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Learn how to design a home pollinator garden

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Last summer, the Albuquerque City Council unanimously designated Albuquerque as a Bee City USA. To support the citywide activities planned for the year, the Albuquerque Chapter of the New Mexico Native Plant Society will present a landscape design workshop for home pollinator gardens next weekend.

Checkerspot butterflies feed on nectar-rich flowers like orange sneezeweed.

Checkerspot butterflies feed on nectar-rich flowers like orange sneezeweed.

To survive, native pollinators need the pollen and nectar from native plants. Urban areas and new development offer little habitat for our butterflies and other pollinators. Home landscapes can provide an important resource for butterflies, birds, bees and bumblebees displaced by development. (Most native bees don’t sting!)

“Many pollinators are adapted to specific plants and can’t feed on the exotics so often used in landscaping,” said George Miller, president of the Albuquerque Chapter of the Native Plant Society. “Ninety-five percent of songbirds feed their nestlings butterfly and moth caterpillars that occur only on native plants. But with up to 80 percent of urban landscapes planted with exotic flowers, shrubs and trees, our native pollinators are rapidly disappearing.”

Pollinator gardens are designed with pollen and nectar plants that bloom from early spring to late fall. Besides providing food for pollinators, habitat gardens beautify a landscape with three seasons of color. Native shrubs, such as Apache plume and desert olive, are the first to bloom and provide food for pollinators emerging from hibernation. Fall bloomers, like chamisa, goldenrods and sunflowers, let pollinators stock up on pollen before hibernation.

Birds are also an important member of any backyard habitat landscape. Red flowers, like penstemons, sages and claret cup cacti, attract hummingbirds, and sunflowers provide summer food for goldfinches and other seed eaters.

Beside flowers that provide food for pollinators and birds, every backyard habitat garden needs a water source and plants that provide shelter, protection and nesting sites.

“We hope people will come with an idea and go home knowing how to create a backyard oasis,” Miller said.

Local experts will discuss how to design gardens that attract butterflies, bees and birds, and what plants to use. Speakers include Miller, author of “Landscaping with Native Plants of the Southwest”; Judith Phillips, landscape designer and author of “Growing the Southwest Garden: Regional Ornamental Gardening”; Olivia Carril, author of “The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees”; Steve Cary, author of “Butterfly Landscapes of New Mexico”; and Virginia Burris, award-wining local habitat designer.