This year’s garden can do more than just look pretty
I don’t know about you, but my first half hour every morning on the computer is unofficially “Save The World in 30 Minutes” time. Since I belong to every progressive organization known to humankind, I have to sort through all the pleas to sign petitions, call my congressman and senators (useless, but I often do it), donate, sponsor events, etc., etc.
This spring, though, I am taking one of my trillion causes into my own soon-to-be-grubby little mitts. Unlike my mom, my thumb is not naturally green, and this is reflected in the lack of flowering plants around my house. But enough emails have arrived urging me to plant things that will help save bees and Monarch butterflies so that compost, here I come.
I grew up on the Central Coast in California, that half-circle of bay with Monterey on one side and Santa Cruz on the other. Somewhere in-between is Pacific Grove, where thousands of Monarchs traditionally come to winter from November to February. The town created a Monarch sanctuary years ago that is a huge tourist attraction.
But the decline of their habitat in Mexico and other places has meant a drastic decline in the Monarch population…so drastic that environmentalists everywhere are being urged to plant the butterflies’ favorite plant, milkweed, to support them.
And then there is the very frightening collapse of the honeybee population. While there are likely multiple causes for this, one of them is absolutely the use of pesticides that poison them. As stated in an article on the website Collective Evolution: “A new study out of Harvard University, published in the June  edition of the Bulletin of Insectology puts the nail in the coffin. Neonicotinoids are killing bees at an exponential rate, they are the direct cause of the phenomenon labeled as colony collapse disorder (CCD). Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticides.”
I don’t use pesticides on my plants anyway, but will forever give a wide berth to anything made by major chemical companies. As Joni Mitchell once put it, “Give me spots on my apples/But leave me the birds and the bees.”
The Honeybee Conservancy offers great suggestions of what to plant to attract and support bee populations: Plant native flowers (and Reflecting Riding’s Native Plant Sale is just around the corner). Select “single flower tops” such as daisies and marigolds that make it easy for the bees to access their pollen. Plant for blooms year-round to provide a constant source of food. For example, now’s the time (if I had planned ahead), that crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula and wild lilac would be bee-friendly, and I have time to get bee balm, cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons, foxglove and hostas going for summer.
As you contemplate your garden, please consider the creatures that use and need it. Caring about them is not a political cause. It’s just a matter of compassion and caring for the fragile and so-beautiful Earth.