Ruby-throated hummingbird, also considered a pollinator, can be
seen feeding on the Liatris or blazing star.
master, common boneset and blazing star donít sound like the names
of key ingredients to a garden that would bring out the camera, but
that is precisely what is happening. These or just three that
have-helped create what some might consider a pollinator haven. Since
they are plants that are for the most part native from Texas to Canada
means that you can do it, too; your season of bloom just may be a
These plants are
part of a cooperative demonstration Rain Garden at the Coastal Georgia
Botanical Gardens, where I am director.. While the garden might not
make the cover of Fine Gardening it would certainly be worthy of being
featured in a publication dedicated to bees and butterflies.
If you arenít
familiar with the Rain Garden concept, picture a shallow, bowl-shaped
plant bed that collects stormwater runoff from roofs, paved roads,
driveways, sidewalks, and other hard surfaces. In our case the rain
water runoff is from a large pavilion and directed to our small
In the real
world these hard surfaces often contribute pollutants such as
fertilizers, pesticides, oil, and pet waste to the runoff, which is
then washed into our coastal waterways. Stormwater runoff pollutants
harm plants and wildlife and could contaminate our drinking water
A rain gardenís
basin collects and holds stormwater for a short period of time,
usually less than 24 hours. The soil absorbs the water and any
pollutant particles. Plants like the boneset and rattlesnake master
have roots that help filter out the pollutants while providing water
to the stems and leaves. The water evaporates back into the atmosphere
from the plants.
By using native
plants like these, rain gardens provide important habitat to a broad
array of wildlife, including bees, butterflies, spiders, frogs, toads,
lizards and birds. Even though our demonstration Rain Garden is small
it is like a miniature zoo, creating excitement and photo
opportunities for those of all age groups. Since these are natives
that are adapted to the climate and soils, they require less water and
need little or no fertilizers and pesticides which is a plus for the
boneset is known botanically as Eupatorium perfoliatium. It looks like
it is a white Joe Pye weed and reaches 6-feet tall blooming at what is
the peak of our butterfly season. There are hundreds of bees and wasps
hitting on the flowers but prized butterflies like the Great Purple
Hairstreak, Red-banded Hairstreak and Buckeye are all visible.
plant is in need of a Madison Avenue PR firm. The name boneset is just
not marketable for such a butterfly magnet. On the other hand I
suppose Rattlesnake Master wonít make the cash register ring either.
Does it prevent rattlesnakes, help you tame-them or even perhaps
attract them? The truth is this plant was used to treat snakebites.
The one thing I
can say is it is a plant of rare beauty. It is known botanically as
Eryngium yuccafolium. It is actually in the carrot or parsley family
and easily reaches 4 to 5 feet in height. The foliage does resemble
that of the yucca. The flowers are incredible white round balls or
globes that might resemble thistles. They are among the best for
bringing in pollinators.
With the white
boneset and white rattlesnake master flowers the large purple flowers
of the blazing star is a great-complement. The blazing star known
botanically as Liatris spicata is often overlooked in the world of
bees and butterflies but this aster relative related to Joe Pye and
the boneset is ideally suited to the Rain Garden or the Backyard
planted with the best and showiest plants native to your area combine
the benefits of reducing stormwater runoff with the appeal and beauty
of a garden. I hope you might give it a try. Follow me on twitter @CGBGgardenguru.