Bring on the Summer of the Sunflower
Have you heard the buzz about sunflowers? They are garden showstoppers but are also wonderful for pollinating insects — especially native bees, whose numbers are in steep decline. The Swarthmore Horticultural Society has decided to make this the “Summer of the Sunflower” to raise awareness of the role the flowers — and the bees they attract and protect — play in the health of a diverse habitat.
Through a generous donation from the Burpee Seed Company, the SHS will feature seven varieties of sunflowers in our summer gardens and will be giving away seedlings and seed packets to the public beginning this Sunday, June 2, at our Cello in the Garden event at Charles Cresson’s Hedgleigh Spring.
Why care about bees? There are 4,000 bee species native to the U.S. and over 20,000 species worldwide. Only seven of these species are honeybees, which are not native here. It’s important to remember that while those glamorous honeybees get a lot of attention, our hardworking native bees are absolutely crucial to the pollination of one-third of our fruits and vegetables. Recent studies have shown that more than half of native bee species in North America are rapidly declining, with almost a quarter facing extinction.
Why sunflowers? The idea to celebrate sunflowers came about over the winter, just after the Horticultural Society’s Park Avenue garden — tended by devoted garden manager Bill Pinder — received its certification from the National Wildlife Foundation for providing food, water and shelter for pollinators. With habitat gardening on her mind, SHS board member Judy Penney came across a fascinating article about research which found the pollen of sunflowers helps to protect bees from disease. This led to a broader vision to plant sunflowers throughout Swarthmore. The SHS hopes that the sight of these bold and beautiful flowers will inspire us all to create a pollinator garden.
We invite you to join the Summer of the Sunflower by planting sunflowers and other native flowers everywhere you can to help local bee populations thrive. As the summer unfolds, watch for pollinator activities brought to you by the SHS. The first of these sessions will be on First Friday, June 7, at Harvey Oak Mercantile (HOM), 102 Park Avenue. There you will receive seedlings, seeds and how-tos from SHS volunteers.
For more information about the Summer of the Sunflower and how a bee habitat can “bee” created in your yard, check out the Swarthmore Horticultural Society website, or contact us at email@example.com.