Call us  505-455-0514

11a Camino Ancon, Santa Fe New Mexico 87506 (USA)

Pollinator-friendly permaculture garden: 8 simple plants that Inspire

Creating habitat and biodiversity are on the short list for any permaculture effort – both provide for ecological resilience, bring beneficial life forms to the ecosystem and thus support the work of creating of a sustainable setting. And so much permaculture work takes place in the garden, in a food forest, on the land – where pollinator-friendly plantings support the vision of a vibrant, life-promoting place!

permaculture pollinator gardenWith tens of thousands of pollinator-friendly plants out there in the big beautiful world (and many pollinators ranging from small mammals to birds and insects!), it is hard to pick just a few names to share. In permaculture we tend to shy away from sharing plant lists (too limiting!), or designing with specific plants in mind (too limiting again!). We look for patterns (what works best to achieve our goals? how do we inform our choices?), and we look for feedback from our land and ecosystem (are things thriving? do they like our management practices? are we achieving our goals?). We look over into our neighbors yards, learn from successful local examples – and get inspired by stories and images from other places. Here is our list of successful herbaceous plants  – by pattern in which they work for pollinators and overall well-being of the entire ecosystem. We hope to inspire your gardening towards more biodiversity – with plants that work best in your setting.

Blue & Purple Blossoms

That is one color that is much loved by bees and bumble bees! True blue flowers are harder to find, but purple works to delight insect pollinators too.

Maynight Salvia

Purple blossom spikes are loved by bees, and, if deadheaded, this plant will bloom twice in one season. It loves high heat and full sun, and grows well in most modest of soils. The blossoms produce abundant seed and this plant tends to re-seed and naturalize vigorously. It makes for a good restoration plant of choice – when re-vegetating edges and introducing a bit of diversity into an  established ground cover.

maynight salvia blossoms

Comfrey

The darling of permaculture food forests and pastures, this plant is loved by bumble bees in particular. Leaves are good for poultry and livestock forage, and also for adding trace minerals to your compost tea. But the blossoms, which make a short appearance in mid-June, are a big attraction to pollinators. It is probably not the best plant to introduce just for that reason, but comfrey has this pleasant effect of delighting the bumble bees, that is much appreciated!

comfrey blossomsClary Sage

A naturalizing bi-annual with large fragrant leaves and even larger, and more fragrant blossoms, this is a very showy plant that brings lots of life to a garden. It reseeds with ease and walks around the land as it pleases. It is another wonderful contribution to a biodiversity hedges around orchards and pastures.
clary sage blossoms

Chives

Chives and garlic chives, and all their many relatives from the Allium family are a garden treasure. Their flavor is welcomed in the kitchen, their modest requirements are good for new or overwhelmed gardeners, and their blossoms (besides being very tasty and edible) are a special destination for insect pollinators. Let your alliums blossom, and allow them spread their seed for an easy edible “lawn” of garlic chives.

chives

Umbrella-shaped blossoms (Umbels)

Such blossoms seem to appear to smaller insects – perhaps smaller flowers are easier to navigate in pursuit of sweet nectar. The more umbrella-shaped plants, the happier your garden.

Angelica

This plant is a part of a larger family of other fabulous pollinator-friendly herbs. It is perennial, sweetly scented, has large white umbrella-shaped blossoms composed out of many tiny flowers. Angelica is a wonderful plant for pollinator hedges, for biodiversity islands that might be included in orchards, food forests, or pastures.

Carrot

Leave a few of your carrots unharvested, and come next summer you will be surprised by a tall flowering plant appearing in your garden. The root is no longer edible, with all energy going to seed production by means of producing multiple beautiful flowers that linger around for many weeks and bring bees, beetles, green lacewings, ladybugs and many other good bugs to your garden. Allow this plant to make seed and the choice is yours: you can try growing your future carrots with this seed!

carrot blossom in permaculture garden

Yarrow

A darling of xeric (low-water) urban landscapes, yarrow is tough as nails and a reliable performed in the most modest conditions. It needs very moderate water, likes poor soils, thrives in full heat – and it produces abundant tiny flowers arranged in large florets that come in a variety of colors. Pollinators like this plant, it is a good plant for biodiversity hedges around orchards, gardens, parks…. Yarrow has medicinal uses and its smells is pleasant and refreshing. Yarrow also makes a lovely cut flower and it spreads rapidly when the conditions are right, making it an interesting consideration in revegetation and restoration projects. Paprika Yarrow has red flowers, Moonshine is off-white, and there pure white, pink, and peach colored varieties.

yellow and white yarrow blossom

Pollen-rich flowers

Well, the name says it – pollen-rich flowers have a lot going, and are a rewarding destination. They are usually easily identified as smelling them might leave you sneezing or cover your nose with a dusting of pollen.

Hollyhock

A biannual plant that seems to naturalize and become quite a perennial feature, this plant tolerates poor soils and low water situations. It grows in full heat, and its magnificent brightly colored flowers are a cottage-garden favorite from the olden days. It reseeds and thrives, with hummingbirds and bumble bees as its posse.
hollyhock

With these simple plants to inspire you, look around to see what plants are working as habitat and biodiversity restoration agents in your ecosystem; and take a virtual tour of our demonstration site to see how we work with pollinators, plants, animals and nature in Northern New Mexico.