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Monsoon Gardening for Pollinators

Updated: Jun 21, 2021

Monsoons and summer rain are a season of hope in the Sky Island Madrean Archipelago region. We hope they will come and that ecosystems will thrive in their sustenance. I’m outside at the nursery as I write in over 100-degree weather, and despite the stress the heat puts upon everything, rains are just around the corner which makes it a great time to plant.

Rain is a gift from the heavens. Not just because it cools the air, but because the water is clean, full of nitrogen, and free of heavy minerals often found in Arizona groundwater. One of the main reasons we uncover the plastic from our greenhouses every year is because the plants grow larger and faster with the rains, even in their plastic containers. It’s also the time we plant most of our restoration plants and seeds into the landscape for Borderlands Restoration Network ecological restoration projects across the borderlands. A healthy monsoon season will establish a restoration planting better than any supplemental watering can.

Our Monsoon Plant Sale is coming up on Saturday, July 17th. We set the date hoping to be a couple of weeks into this year's monsoonal rains, but also to give gardeners plenty of time to get plants in the ground to establish early enough in the season so new plants can enjoy the summer rains.

Gardening with native plants is one of the best things you can do for our local ecosystems that make up one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the world. By incorporating native plants into your landscape you support stressed ecosystems by providing habitat and nectar for countless wildlife and pollinators such as hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. You can complement Borderlands Restoration Network's ecological restoration work in your own yard by planting native plants that are water-wise, fill nectar gaps, are climate-adapted and are what our local pollinators need to survive. As development, rising temperatures, lessening rains, and erosion occur across our local landscapes, replacing what has been lost in your own yard makes a huge impact.

In honor of Pollinator Week, June 21 -27th we thought we would share some tips about filling nectar gaps throughout the year to help ensure our important local pollinators have enough food to sustain them.

Nectar gaps occur during times that few species bloom and when plants are limited in the landscape due to development or low survival rates due to lack of rain.

You can help fill these gaps by making sure your garden has native plants blooming year-round to help feed nature and fill these gaps.

Desert honeysuckle (Anisacanthus thurberi), Wright’s Goldenrod (Solidago wrightii), and Rubber Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa), are some of our favorite native pollinator plant species that ensure the landscape has spring, summer, and fall-blooming perennial natives. These species are also excellent because they can be planted in a large range of elevations, soil types, and sun exposures.

Desert Honeysuckle

Anisacanthus thurberi, or Desert Honeysuckle, is a great plant for pollinator support, especially butterflies and hummingbirds. Its bright orange, small, tubular flowers bloom mainly between March-June during spring, but throughout the year as well. This woody shrub can grow up to 6 ft tall and enjoys sandy washes and canyon habitats between 2000-5000 ft. This versatile plant needs partial to full sun, and wet to dry conditions. It is an exceptionally resilient plant for the garden or restoration also tolerating a wide variety of sun exposures.

Wright's Goldenrod

Solidago wrightii, or Wright’s Goldenrod, is a forb in the sunflower family that can be found in woodland and conifer forest habitats between 3500-9500 ft. Wright’s goldenrod grows to be about 3 ft tall and has medium water requirements. The inflorescences of many smallish, yellow flowers blooming starting in the summer from July-October and attracts native bees. Plant in partial shade to full sun. Transplants well, spreads and reseeds readily. Plant in any soil type.

Rubber Rabbitbrush, Photo Credit: Sarah Malaby

Ericameria nauseosa, or Rubber Rabbitbrush, is an excellent plant for erosion control and is stunning in the fall landscape. This shrubby aster establishes quickly and can grow to 6 ft or taller. It is drought-tolerant and versatile, but does especially well in disturbed areas with alkaline soils in upland desert habitats and grasslands between 2000-8000 ft in elevation. The bright yellow flowers bloom between July-October. It is pollinated by bees and butterflies. Plant in full sun, in well-draining soil.

Besides waiting for the Monsoon Plant Sale on Saturday, July 17th from 8 am-3 pm, you can order plants online for pick-up at the nursery, local delivery in Patagonia for $20 minimum orders, and delivery to Sonoita for $50 minimum orders. You will be notified when your order is ready for pick-up at the nursery, or you can shop in person on Tuesday - Friday between 9AM – noon, and Saturday's 10AM-1PM.

***The nursery will be closed July 3rd - 16th to prepare for the plant sale.***


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