Planning for pollinators on a dreary winter’s day

What I wouldn’t give to see a bee right now! During the summer, our gardens literally vibrate with life and you can track the passing weeks by the blooms that lure bees from one side of the yard to the other. Early in the summer, the herbs – oregano, thyme, and sage – offer up tiny, but delicious, morsels to the pollinators. Next comes the wild rose, whose pink petals are beautiful, but fleeting. Later in the summer, the virgin’s bower cascades over our wooden arbor, presenting a bountiful feast to bees and wasps of all shapes and sizes. In the fall, there is anise hyssop, aster, and goldenrod.


The flowers on the native clematis are small but beautiful 🐝 #nativeplants #pollinators #gardening #vines

♬ original sound – Angie Hong

Standing in the yard today, I hear nothing but the howl of the wind, crying across a frozen fairytale kingdom.

Though spring is still far, far in the future, winter does offer quiet time to rest and plan for the coming year. And, if your spring dreams happen to feature a lush and lovely pollinator garden, there are numerous resources available to help you in your planning.

There’s a lovely pollinator planting here, beneath the snow.

Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources is again offering Lawns to Legumes grants of up to $350 to help people create pollinator habitat with pocket plantings, pollinator lawns, prairies and meadows, and pollinator-friendly trees and shrubs. Apply online at before Jan. 18, 2023 to be entered into the lottery for a grant.  

In addition, the Blue Thumb – Planting for Clean Water program has numerous resources for gardeners. You can use the Plant Finder tool to identify native plants that are best suited for your yard, access resources for native gardens, raingardens, shoreline plantings, and turf alternatives, and find native plant retailers and landscape design companies in the area. As part of the Lawns to Legumes program, the website also has info on how to plant for pollinators and how to maintain native plantings, as well as technical support for people who receive grants.

Female tiger swallowtail butterfly on bergamot (bee balm).

At the end of this month, UMN Extension will host a three-part webinar series on creating pollinator habitat. The sessions include:

  • Creating a Pollinator Friendly Garden (Jan. 31, 1:30-2:30pm) by Julie Weisenhorn, UMN Extension
  • How to Create a Bee Lawn (Feb. 1, 1:30-2:30pm) by James Wolfin, Twin City Seed
  • Tools and Resources for Starting a Pocket Prairie (Feb. 2, 1:30-2:30pm) by Sam Talbot, UMN Extension
Monarch butterflies on rough blazing star in a raingarden in Cottage Grove. These practices help to protect water resources and create valuable habitat for wildlife and pollinators.

Later in the spring, the East Metro Water Education Program will offer three additional workshops:

  • Perennial Planting Primer: Getting Started with Native Plants (Feb. 21, 3-5pm at Hardwood Creek Library in Forest Lake) by Comfort Lake – Forest Lake Watershed District
  • Planting for Pollinators (March 2, 6-7:30pm via zoom) by Angie Hong, East Metro Water and Cody Sipe, Prairie Restorations
  • Bee Lawns and Lawn Alternatives (April 3, 6-7:30pm via zoom) by Angie Hong, East Metro Water and James Wolfin, Twin City Seed.

Head to for a registration link and more information any of the above programs.

If reading is more your style, there are also several books you could consider for garden planning and design. One new book, fresh off the press in 2023, is Prairie Up: An Introduction to Natural Garden Design by Benjamin Vogt. Landscaping with Native Plants of Minnesota by Lynn Steiner was updated in 2011, and is still considered one of the best native gardening books for our region. And, if you’re particularly interested in attracting bees and butterflies to your yard and learning more about the different species, Heather Holm has two wonderful books: Pollinators of Native Plants, and Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide.

In the meantime, may I recommend a visit to the Como Conservatory in St. Paul? You won’t find bees and butterflies there, but it’ll be lovely to feel warm, humid air on your face while you sit and dream about spring.