Butterfly/bee gardens

(Question)

Would conditions in a small churchyard in downtown Toronto be suitable to attract butterflies and bees? The space faces north, is bordered by buildings on three sides and a busy road on the fourth, and gets about 3-4 hours of sun. Volunteers plant annuals around the cenotaph each year (mainly geraniums, begonias, marigolds and alyssum), but might extend plantings to the area bordering the small lawn on the north side of the church building if the project is likely to be successful.

 

(Answer)

What a wonderful idea! Bees and butterflies can absolutely live in urban settings and there are a few things you can do to encourage them in your garden. While many plants that attract pollinators require full sun (approximately 6 hours or more of sunlight per day), there are options for your part sun conditions. Common garden plants such as hostas, bergenia, mahonia, rhododendron, pulmonaria and striped bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum var. striatum) are all shade loving perennials that flower. Many native plants are shade dwellers, too, including hepatica, trilliums and a range of native asters. By using a mixture of annuals, perennials, herbs, shrubs and trees you can create a lovely garden for these visitors.

The David Suzuki Foundation recommends choosing a variety of plants that flower at different times so that there is always something in bloom.  Using native plants or heirloom varieties in colours such as blue, purple, violet, white and yellow will attract bees while red, orange, pink and yellow will attract butterflies.  For a list of bee attracting species according to bloom time please visit: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/food-and-our-planet/create-a-bee-friendly-garden/

To view a comprehensive chart of plants that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, please visit: http://stlucie.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/master_gardener/2011/Nectar%20Gardening%20for%20Bees%20Butterflies.pdf

For the Toronto Master Gardeners Guide to Pollinator Gardens, click here.

Further reading:

http://www.ofnc.ca/fletcher/flora-fauna/wildflowers/database/Wildflowers.php

https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/conservation-biodiversity/wildlife/encourage-wildlife-to-your-garden/plants-for-pollinators