The Master Gardeners’ Bookshelf: The Pollinator Victory Garden

Pollinator Week Logo 2021 - Hummingbirds and Lonicera sempervirensReview by Susan Wilhelm, Extension Master Gardener

The Pollinator Victory Garden – Win the War on Pollinator Decline with Ecological Gardening by Kim Eierman is a terrific resource for anyone thinking about planting a pollinator garden, interested in learning more about best practices for supporting pollinators, or who simply wants a beautiful landscape that is ecologically sound.

Regular readers of this blog are familiar with the statistics concerning declining pollinator populations and the critical link between pollinating insects and the food we eat. (Also see Pollinators Under Threat posted 6/22/21).  Eierman’s solution: targeting the same enthusiasm that underpinned the Victory Garden movement of World Wars I and II to creating Pollinator Victory Gardens. She explains that by planting just a little bit differently, homeowners can significantly increase the amount of pollinator habitat, and then tells readers exactly how to do so.

The Pollinator Victory Garden begins by explaining pollination basics and why pollinator gardens need to include pollinator habitat, in addition to floral resources, for pollinators to survive. It introduces different pollinators and explains the implications of how they feed for plant selection, especially native plants. Here readers will also learn planting strategies to help pollinators locate plants and learn the importance of providing blooms throughout the growing season.

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Chapter 4 takes an in depth look at pollinators including native bees, European honeybees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, and hummingbirds. For each, Eierman describes the pollinator’s lifestyle and the characteristics of the flowers on which they feed. Best of all, she includes examples of native plants that are pollinated by each. For example, native flowers pollinated by butterflies include Echinacea ssp. (coneflowers), Eutrochium spp. (Joe-pye-weed), Liatris spp. (blazing star) and Solidago spp. (goldenrod). Interestingly, many of these native flowers also are pollinated by other pollinators such as native bees, moths, and flies (Liatris), wasps and beetles (Solidago), and honeybees (Eutrochium).

Chapter 5 shows you how to take everything you have learned to build and grow your own pollinator garden. Eireman recommends starting small, for example creating a pollinator island, or enhancing, or expanding existing foundation or edge plantings. She suggests container gardening for those with limited space, discussing container selection, appropriate plants, and planting techniques for multi-season interest.

There is a lot to like about this book. The text is clear and easy to understand, and the photos are great. Additionally, there are useful tools throughout, ranging from a simple summary table listing what to do or not to do to support pollinators to a maintenance checklist for an already planted pollinator garden. The appendix also has many valuable resources including a “Pollinator Victory Garden Checklist” to help you plan and implement your pollinator garden, pollinator plant lists, recommended books for further reading, and helpful websites.

The Pollinator Victory Garden (Quarto Publishing Group, 2020) is available from the Arlington Public Library and national booksellers. Visit pollinator gardens planted and maintained by Master Gardeners at our Northern Virginia Demonstration Gardens.

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