To have butterflies, we need to make butterflies. Butterflies used to reproduce on the native plants that grew in our yards before the plants were bulldozed and replaced with lawn. To have butterflies in our future, we need to replace those lost host plants… Instead of building a butterfly garden with aliens that will make no new butterflies, use a native species that serves as a host for butterfly larvae as well as a supply of nectar for adults.
Doug Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home p.112
“I think it’s a very optimistic story,” Frank Drummond, professor of insect ecology, said. “In general, it seems that most of our native bees are pretty stable and not really in decline. The sampling I’ve done in blueberry fields shows that species are pretty much holding their own and doing OK. On average, the native bee population seems to be doing pretty good.”
Pollinator gardens, or all flowers for that matter, are essential to support bees and other pollinators not only for the purposes of growing crops, but also for sustaining plants in parks and gardens and in naturalized areas, such as along rivers, forest edges or roadways. Many plants depend on pollinators to reproduce and spread. Pollinators and other insects are also an important source of food (protein) for birds, frogs, snakes, and small animals that live in these areas. Due to pesticides, agricultural practices, and urbanization, pollinator populations are in serious decline. If we are going to try to maintain populations, we need to protect existing habitat and create new habitat, even in urban areas. Whether or not your garden will benefit local farms and nurseries, it will benefit pollinators and other insects and all the local plants and birds that depend on them.
Even though your golf course is in the middle of a city and it may seem like habitat is not important, the golf course is likely one piece of a larger fragmented green space, or perhaps a link in a continuous corridor of green spaces made up of parks, cemeteries, and residential gardens. Planting flowers and other plants will help sustain all the species that live in this larger vegetated area.
You don’t necessarily need to go “all-out” to create pollinator habitat. Sometimes, simply reducing mowing and letting areas naturalize allows existing flowering plants, such as goldenrod, asters or milkweed (plants we often think of as weeds), to bloom, providing beauty and habitat at no cost. Most pollinator plants thrive in poor, dry soils so you don’t need to fertilizer or amend your soil. Once plants are established and fill in, you don’t need mulch and the need for irrigation is minimal, if at all. Keep in mind, that if pesticides are used on the golf course, you want to be careful about how they are used and avoid using them near your flowering plants.
Along with the benefits of creating habitat for many different species, a flower garden brings beauty and interest to the landscape all year long, creates a sense of place, and engages all those who pass by or step into that space. I can’t think of any way in which a garden would not be of benefit! So, I would say, yes, absolutely, a pollinator garden in the city makes sense.