A bee and a butterfly share the flowers at Ashland's North Mountain Park, the first stop on Sunday's pollinator garden tour. [Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta]

Bee-friendly gardens

Because more and more people make their yards friendly to pollinators — bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds — North Mountain Park and Bee City USA this Sunday, July 9, will offer a self-guided tour of 17 Ashland pollinator gardens so people can learn the basics, get ideas and have their questions answered.

The tour is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., starting at North Mountain Park, 620 N. Mountain Ave. After participants pay the $10 tour fee, they will get a booklet of sites with a map and details of each garden. Car pooling is encouraged.

Organizers plan to make the tour an annual event to help reverse threats to pollinators, whose work is vital to the planet’s food chain. Increasing development, habitat loss and chemicals in the environment are the main culprits in pollinator population decline, says Libby Van Wyhe, manager of North Mountain Park Nature Center.

Pollinator gardens are hugely welcomed by bees and other collectors of pollen and nectar, which spread it around to other plants, helping in reproduction. The park’s pollinator garden is buzzing with scads of bees and butterflies, and they love its milkweed, lavender, poppies, daisies, sage, catnip, echinacea, buddleia (butterfly bush) and many other plants.

All those plants can be aesthetic additions to a garden, and the native ones tend to be drought tolerant, because they are adapted to our semi-arid climate, says Kristina Lefever, chairwoman of the city’s Bee City USA.

Tour participants will learn how to stage plants so that something is always in bloom from February to November, thus creating “habitat islands," says Van Wyhe.

“Many pollinator species are in decline,” she says. “Pollinator gardens help many species in these very challenging times. These species provide a huge amount of pollen for all crops.”

Colony Collapse Disorder is still going on, threatening bee populations, but because of human efforts against it, Lefever adds, the rate of CCD increase has declined somewhat. “It’s critically important because one in three bites of food we eat is due to pollination.”

Although we don’t think of “bugs” as intelligent, Lefever notes that they are very tuned into where the pollinator gardens are and will travel from garden to garden. They even get concerned if you move landmarks around in your garden — and they have the capacity for facial recognition of gardeners.

You might think that organizing and cleaning up your garden is desirable, but butterflies need it messy over the winter, with sticks and leaves all over the place, she says, so they can plant a chrysalis. The creatures, of course, need water and, strangely, butterflies need it delivered in the form of mud.

“This tour is a way to get people interested and get inspiration,” says Lefever, even if they just plant a window box of pollinator plants.

Participants can sign up at or call 541-488-6606.

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at

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