A garden is a living thing and, if properly planted and maintained, it should attract other living things.
That’s certainly true in Sue Orlowski’s pollinator garden in the Logan Neighborhood on Spokane’s North Side.
“Because of the pandemic and the fact that I had plenty of time on my hands, I started expanding my pollinator garden,” she said. “You know the saying, ‘Plant the flowers and they will come?’ Well, they did!”
By “they” she means bees, butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, moths and a host of other insects.
Pollinator gardens are designed to attract beneficial creatures that transfer pollen from flower to flower, or in some cases, within flowers.
“I’m a Sister of Providence and our mission is to care for the poor and the vulnerable, as well as the Earth,” said Orlowski, who’s on the Caring for Creation Committee at St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church on the Gonzaga University campus. “I’ve been into nature my whole life.”
In 2006, when she moved into her home in the heart of the Logan Neighborhood, there was no garden, just some roses.
“I started with barrels of herbs, then tomatoes, and I’ve added each year,” she said.
Now her garden is a certified wildlife and pollinator habitat.
“During 2020 and 2021, I had at least 10 species of bees, including native bees and honey bees, five species of butterflies, two species of dragonflies, three praying mantises, three species of grasshoppers, native wasps, moths, katydid and beetles,” Orlowski said.
She walked through her backyard, pointing out the plants and flowers that attract pollinators.
“Bees love asters. They have a lot of nectar. You need flowers with pollen and nectar,” she explained.
They also flock to her Autumn Joy sedum that blooms from August through November. Fragrant basil, thyme, sage and oregano, grow near bushy flowering arugula. Native plants like Brown-Eyed Susans and goldenrod also attract insects.
Orlowski cautions against raking up all your leaves in the fall.
“They’re good for your plants throughout the winter,” she said. “And butterflies lay eggs in the ground cover.”
In the spring, the first butterflies she sees are Cabbage Whites.
“Butterflies are cold-blooded. They open their wings to get the sun.”
Through the years she has spotted a host of the lovely insects including, Western Tiger Swallowtails, Checkered Skippers, Gray Hairstreaks and at the end of summer Woodland Skippers appear.
She was disappointed the Monarchs haven’t visited for several years, and this year no katydids arrived.
“When you make the land available, you never really know what you’re going to get,” she said.
A longtime member of the Audubon Society, Orlowski liked birding but finds enjoying other wildlife better suits her schedule.
“You have to be an early riser to be a birder, but bees and butterflies don’t come out until after 10,” she said, smiling. “That’s more to my liking.”
She stresses these gardens are good for our climate and saving pollinators is vital.
“Anyone can do this, no matter the size of their space.”
Caring for the Earth and creating a welcoming habitat for insects offers her great satisfaction.
“As Catholics, we believe God manifests through all of creation, not just man,” Orlowski said. “I feel peace in my garden. God’s divine presence is there.”
Correspondent Cindy Hval can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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