This month I have been reading and reviewing Evelyn Hadden’s book, Hellstrip Gardening, and I have arrived at the fourth and final section, “Curbside-Worthy Plants.” As the title suggests, this section is a list of plants that Hadden has deemed worthy of appearing in a curbside garden. It’s not exhaustive, of course, but with over 100 plants, it’s a great start. Photos and short descriptions accompany each plant name, and the plants are organized into four groups: showy flowers, showy foliage, culinary and medicinal use, and four-season structure.
This list is useful and fun to read through, but there isn’t much more to say about it beyond that. So I have decided to write this month’s Year of Pollination post about creating a hellstrip pollinator garden using some of the plants on Hadden’s list. Last year around this time I wrote about planting for pollinators where I listed some basic tips for creating a pollinator garden in your yard. It’s a fairly simple endeavor – choose a sunny location, plant a variety of flowering plants that bloom throughout the season, and provide nesting sites and a water source. If this sounds like something you would like to do with your hellstrip, consider planting some of the following plants.
Spring flowering plants are an important food source for pollinators as they emerge from hibernation and prepare to reproduce. There are several spring flowering trees and shrubs on Hadden’s list. Here are three of them:
- Amelanchier laevis (Allegheny serviceberry) – A multi-trunked tree or large shrub that flowers early in the spring. Other small trees or shrubs in the genus Amelanchier may also be suitable.
- Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud) – A small tree that is covered in tiny, vibrant, purple-pink flowers in early spring.
- Ribes odoratum (clove currant) – A medium sized shrub that flowers in late spring. Try other species of Ribes as well, including one of my favorites, Ribes cereum (wax currant).
There aren’t many spring flowering herbaceous plants on Hadden’s list, but two that stood out to me are Amsonia hubrichtii (bluestar) and Polemonium reptans (creeping Jacob’s ladder).
There is no shortage of summer flowering plants, and Hadden’s list reflects that. When planting a pollinator garden, be sure to include flowers of different shapes, sizes, and colors in order to attract the greatest diversity of pollinators. Here are a few of my favorite summer flowering plants from Hadden’s list:
- Amorpha canescens (leadplant) – A “good bee plant” and also a nitrogen fixer.
- Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) – “Valuable pollinator plant and larval host for monarch, gray hairstreak, and queen butterflies.” I love the tight clusters of deep orange flowers on this plant.
- Coreopsis verticillata (threadleaf coreopsis) – I really like coreopsis (also known as tickseed). Try other species in the genus as well.
- Penstemon pinifolius (pineleaf penstemon) – North America is bursting with penstemon species, especially the western states. All are great pollinator plants. Pineleaf penstemon is widely available and great for attracting hummingbirds.
- Salvia pachyphylla (Mojave sage) – A very drought-tolerant plant with beautiful pink to purple to blue inflorescences. Salvia is another genus with lots of species to choose from.
- Scutellaria suffratescens (cherry skullcap) – A good ground cover plant with red-pink flowers that occur from late spring into the fall.
Fall flowering plants are essential to pollinators as they prepare to migrate and/or hibernate. Many of the plants on Hadden’s list start flowering in the summer and continue into the fall. A few are late summer/fall bloomers. Here are some of my favorites:
- Epilobium canum (California fuchsia) – “Profuse orange-red tubular flowers late summer into fall furnish late-season nectar, fueling hummingbird migration.”
- Liatris punctata (dotted blazing star) – Drought-tolerant plant with tall spikes of purple-pink flowers. “Nectar fuels migrating monarchs.”
- Symphyotrichum oblongifolium (aromatic aster) – Loaded with lavender-blue flowers in the fall. It’s a spreading plant, so prune it back to keep it in check. Hadden recommends it for sloped beds.
- Agastache rupestris (sunset hyssop) – Spikes of “small tubular flowers in sunset hues attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees midsummer to fall.” Try other species in the Agastache genus as well.
- Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot) – The unique flower heads are like magnets to a wide variety of pollinators. Also consider other Monarda species.
As with any other garden, your hardiness zone, soil conditions, water availability, and other environmental factors must be considered when selecting plants for your hellstrip pollinator garden. Groups like Pollinator Partnership and The Xerces Society have guides that will help you select pollinator friendly plants that are suitable for your region. Additionally, two plans for “boulevard pollinator gardens” complete with plant lists are included in the book Pollinators of Native Plants by Heather Holm – one plan is for sunny and dry spots and the other is for shady and wet spots (pgs. 268-269). Once your pollinator garden is complete, consider getting it certified as a pollinator friendly habitat. There are various organizations that do this, such as the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia. If you are interested in such a thing, the public nature of your hellstrip garden makes it an ideal place to install a sign (like the one sold in The Xerces Society store) announcing your pollinator garden and educating passersby about the importance of pollinator conservation.
Daniel, Have you been able to grow Amsonia hubrichtii here? I’ve been afraid to try amsonia because I’ve read that they need acidic soil. Comments about that?
I actually haven’t tried it. We have an Amsonia at Idaho Botanical Garden, but it’s a hybird of some sort, and I honestly don’t know how it’s doing because it was just planted last year. I just think it’s a cool plant, and I would be willing to give it a shot despite our alkaline soil.
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