People have a tendency to think about bees and pollinators in the Spring - a point in time when there is an abundance of choice for our pollinators when it comes to food. But now, as we enter the tail-end of the growing season, our attentions are being drawn elsewhere. Even those of us that care about cultivating flowering plants are tempted to move on. The idea of cleaning up flower beds and gardens is more on our minds than encouraging more blooms.
But, if we all do that - what do our pollinators do for sustenance? Not just now - but for the rest of the year until Spring busts out all over again?
Asters to the Rescue
I put myself together to collect eggs yesterday afternoon, stepped out the door and noticed a small reddish pink aster plant we let do its thing in a neglected corner of our lawn by the house. Then, I looked at the purple aster in the weedy perennial bed nearby. And, I observed all of the Thousand-flower Aster that have volunteered in places we have not kept up with. In fact, those little white flowers are often part of the reason we decide to let those areas go in the late summer. In fact, we let the area around our mailbox go when we saw how many of these plants were there this year.
I suspect the mail carriers may not be the biggest fans of this - though they said nothing about it when I was outside taking pictures as they drove up. They probably wondered what kind of an oddball I was to be outside taking close-up pictures of little, white flowers. But, that (as they say) is another story.
This year has been much, MUCH drier than the past five or so years, so it has been friendlier to many of our aster plants. In fact, none of the perennials we planted some years ago are still in their original place (though I suspect some of their progeny are what populate our grounds now). We got that nice soaking rain in early September and that was all these plants needed to give us a glorious bloom.
Sometimes letting go works best
Tammy and I would, ideally, love to have some cleaned up perennial beds right now. We tire of the plantings that have been overrun by grasses and other, even less desirable (to us) plants. We really would like to have a few places on the farm where we can just enjoy the beautiful flowers and plants (and hopefully some bees and pollinators). After all, we are aware that you can have a planting that looks good AND is friendly to those critters.
But, sometimes, the best answer is to let it go.
You see, the pollinators don't see the world the same way we do. What looks like a tangled mess to us is a beautiful buffet to some of them. It's a place that our bumbling human feet and bodies don't go to trample them as they do what they do.
We also need to remember that pollinators come in all shapes and sizes. They don't need the big, easy to see blooms that humans might prefer to see in their gardens. Sometimes, they just want a bunch of little white flowers. White flowers on a plant that we all think is a weed.
I guess it makes sense that we might think it is a weed because they have pretty aggressive root systems, crowding out the competition. If you have some cultivated plants in your flower bed, you might not be as happy to see them as we are when we see them in the ditch or in our ditches by the high tunnel.
But the pollinators? They love those plants.
So, we love them too.