Ask a master gardener: local experts answer your pressing garden questions

  • Pollinator beds add beauty and color to the landscape while providing beneficial forage to resident bee populations. Contributed photo/Andrea Morris

For the Gazette
Published: 9/21/2018 11:46:40 AM

Q: What should I plant this fall that will provide quality pollinator food sources in the early spring?

A: Nice job thinking ahead!  Thank you for considering the pollinators. Early spring is a time when few plants are yet in bloom and early emerging queen bumblebees are hungry from their winter slumber. Here are three ideas for you. 

First is spring ephemerals. Ephemeral plants are sweet little perennials that emerge quickly in the spring, then their tops fade after a short time while their roots continue to grow for next year’s show.  Their natural habitat is at woodland edges and stream banks. Their fun names alone are a good reason to plant them! For example, there is purple Dogtooth Violet (Erythronium dens-canis), white Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), and pink/white/purple/flecked Lady Slipper (Calypso bulbosa).

Now is also a great time to plant early flowering shrubs like Pussy Willow (Salix species), another fan of moist areas, and Serviceberry (Amelanchier species). Pussy willows have the added advantage of providing lovely stems for springtime container gardens, too.

Lastly, certain trees are good for providing bees that first meal of the year. Sun-loving native Red Maple (Acer rubrum) is one. The red haze seen on Red Maple trees’ bare branches in early spring is the yellowish-pink male flowers and the darker pink blossomed female flowers. Pollinator food! Another tree for early pollinators is Cornelian Cherry Dogwood (Cornus mas). It has a lovely yellow flower and grows small, tart, olive-shaped fruits that mature to a pretty red color. Try out one, two, or a few!

Have a gardening dilemma? Please send your questions to the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association at

Want to be a Master Gardener? Applications being accepted through September 30 on our website at for the Class of 2019.


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