Allan Armitage on the myth of pollinator plants

Allan Armitage on the myth of pollinator plants

Perhaps I just don’t get it. How did the term “pollinators” become so important to the marketing of our ornamental plants? It does not take a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist to understand the importance of pollinating insects to ecosystems in general, from the forests of the Amazon to your neighbor’s vegetable garden. The process of pollination is essential to life, thus the need to attract pollinators and maintain healthy populations of butterflies, beetles, and bees is basic to our existence.

We have done an excellent job in getting those facts across to people. Everywhere I speak, anything I read, every trend I hear about mentions the importance of pollinators. On a global level, I understand this rallying cry, but in my garden, I’m not so sure. Good grief, on the one hand we understand the importance of pollination to produce fruit and seed, yet on the other hand, half of the new cultivars we have bred for the garden are sterile.

What the pollinator trend has created is a wonderful marketing opportunity for what we do. Flowers attract pollinators, so we should plant more flowers. The fact that most gardeners and landscapers don’t want plants to reseed and have no use for the fruit of impatiens or baptisia is not important — the concept of attracting the good guys in the garden is. So let’s market pollinators to our children and neighbors, even if their importance to our customers is a bit of a myth.

I don’t mean to pile on, but while talking about pollinators, let’s dispel another myth. Thy name is native.

Continue reading.

Photo caption: Zinnias are an excellent non-native pollinator plant. Shown here is the new Zinnia Belize Series, introduced by American Takii at California Spring Trials earlier this year. Photo Courtesy of American Takii



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