After the torrential rains of December, it is a wonder that anything is blooming in Pacific Northwest gardens. Thankfully there are great plants that survive the downpours and even flourish when everything else is a soggy mess. Along with the plants surviving, there are insects that winter over in the trees, and they love to see the sunshine just like we do. As soon as the lukewarm sun starts hitting the trees, the groggy bees stumble out looking for some food (kind of reminds me of teenagers). It is essential that we gardeners provide early-blooming plants for these very important members of our planet. Interestingly, some bees are not at all particular about their food supply, while others are. Our goal should be to provide both native food sources and ornamental garden food sources. Nature’s creatures have a way of adapting to what is available, but they also search for specifics. The following are a few of my favorite late-winter-blooming plants for pollinators.
I’m not a big native plant person. Growing up here I have seen the native plants in so many places, including open fields, forests, ditches, ponds, roadside edges, and yes, even parking lots. I probably should not go into my opinion of ferns and mahonia in parking lots—that’s another topic. I do, however, have plenty of native/nativar pollinating plants in my garden. The earliest blooming are the fabulous mahonias, including the native creeping mahonia (Mahonia repens, Zones 5–8). I have two other favorites from this genus. The statuesque ‘Charity’ mahonia (M. × media ‘Charity’, Zones 7–9) is a plant that loves partial shade and is quite drought tolerant once established. I’m also a fan of the newly popular ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia (M. eurybracteata ’SoftRead more on finegardening.com