Pollinator Rock Gardens


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2021/02/24



A subscriber to our Pollinator newsletter emailed and asked us to discuss groundcovers for pollinators with a focus on rock gardens. Instead of waiting an entire month until the next issue, I thought I would share our reply here, on our Wimberg Landscaping garden blog.
Plants with an (N) after their name denote native plants.

In the spring, which is ‘this’ close, our pollinators really appreciate spring flowering bulbs such as crocus, snowdrops, and hyacinths. While not groundcovers, these early bloomers help fill a difficult time for our early foraging pollinators. Native spring ephemerals are also a wonderful option. Not as readily available in local retail nursery centers as we would like, they are becoming more accessible, especially via online shops and catalogs. Some of my favorites are winter aconite (above), spring beauty (N), Virginia bluebells (N), celandine poppies (N), and Dutchman’s Breeches(N).




Moving onto perennial groundcovers, Epimedium (above) takes top billing for me in the shade garden where I have seen honeybees foraging on their flowers in early April.  I’m also a fan of Ginger (N). It has grown into a reliable, low maintenance ground cover in the shade garden. It’s pollinated by crawling insects, as one would guess with its flowers that rest on the ground.  For a little more visual interest, one can’t go wrong with pulmonaria. They offer up early spring flowers of pink, blue and purple and their foliage, accentuated with white, brightens a shady garden. Sedum terantum (N) is a native ground cover that can be found on rock ledges in the woods and in more sunnier locales as well. It’s an early bloomer, too.

I adore our next option, Tiarella cordifolia (N), foamflower. I have used cultivated varieties in many gardens and have never been disappointed. It’s a great shade loving ground cover that blooms early in the season. A summer blooming ground cover that likes the sun is Saint John’s Wort. With its clean foliage and bright yellow flowers, it’s a cheery addition to any garden.  A plant you may have tried to eradicate from your garden but is a great native pollinator plant is Wild Strawberry (N) (Fragaria virginiana). This is not as refined as some of our other options, as it looks more like a weed than an intentional plant, but it’s a great pollinator ground cover.




As we consider the rock garden, a few must-have plants come to mind. As for a rock garden, I will preface by sharing it is one with amended, well-draining soil with copious amounts of gravel and sand. It will not hold water and is ideal for plants that love the sun but detest cold, wet feet come winter. To start with, embrace thyme, speedwell and stonecrops (above). They all have small, but beautiful blooms, spread well, and will love the gravel/rock garden. To add a bit of height, I would toss in some alliums, a color guard yucca, a few grasses (grasses make great hiding places for small creatures and their seeds are desired by the birds), and primrose.  Lavenders, which often struggle in our clay soil would be most happy in such a garden as would NepetaPhlox subulate is a native plant that has been cultivated to give us a great array if colors. Also known as creeping phlox, this is a great rock garden plant, especially when it’s encouraged to cascade a bit over the edge.




Design Hints: If you are setting out to create a pollinator rock garden, approach its design as you would any other garden. A variety of heights is important.  This can be achieved with a few taller plants such as Yarrow or Columbine (above) (N), or strategically placed stones with interesting texture or color or embedded fossils (quite common in our area). Plant in generous groupings while leaving room for spreading. These groundcovers have more visual impact when they cover a generous space. To save yourself a lot of editing (removal of plants) from year one, allow them room to roam. Many of these plants will find their way into nooks and crannies we could have never been able to plant on our own.

We hope this helps!

If you would like help designing your new pollinator garden, call us. We can also handle the installation as well as the maintenance if you like.

Design Hints: If you are setting out to create a pollinator rock garden, approach its design as you would any other garden. A variety of heights is important.  This can be achieved with a few taller plants such as Yarrow or Columbine (above) (N), or strategically placed stones with interesting texture or color or embedded fossils (quite common in our area). Plant in generous groupings while leaving room for spreading. These groundcovers have more visual impact when they cover a generous space. To save yourself a lot of editing (removal of plants) from year one, allow them room to roam. Many of these plants will find their way into nooks and crannies we could have never been able to plant on our own.

We hope this helps!

If you would like help designing your new pollinator garden, call us. We can also handle the installation as well as the maintenance if you like.








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