About the author: Jacqueline Houston is a member of the Wedgwood Garden Club, and also a Master Gardener of King County. She has been gardening in Seattle for over 30 years. Wedgwood Garden Club always welcomes new members – contact Jacqueline at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on their monthly meetings.
What should we be doing now to make our gardens more welcoming to pollinators? If you grow fruit, vegetables, or ornamental berries, or just want to help the struggling bee populations in our city, you can help by providing a varying buffet of bloomers for your bees from early March onwards, and a lot of that can be done with low-maintenance native shrubs and small trees, requiring very little work from you! The earlier you attract bees to your garden with pollen-rich flowering plants, the more likely they are to stick around to pollinate your fruit trees.
One of our most ornamental native shrubs is Flowering Redcurrent (Ribes sanguineum), which has gorgeous dangling flowers in various shades of pink as well as white, and which blooms through March and April. I love these so much that I have 5 in my own garden!
Less showy, but a reliable early-flowering shrub, is Indian plum (Oemleria cerasiformis), a low-maintenance native that is already opening a few white flowers in the woods behind my yard, and goes on flowering through March and April also. (Note that if you want fruit from these, you need to plant a male and female shrub, but it’s the flowers that the bees appreciate.)
If you’re looking for a small native tree, both vine maples (Acer circinatum) and Western serviceberry (Amelanchior alnifolia) produce their flowers in the March and April window that is so important for feeding the early bees.
For some good evergreen contrast, the various mahonias (Oregon grape) bear large clusters of acid yellow flowers followed in summer by handsome, dusky blue berries. Mahonia aquifolium grows into a large shrub, mahonia nervosa or repens are lower-growing versions. And of course, that old standby Heather is currently flowering its head off in various gardens that I pass every day.
We have two excellent native plant nurseries in Shoreline – Go Natives! and the nursery at Krukenberg gardens, and our larger Seattle-area nurseries also have a selection of the more popular natives.
Winter is a great time to plant shrubs and trees. Even one of these will get your garden off to a great start, and those bees will be buzzing in gratitude! And don’t forget, all of these plants also provide great cover for birds, and many of them provide berries for them too.