Hi there – I’m not sure if this is the type of question you would normally answer, but thought I’d give it a shot. I’m planning on replacing my grass with a pollinator/butterfly garden. My yard touches my neighbours so I don’t want to plant anything close to that dividing “line” that would spread too much or too aggressively. I was wondering if you have a few suggestions for perennials that would suit that purpose? The area gets a good amount of sunshine, soil is not too clay-like or sandy, and I’m hoping to use primarily plants native to Ontario. Thank you, Ashley
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your question concerning pollinator gardens.
There are a few things to consider when selecting plants for your pollinator garden. First you must consider your site. From your description I am assuming that your site receives full sun ( at least 6 hours ) and your soil sounds as if there is a good mix of organic matter and hopefully is well draining. It is always advisable that one adds organic material to the garden yearly. This will improve the quality and texture of your soil and thus improves the drainage and adds valuable nutrients to the soil.
The next point to consider is how much time you are willing to spend tending the garden. My suggestion is to start small, you can always expand later. Consider adding a pathway and or seating area (to observe pollinators ) to your garden. A pathway not only allows you to stroll through the garden but enables you to work in the garden without compacting the soil. Consider leaving some bare ground for nesting.
The next step is to consider your planting material. Consider layering flowering plants ,shrubs, and trees to provide pollinators with a food source as well as a habitat. Bees need pollen sources, nectar sources, shelter and nesting habitat. Whatever plants you select they must flower at the right time to support the pollinator life cycles. Pollinators can also be picky in what they like, not all pollen is created equal. Pollen is rich in protein but not all pollen is edible. Some pollinators are specialists and will feed on a few restricted species (like monarchs). Diversity is key to meeting diverse needs and attracting a wide range of pollinators.
The How (and Why) to Use Native Plants found on the Halton Master Gardener Website is an excellent article and provides lots of additional information of native plants. Grow Me Instead lists native non-invasive plants for your garden.
The Toronto Master Gardeners has a Gardening Guide on Pollinator Garden which lists some key elements to creating a pollinator garden along with a list of native and some non-native plants. Selecting Plants for Pollinators along with Pollinator Plants for Great Lakes Region are two excellent resorces whick list plants along with the pollinator that they attract.