How can happy and cheery yellow hues and lively and rich purple hues cause people to gleefully countdown towards a weed apocalypse?
Dandelions and Violets should be a welcome addition, especially for the eco-friendly gardener, sending up their early spring blooms sporadically throughout your lawn and flower beds. The same bees that will be pollinating your favorite summer fruits and vegetables need nectar and pollen sources now. Bees like violets’ dark purple color, which keeps them warm while drinking nectar and collecting pollen on cool days.
Bees like dandelions in a landscape full of grass; however, dandelions don’t provide the most nutritious pollen for bees. A yard full of snow drops, winter aconite, crocus, hellebores, blue scillia, spring beauty, grape hyacinths, daffodils, and Virginia bluebells will also give bees these early nectar sources. Unfortunately, this diversity of early bloomers is not as common in lawns as those dandelions. Several birds eat dandelion flowers, buds and seeds, and hummingbirds use the seeds as construction materials for their nests. Sulphur, Admiral, and Comma butterflies like visiting the blooms too.
Visitors to violets include several kinds of bees like the mason bees, plus smaller butterflies, and pollinating flies. Violets are considered a butterfly-friendly plant because they are a major larva food source for the Fritillary butterflies. Some small mammals and birds eat the seeds of violets too.
To help the bees, we need to let go of the manicured landscape and lawn pesticides this April, and let these special weeds bloom. If this challenge excites you, consider planting a bee lawn this fall with white clover and creeping thyme. University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab has a bee-friendly lawn program that mixes flowering plants that feed the bees with more traditional turf that you can mow normally.
Kids in the Garden
Dandelions are often a favorite of little ones. The bright yellow pop amongst the green grass draws their attention and encourages collecting and gifting these blooming gems. Who doesn’t love receiving a bundle of freshly picked dandelions? While out in your backyard or on a walk, have the kiddos search for the various stages of dandelion flowers. Encourage them to arrange the flowers in the correct sequence of bloom stages—from bud development to a dried center where seeds were once arranged. Get creative with dandelions, and rub the open yellow flowers on the sidewalk or white paper to create a design with the yellow pigment from the petals.