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How to Make Four Types of Gardens Thrive at a Mile High

Birds & Bees: Why You Should Strive for a Pollinator-Friendly Garden

Healthy gardens should teem with life, including pollinators. Here's why you need these helpful creatures—and beautiful ways to attract them.

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It might seem counter-intuitive, but attracting bees, birds, moths, flies, and beetles to your garden is one of the best things you can do to ensure its health and longevity. These creatures are important means of transferring pollen from the male part of a flower to the female part—an essential process that enables flowering plants to produce vegetables, fruits, nuts, fibers, oils, and other raw materials that living beings and ecosystems depend upon for survival. “Food as we know it wouldn’t exist without pollinators,” Mike Bone, associate director of horticulture at the Denver Botanic Gardens, says. Plus, he adds, pollinators like butter-flies “inspire a sense of interest and wonder when they visit your spaces.”

How can you attract pollinators to your patch of plants? Make it alluring, says Judy Elliott, senior education specialist at Denver Urban Gardens. “Your garden needs to be visually beautiful to draw [humans] in, as well as insects and birds that will not only pollinate your plants, but also lay eggs.” Try to include a variety of flower shapes, sizes, styles, and scents to appeal to a broad spectrum of pollinators. For example, plant tubular flowers for insects with long proboscises. Plant fruits to attract birds, and those birds will often eat insects, creating checks and balances for your garden ecosystem.

As for other pollinator needs like nesting grounds and water, Bone recommends leaving some dead stems, leaves, and grass around, as well as a few patches of bare dirt—all places where pollinators like to lay eggs. And Alison Peck, owner and principal of Matrix Gardens, says, to combat our dry climate, make sure your pollinators have access to water. Bird baths are an option, but “insect pollinators can’t always get water from a bird bath without drowning [because they’re so small],” Peck notes. Instead, “take a saucer from a houseplant pot, put rocks in it, and it will create a little bit of water pooling.”


Plant These

To Attract Butterflies, Moths, and Hummingbirds:
Tubular flowers such as penstemons, scarlet gilia, honeysuckles, agastaches

To Attract Bees:
Asters, ice plants, Russian sage, irises, goldenrods

To Attract Night Pollinators (Bats and Moths):
Prairie blazing star and other types of mentzelias, moonflower, Colorado four o’clock

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