Category Archives: POLLINATION

Happy Thanksgiving from Gardenopolis!

This Thanksgiving, we thought we’d share some of the garden plants we’re most thankful for. 

Ann McCulloh:

Seems like I’ll be planting bulbs until the ground freezes solid, and some of my very favorite bulbs are the Alliums. There are many varieties of this charismatic onion relative, which bloom at various times in spring, summer or fall. All the tiny florets provide wonderful nectar for bees and butterflies. Best of all, the deer don’t like ’em!

The appeal of Eastern Bayberry (Morella pensylvanica) for me is the wonderful fragrance of the leaves and berries. Since this salt tolerant, semi-evergreen shrub makes a beautiful hedge when pruned regularly, there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy the scent when trimming it. Lots of birds eat the berries, too!

I welcome frost this time of year, once the houseplants are safe inside – it means a break from laboring in the garden! Another benefit is the softening, sweetening effect it has on the fruits of the native persimmon, Diospyros americana. The variety ‘Meader’ is hardy, self-pollinating and can be easily kept at 12′ tall. Beautiful orange fall color, too.

Catherine Feldman:

Pyncnantheum… native mint. Grows in part shade. Fresh pepperminty smell. Extremely attractive to pollinators midsummer through fall. Spreads by runners. Lovely blue grey foliage — color seems to deepen as the season passes.

Elsa Johnson:

A pleasing combination in fall is Amsonia hubrichtii, Sedum spectablis, and carex.

Amsonia hubrichtii… the amsonias are big clump forming perennials, though not at first, so patience is needed for the first couple years, especially in semi shade. All amsonias have pale, pale blue flowers in spring. Hubrichtii has fine thread-like leaves that turn a deep gold in the fall and is an aesthetic wonder, adding both color and billowing soft texture.

Sedum spectablis…a common garden perennial that is also a great pollinator attractor. The blossoms darken to shades of rosy russet in the fall and really stand out against a background of amsonia hubrichtii.

Carex… this is a cultivar I found ….it reminds me of hair. I find that if carex looks too much like ordinary grass my non-gardener clients think they are grass and weed them out. A non grass color like variegation seems to help.

Nyssa sylvatica… one of my favorite trees. Common name Black Gum . This is an easy to grow tree that is adaptable to many environmental conditions once established, and resistant to many diseases and pests. Has shiny dark green leaves that turn to crimson in the early fall. Deer like to browse the young leaves, so protection is needed while the tree is young.

Sassafras… Tends to grow in a thicket. In a good year the leaves turn marvelous mixed shades of yellow and gold flushed with coral.

Tom Gibson:

My favorite pollinator attractor?  Without question it’s boneset, eupatorium perfoliatum, which not only attracts the usual cast of honey bees and bumblebees, but all kinds of wasps, beetles and flies that often rely on pollen for just part of their diet.  I’ve already written about boneset, but the annual early August show continues to pull me in.  I will stand for 15 minutes at a time just to watch the ecstatic, oblivious activity of the dozens of insect visitors.  Here’s an ailanthus web worm with a mason bee:

Another favorite is the hardy ageratum (Conoclinium coelestinum).  It’s not mentioned nearly as much as milkweed as a food source for monarchs, but the butterflies always make a stop on these light blue flowers on their way south during the fall.

Finally, there’s Jacob’s ladder.  It’s one of the first plants to bloom in the spring and is a great source of early nourishment for queen bumblebees, whose self-heated “blood” enables them to begin establishing nests in cool weather.

Jacob’s ladder grows prolifically in my shade garden.  It happens to bloom at the same time as my red and black currant bushes, so Jacob’s ladders provide a nice assist in getting fruit started.

GardenWalk Cleveland will be back in 2017!

Ann McCulloh, contributing editor


In the heart of a Cleveland summer, hundreds of people stroll the city’s neighborhoods, invited to soak up the special character of each one, meeting residents and admiring their unique and welcoming gardens. GardenWalk Cleveland, a free, self-guided and volunteer-organized tour has been the vehicle for this special invitation since 2011. 

Last year (2016) Gardenwalk Cleveland took a one-year break, for a bunch of reasons that included an already crowded public event calendar (RNC, a national community gardening conference, to name two) some changes in funding sources, and the need to establish independent non-profit status. In hindsight, the break may have been an especially good idea, given the punishing drought we gardeners suffered all season long!

GardenWalk is back for 2017, and I for one am thrilled. Two neighborhoods have been chosen as definite hosts for the July 8 & 9 tour: Detroit-Shoreway and Collinwood. As many as two more will be added as planning for the event continues. A special focus on gardens that use native plants is planned for next year, too.

GardenWalk 2017 has mounted a crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of producing maps, updating the website and other expenses associated with putting on the event. Contributions are already underway through November 18th at

Inspired by a similar event in Buffalo, New York, GardenWalk Cleveland’s mission is “to build community, beautify neighborhoods, and encourage civic pride.”  As a transplant to Cleveland (pun intended) I have been delighted to discover the neighborhoods of Cleveland (Old Brooklyn Hough, Larchmere, Tremont and more) and meet the truly charming and individual gardeners who live and garden there.

daylilies GC 2015 - 2

The two times I put my own garden on the tour I met a steady parade of wonderful fellow gardeners, and had many inspiring conversations. One visitor even came back a day or two later with a gift of special plants from her own garden! You can learn more about GardenWalk, and get involved! at

Pollinator Pocket Progress

by Elsa Johnson and Catherine Feldman

Last fall Gardenopolis Cleveland decided to offer to help people develop pollinator pockets, starting with soil building via lasagna mulching in the fall, then returning the following spring to plant pollinator attracting flowers. But, of course, before we began, we had to have a sign…so we designed one.Gardenopolis_PollinatorPocket_final_o

When you see this sign around town, look for a nascent pollinator pocket.

Next, we sent our idea out into the ether and in a short time-voila!-we had a handful of takers.

The original idea had been to place our pollinator pockets on tree lawns or front yards for visibility (else why need a sign?) and make them all the same–a formula–but we quickly ran into a hitch–nature doesn’t do formulas. Each site we looked at was different than the one before.

Since our sites were all different–one long, skinny and very shady, several sunny, one on the edge of the woods–we realized that we needed a variety of plants to meet a variety of conditions. Our goal was that each pocket had plants attractive to pollinators across one complete growing season, i.e., spring to fall. Now we needed to consider plants that could handle a broad spectrum of environmental conditions. Surely a job for (drum roll) native plants!

Our selection included milkweed, aster, coneflower, pink turtlehead, agastache, lobelia, geranium, eupatorium, native solomon’s seal, golden road and salvia. This mix tended toward mid-summer to fall bloomers–we found it interesting how so many of our native wildflowers are late season. We used only plants that were designated as unappetizing to deer.


We usually buy plants in one or two gallon containers but because we needed a variety of plants and needed to keep our costs down we purchased very small plugs from a native plant mail-order nursery.

Checking on our pollinator pockets this fall we found varying results. One that had not been watered was basically gone. But, the rest were growing and doing well–though it will be next year before they mature and fill their purpose.


If the idea of a pollinator pocket in your garden seems appealing, just let us know. Our goal is a pocket in every garden!



*A lasagna mulch consists of layers of soil building materials-newspaper, manure, compost, green and dried leaves, straw and wood chips or cover crop-that break down over time to increase the organic composition of the soil.

*A pollinator pocket is an area of at least 5’x5′ planted with a range of plants that help sustain bees, bugs, butterflies and birds throughout the year. Ideally, such pockets would exist in every yard so that the pollinators could travel from one to the next fulfilling their needs.

The LEAP Native Plants of the Year

Submitted by Cathi Lehn on behalf of the LEAP Native Plant Promotion Committee

The Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership for Biodiversity (LEAP; is a consortium of forty-five (45) conservation-related organizations located in the Glaciated Allegheny Plateau ecoregion.  This ecoregion is defined by a common glacial history and climate and includes northeastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and western New York.  LEAP member organizations are dedicated to the identification, protection and restoration of biodiversity in the region and to the increased public awareness of biodiversity.  Current LEAP members represent park districts, conservation organizations, universities, and governmental agencies in Northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania.  

The LEAP Native Plant Promotion Committee (NPPC) was formed in 2008 in response to the threat of invasive plants to our natural areas.  The mission of the NPPC is to educate the public about the many benefits of native plants in the LEAP region and to join the nursery and landscaping trade in promoting the purchasing, selling, propagating and planting of our area’s native plant species.  In 2011 the Committee initiated a Native Plants of the Year campaign providing the gardener with three choices each year through 2022 of recommended native plants which are easily found in local nurseries. 

Using native plants in public and private landscapes and gardens can help reduce the threat of invasive non-native species to the region’s biodiversity.  The LEAP Native Plants of the Year campaign highlights native species that can make exceptional additional to area landscapes and gardens.  Native plants in the garden offer the following benefits:

  • Attract native wildlife
  • Reduce soil erosion
  • Require less fertilizer and watering
  • Promote native regional biodiversity
  • Thrive under natural conditions
  • Connect people to nature

LEAP Native Plants of the Year 2016

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

Spicebush is a deer-resistant shrub with early-season nectar for butterflies and bright red berries for migratory birds.  The common name refers to the sweet, spicy fragrance of the stems, leaves and fruits when bruised.

Spicebush berries_Judy Semroc   

Spicebush_Judy SemrocPhotos courtesy of Judy Semroc

Swamp Candles or Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia terrestris)

This showy perennial blooms vivid yellow in mid-summer adding color to rain gardens and wet areas.  Its sturdy stems make it an excellent cutting flower.  Native pollinators, like this syrphid flower fly, are attracted to the flower’s nectar.


syrphid flower fly_Cheryl Harner   

Photos courtesy of Bill Hendricks (top) and Cheryl Harner (below)

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

A colorful native prairie grass with striking blue-green foliage and pink overtones.  In the fall, its foliage takes on a coppery hue. It works well in areas prone to deer damage. 


Little Bluestem_Roger Gettig   

Photos courtesy of Bill Hendricks (top) and Roger Gettig (below)

To find more information about the LEAP Native Plants of the Year (2011-2015) please visit:

Also found on this page is a Native Plant Nurseries map created by Cleveland Metroparks that provides information on nurseries that sell native plants to our region. 

Brief Biography

Cathi is the Sustainable Cleveland Coordinator for the City of Cleveland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability which is a member of LEAP.  Cathi serves as the Chair of the LEAP Native Plant Promotion Committee and the LEAP Wildlife Conflict Committee.  She has recently revived the Sustainable Heights Network and serves on the Composting Committee.  Her true passion is in addressing the threat of plastic pollution to our waterways and hosts the Great Lake Erie Boat Float each year at Edgewater Park.


GARDENOPOLIS Cleveland Plans Pollinator Pocket Project!!!

News from the trenches: GARDENOPOLIS Cleveland proposes planting Pollinator Pockets around the city!


The need to establish habitats for pollinating insects has been much in the news lately. Many homeowners have been inspired to do their part and we are inspired to help them to do so. Our grand goal is to facilitate the planting of a series of carefully curated 5’x5’ pollinator pockets throughout the Cleveland urban area. According to a number of sources these small plots are enough habitat to nurture and sustain a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, moths and other needed insects.

butterfly on coneflower 2

We think this is a great idea—a manageable  and incremental way for each of us to do our part. And, just think how beautiful it would be if each block had a series of such plantings!

Right now we are preparing the soil of 7 sample plots around Shaker and Cleveland Heights using the lasagna mulching technique (layers of newspaper, straw, leaves, manure, compost and wood chips.)

jane lasagna mulch

In the spring we will install  pollinator plants for all-season bloom and deer-resistance. We will provide participating homeowners with an instruction manual for the maintenance of the chosen plants. You will be able to identify our Pollinator Pockets by the yard signs posted near the pollinator pockets. Sound appealing? Next year you may yearn for one of your own. We will keep you posted as to pollinator plot progress and how you may sign-up.

Watch for our sign: 


Ohio Trees for Bees by Denise Ellsworth

by Denise Ellsworth

Many people are concerned about the health and survival of bees, including honey bees, native bumble bees and the hundreds of lesser-known native and wild bees that call Ohio home. Bees are threatened by an assortment of factors such as pests, pathogens, pesticides, climate change and a lack of nesting habitat and forage plants.

Bees and flowering plants have a critical relationship. Flowering plants provide nectar and pollen for a bee’s diet. Pollen is an essential source of protein for developing bee larvae, and nectar provides a carbohydrate source. Honey bees convert nectar into honey by adding an enzyme which breaks down the complex sugars into simple sugars. Bees, in turn, transport pollen from flower to flower as they forage, allowing for plant fertilization and the production of seeds and fruit.

While trees provide many well-known ecological benefits, the importance of trees as a source of food for bees is sometimes overlooked. Ohio trees can provide food for bees from early spring through late summer, with most tree species in Ohio blooming in spring and early summer. This factsheet describes some of the Ohio trees that provide food for bees. Trees included in this list have been described as important by multiple researchers and bee experts.

Other trees not listed here can also provide food for bees. For example, Ohio horticultural experts have noted significant bee foraging activity on trees such as Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina), seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides), goldenrain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) and Japanese pagoda tree (Sophora japonica) in landscape settings.

Consider selecting from this list of trees when choosing species to plant in urban, landscape and rural settings: Maple. Buckeye, Alder, Serviceberry, Catalpa, CommonHackberry, Red Bud, Yellow Wood, Cornelian Cherry, Hazelnut, Hawthorne

Xerces example:

What’s the Difference between Pollinator and Pest?: Getting to Know your Neighbors

 by Diana Sette

In the City, many people can be put off by ‘bugs.’  Maybe it is because people think the bug may bite or sting you.  Or maybe they are just annoying and buzz.  Often people are simply flat out scared by something flying around them – even a beautiful butterfly.   While city culture may bristle at the thought of bugs, we must work to cultivate a vision that embraces bugs and can tell the difference between a pest and a pollinator, because our survival may depend on it.

How can that be so?  Well, three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants depend on pollinators to reproduce.  Flowering plants equates to most of the fruit, vegetable, and seed crops we eat – and other plants that provide fiber, medicine and fuel we use; these plants are pollinated by animals.* 

What kind of animals you may ask?  Pollinators are not just bugs like bees (though this is an essential one!) and beetles, they also include bats, butterflies and birds.  These pollinators are by no means ‘pests,’  when we support them we can actually support the reduction or effect of pests in our garden and life (ie. Bats eat mosquitoes, parasitic wasps make their cocoons on the backs of tomato hornworms!).  For the sake of this post, we’re going to focus on just a few pollinators you may find in your garden- especially if you have some plants that provide them food and habitat.**

IMG_20571st photo: Goldenrod Soldier Beetle or Pennsylvania Leatherwing (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) with two bees I’m not able to identify.

2nd photo: Locust Borer (Megacyllene robiniae) on tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
IMG_20613rd photo:Short-Horned Grasshopper (orthoptera caelifera)
IMG_20644th & 5th photos: Eastern Carpenter Bees – Xylocopa virginica
image16th photo: Locust Borer (Megacyllene robiniae), two bees, and one Eastern yellow jacket Vespula maculifrons or- wasp (most likely yellow jacket- but hard to tell)

Thank you for getting to know your neighbor pollinators!  Together we can support our long-term livelihood by supporting theirs!

*More information on pollinators at

** Tips on how you can help support pollinators

Plants We Like: Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)

by Ann McCulloh
 Blue Mistflowers (Conoclinium coelestinum) are that lovely shade of periwinkle which falls between lavender and powder blue…
A hardy (to zone 5) native  perennial, its late-season nectar attracts lots of butterflies. It really comes on beautifully in September, making a nice, fresh contrast to the prevalent yellows and whites of other fall wildflowers. The stems are a sort of dark cherry color, and at 24″ stand taller than the similar annual Ageratum often sold for springtime bedding. A bit further south this plant is considered a too competitive, but here in Northeastern Ohio it’s often a welcome addition to partly shady or damp gardens. In our current bone-dry season, my newly-planted  specimen required only occasional watering. Here it is on September 25, 2015.
Blue Mistflower

Plants We Like: Milkweed-Schmilkweed – What Do Those Darn Monarchs Want, Anyway? by Elsa Johnson

Elsa Johnson


We constantly hear how the Monarch butterfly population is at risk because they are dependent on milkweed plants for survival.  What does that mean?  Is timing important?

The answer to both questions is … not quite so much for the adult Monarch butterfly as for the Monarch caterpillar.  The caterpillar, the larval stage of the butterfly, MUST have milkweed. It eats nothing else.    


Adult Monarch butterflies drink only liquid, mostly in the form of nectar that they suck up through a tiny tube (called a proboscis) just under the head. They can get nectar from a variety of flowering sources. To attract adult Monarch butterflies, one need only plant a variety of nectar rich flowers, including the various species of milkweed native to one’s area.  As the non-breeding Monarch’s  – that is,  the migrating population of Monarch’s (as opposed to the breeding stay-at-home population) fly southwest on the migration to Mexico, it is important that they find nectar sources along their route. This should be a variety of flowering plants with staged flowering times to give both stay at home and migrating Monarchs a continuous food source. Milkweed of course should be included in the mix.

It is the stay-at-home breeding population that specifically need milkweed plants. Adult butterflies lay their eggs only on milkweed plants because in the caterpillar stage of their life cycle Monarch’s eat only the leaves of milkweed plants. They can denude a milkweed plant of its leaves (but that’s ok; the leaves will regenerate).

Monarch friendly areas should be not be mowed or cut back until butterflies have migrated from the area (a good reason to practice garden sloth on either a small or large scale).  For large areas, mowing in patches insures that pollinators always have access to undisturbed habitat and can recolonize mowed areas. Avoid the use of herbicides and pesticides.

There are 13 species of milkweed native to Ohio. The most common to the fields of Northeast Ohio is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).

Asclepias_syriaca_-_Common_Milkweed 2

You can find large stands of this milkweed in the Great Meadow of Forest Hill Park (feel free to take some pods home!). This species can spread aggressively — though for now we are not convinced that is such a bad thing.

The milkweed species are most often found in area nurseries are Swamp Milkweed

( Asclepias incarnata)

swamp milkweed

and Aesclepias tuberosa, with its startling orange flowers.

milkweed- orangeasclepiastuberosa_sa_1_lg_0 (1)

Both respond to garden sloth by self- sowing. Interestingly, caterpillars on A. tuberosa have a greater survival rate then on the other milkweeds. 


Milkweed information sheet: 

The  Xerces Society : milkweed seed finder database 

Milkweed pods
Milkweed pods

After Blueflags

(Homage to WCW)

We stopped to gather pods

from the milkweed plants

where they grow

in the meadow

amid tall grasses

that wave

as wind blows

and rain falls

and runnels the ground

toward the swale

where we planted blueflags

one spring

in water

with sunflowers beside.

The milkweed pods

are like fat fish

which we pull

from stalks

and carry

in our pockets

and our arms

to the ditch

where our hands grow sticky

with white sap

as we pull apart pods

for the seeds inside

lined up like fish scales

tied to silk threads

which we rend and scatter

so they drift

in wet air

Milkweed gone to seed
Milkweed gone to seed

Plants We Like: Pycnanthemum or Mountain Mint


Pycnanthemum muticum or mountain mint is one of my new favorite perennial plants. Not only does it have a sweet white-pink flower, the leaves and stems have an almost icy appearance. It is lighting up one of the darker spots of a shady forest area in my front yard. I am planning to add lots more of it (plant gluttony, again) throughout that area. Although it is not supposed to do well in deep shade, rather preferring full sun to part shade, I am going to experiment a bit to see how deep into the shade it will thrive. Already now, on the edge of sun and shade, it is doing a good job of lighting up the area. It is native to the US in zones 4-8. It’s height and spread is from 1-3 feet. It blooms from July to September. It tolerates some dryness and attracts butterflies and bees. It is not bothered by insects or deer. It can be used to make tea and may be used as insect repellant when rubbed on the skin. So many virtues!DETA-246