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For Love of Nature: Make your garden pollinator-friendly

For Love of Nature: Make your garden pollinator-friendly

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Even as snow finally covered the ground last week, many gardeners already were thinking about spring.

A local group is asking folks to consider creating a garden and/or lawn to attract pollinators and become certified as a way to educate friends and neighbors about the importance of insects, birds and bats — nature’s gardeners.

Blue Ridge Conservation, a partnership between the Lynchburg Garden Club and Hillside Garden Club, started in 2019 to make Central Virginia more pollinator-friendly. The group launched an effort to make Lynchburg a Bee City USA, and it became the 89th Bee City USA in July 2019, with the city promising to reduce the use of chemicals, install native plants and provide education.

Blue Ridge Conservation’s most recent effort is a Certified Pollinator Habitat program. Participants receive a small plaque, and proceeds from the $20 fee help fund other projects. To become certified, gardens and yards need to provide food, water, shelter and a safe habitat for pollinators.

Food sources include native flowers, as well as trees and bushes that support caterpillars, including oaks, maples, azaleas and viburnum. Baby birds consume thousands of caterpillars in the nest and as they fledge.

Gardens need at least two types of native flowers for each of three blooming cycles. In early spring, columbine and Virginia bluebells are examples. In mid-summer, butterfly weed and black-eyed Susans fit the bill, and for fall, goldenrod and purplestem asters.

A water source can be any consistent source: a birdbath or small stream. For shelter, insects need dead wood, bare ground or the stems of dead flowers and vegetables, which is why it’s good to leave a “messy” garden over winter. Avoid or greatly reduce pesticides and herbicides, and remove invasive species like autumn olive and bush honeysuckles that compete with native plants.

Bette Bibee, who helps administer the program, said they already have 45 yards and gardens certified and are working to get neighborhoods on board to provide larger intact habitats.

Other projects the certification will help fund include a Roadside Biodiversity Initiative. Blue Ridge Conservation already has planted three, one-acre wildflower pollinator beds: one along Candlers Mountain Road and two at Grace Street in Greenview Park.

The group also donated $6,600 to the city’s Lynchburg Expressway Appearance Fund (LEAF) to prepare beds and the plant wildflower seeds. For Lynchburg’s Virginia Garden Week tours in April, the group plans to certify four participating homeowners and give a demonstration at Irvington Springs Farm.

Bibee said some of the group’s plans have been slowed by the pandemic, but COVID-19 also has given people more time to tend to yards and gardens. To apply for pollinator-friendly certification, visit blueridgeconservation.com.

Shannon Brennan is a Central Virginia Master Naturalist, a Lynchburg Tree Steward and a volunteer for the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club and the James River Association. She can be reached at shannonw481@gmail.com.

Shannon Brennan is a Central Virginia Master Naturalist, a Lynchburg Tree Steward and a volunteer for the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club and the James River Association. She can be reached at shannonw481@gmail.com.

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