include perennials such as bee balms, columbines, daylilies and lupines. You can also plant biennials such as foxgloves and hollyhocks. Annuals including cleomes, impatiens and petunias are also hummingbird favorites
For more tips on attracting birds to your SCV backyard, visit www.audubon.org.