Of all the summer gardening activities, the most pleasant is sitting in the garden and counting the number of bees that land on the flowers I've planted just for them. There's no time I spend in the garden that's more enjoyable or more important.
As a volunteer in the citizen science corps of The Great Sunflower Project, attracting pollinators to my garden and counting them provides valuable information.
The Great Sunflower Project collects bee-count data from gardeners across the country to study bee populations from urban to rural areas. This project helps researchers understand the plight of our pollinators.
It's easy for gardeners to participate. Just plant a package of 'Lemon Queen' sunflowers (Helianthus 'Lemon Queen') and wait for them to bloom. Once bees find their way to the flowers, the fun begins.
On warm summer mornings I grab a cup of coffee, my watch, paper and pen and head into the garden. I move a chair close to the sunflowers and take a seat.
On busy mornings I may get a different bee landing on a sunflower once a minute. It's mesmerizing to watch each insect walking around the flower and collecting pollen before buzzing its way to the next flower.
A number of other flowers attract pollinators, and The Great Sunflower Project is collecting data on bee visits to those plants too.
Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a sturdy, long-blooming perennial that attracts bees and other pollinators such as butterflies.
Bee balm (Monarda) lives up to its name; bees flock to the colorful blossoms as soon as they start blooming.
Other flowering plants that attract pollinators include California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), tickseed (Coreopsis) and cosmos.
What flowers attract pollinators to your garden?