Book Review: Pollinator Friendly Gardening

With pollinators on the decline, I’ve been interested in learning more about them and looking for ways to attract them to my garden. That means searching for useful references.

I’ve found exactly that in Pollinator Friendly Gardening by Rhonda Fleming Hayes (Voyageur Press, 176 pp., 2015, $21.99).

With Fleming’s pleasant writing style, she quickly draws you into a fascinating discussion of the pollinators found in our gardens and the world around us. She makes many compelling arguments for attracting and nurturing pollinators. While some authors could make this a very dry subject, I found myself eagerly absorbing her approach to it.

As she puts it, “Pollinator Friendly Gardening offers three basic principles to support pollinators in your garden: provide food with blooming plants throughout the season; allow for nesting and overwintering sites; and finally, avoid pesticide use.”

Fleming starts with an explanation of how pollination takes placpollinator friendly gardening thumbnaile. That might seem basic but it’s important information. Then she profiles the pollinators. I had no idea there were so many species of native bees in North America!

They include bumblebees, carpenter bees, cuckoo bees (so named because they parasitize other bees similar to the way cuckoo birds infiltrate other birds’ nests), digger bees, sweat bees, mason bees, leafcutter bees, carder bees, mining bees and cellophane bees.

Then she details other pollinators such as butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, beetles and so on. This book exposes the fascinating world of pollinators and the plant life they interact with.

Fleming also discusses native vs. exotic plants to underscore the importance of diversity. There are many plant lists for attracting bees, butterflies and hummingbirds throughout the book. She also discusses how to provide water and shelter for pollinators.

When it comes to landscaping to attract these marvelous creatures, she emphasizes how important it is to look at our whole landscape, rather than just focusing on small areas within it. For example, having layers within our landscapes is critical to being successful in attracting pollinators at each stage in their life cycle. Fleming suggests creating a tree canopy, understory plantings with shrubs, and then adding in perennials and vines.

As she writes, “ Translated to plain English, this means a garden with a wider diversity of plants with a working food web for wildlife is more resilient in the face of pests and diseases, more able to bounce back from weather-related issues, and more sustainable in the long run.”

Throughout this book, there are Q&A-style interviews with experts in the many fields that relate to pollinators. There are also “fun facts” sprinkled throughout this book, and this not-so-fun fact:

“According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, homeowners use ten times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use per acre on their crops.” That is appalling. As gardeners and homeowners, we need to focus our efforts on getting away from of this practice.

My only criticism of this book is the small font size the publishers used in it. I guess that’s a sign of my increasing age but it’s smaller than the type in most garden books and required a pair of reading glasses. It was probably their solution to having a lot of text to fit within a certain amount of pages! At least that means we got our money’s worth in valuable information.

Aside from that, Pollinator Friendly Gardening is an excellent book, filled with fascinating facts and useful tips for doing our part to combat pollinator decline.