SHOW GOOD BUGS SOME LOVE, say my across-the-river neighbors at Hudson Valley Seed Library…and while you’re at it, show an independent, right-minded small seed company some love, too. I’m ordering a supply of the Seed Library’s charmingly named and artfully packaged Good Bug Blooms packets (above, with flaps unfolded), enough to share with friends—and with the bugs in my garden, most of all.
Technically speaking, a “good bug bloom” would be one whose individual flowers are small (even if they’re massed in a big flowerhead, as dill or fennel are), and whose pollen and nectar are exposed for easy access. They’d attract beneficial insect pollinators and predators—lacewings, for instance, or ladybugs, or ground beetles or beneficial wasps—creatures who spread pollen and/or feed on insect pests.
A succession of beneficial blooms—not just one species or variety—will yield season-long appeal to a range of desired insects in all their life phases. Co-founder Ken Greene of Hudson Valley Seed Library says their Good Bug Blooms mix was formulated with that (and also eye-appeal to humans) in mind.
Their current mix includes sulphur Cosmos, annual Gaillardia, ‘Lilliput Mix’ zinnia, ‘Persian Carpet’ zinnia, sweet alyssum, blue cornflower, German chamomile, scarlet flax, blue flax, annual baby’s breath, and ‘Pumila Mix’ zinnia.
“I also recommend letting some of your umbels flower and go to seed,” says Greene, who recommends other single-variety packets for their bug-friendliness, including parsnip, dill, parsley, and cilantro/coriander. “They are amazing for beneficials,” he says. “It’s one of the bonuses of being a seed saver. We have so much blooming on the farm that ordinarily would be interrupted by our appetites! We have no pollination worries here with all the natives we attract and create habitat for.”
Which hints at the only “downside” of growing beneficial blooms: You have to exhibit some restraint, and let the plants grow on. Please don’t pick the flowers! Someone of a lower order with a much higher purpose is counting on them.