We have been planting native species of wildflowers along the access roads in our orchard. These are tough, drought-resistant plants that add to the beauty of morning and sunset walks, but their purpose is more than decorative. Native species attract native bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other creatures that pollinate our trees. Unlike the large commercial orchards, we do not rent bees from itinerant beekeepers who follow the blossoms from farm to farm. And since we are organic, there are no pesticides to harm the bugs and birds working for us.
We have not tried to design the entire project in advance. Instead, we continuously plant varieties of Agastache, Penstemons, Jupiter’s Beard, California Poppies and California Lilacs, Salvia, Hummingbird Sage, Butterfly Mint, and Yarrow along with Flannel Bushes and Manzanitas, to see what grows best where. The result is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colors. The bees seem to go after the white, yellow and purple flowers while the hummingbirds favor the violet and red ones.
Bumblebees are the most prolific pollinators. My favorites are the big black Western Bumblebees. Their Latin name fits--Bombus Occidentalis. They look like fuzz-covered bits of charcoal with yellow stripes. Sometimes, they fly up close to check you out. They look scary, but they are far too busy to bother with people. Even while pruning trees and picking lemons or avocados, no one has ever been stung.