For many of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it's still winter, but spring is around the corner, making this the perfect time to plan for planting flowers!
And not just for your aesthetic pleasure. There are important reasons growing different flowers in your yard, or in containers on your patio or balcony, help create a better world.
Plant Flowers for the Beautiful and Vital Bees
Flowers are not just pretty. They provide vital food for bees. For those of you lucky enough to have yard or patio space, growing flowering plants helps feed our oh-so-important and dwindling honey and bumble bees.
You may be familiar with colony collapse disorder, which is worldwide problem. It's a big deal because so much of the food we love exists because of bees. In fact, many crops are almost entirely reliant on bees for pollination. Blueberries, cherries, apples, carrots, and almonds are just some foods we would have to do without if bees were to disappear.
And while some dislike quantifying the monetary benefits bees bring us, it's difficult not to mention that bees pollinate somewhere between $14 to $15 billion in crops every year in the United States alone, and generate another approximately $150 million annually in honey. In short, bees are key to our ability to enjoy a variety of delicious and healthy foods.
At the same time, massive mono-cropping of foods like corn and soy that are wind insect pollinated crops, provide bees with no nourishment. And they take up space where a diversity of plant species used to grow. This means bees no longer have an easy supply of food. Even when there are flowers around, bees can struggle to find food throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons when we choose to cultivate only a few specific varieties of plants that bloom only in one season. Growing a diversity of plants that bloom at different times helps bees stay fed and healthy.
And finally, let's not forget the impact pesticides have on bees. There are a number of factors contributing to colony collapse disorder and pesticides, especially ones containing neonicotinoids, are among them. Pick pest-resistant varieties of blooming plants, or you can try natural ways to ward off pests. Companion planting, "inter-cropping" with allium, and other methods are all worth trying.
Plant Flowers for Yourself
We don't need studies to tell us that nature has a positive effect on our wellbeing, but just in case, studies have indeed found we are better off when we have natural beauty around us. For example, the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory has found having vegetation in one's living environment is linked with less aggression. And studies done in Japan on "forest bathing" have found that time spent in nature improves our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing (no surprise there!).
And scientific research on "attention restoration theory" finds that spending time in nature improves, among other things, our creativity and altruism.
Resources and Tips
- Watch Marla Spivak's informative Ted Talk, Why Bees are Disappearing
- Find bee-friendly gardening tips at pugetsoundbees.org and University of Illinois' Beespotter
- Support Friends of the Earth's campaign to get Lowe's and Home Depot to stop selling pesticides containing neonicotinoids that harm bees
- Check out Sunset Magazine's slideshow "Best Flowers for Bees and Butterflies"
- Peruse HGTV's slideshow for Low-Budget Container Gardening ideas, and University of Illinois comprehensive page on Successful Container Gardens
- Learn more about pest-fighting flowers from vegetablegardner.com
- Read our blog article: For Greater Wellbeing, Honor Your Biophilia by Getting Outside
- And our blog: Nature is Your Brain's Medicine Cabinet