Every year I notice one plant in particular that people seemed to like above all the rest, at least enough to comment on it, and this year it’s the common houseplant Persian Shield next to my front door, potted up with a sweet potato vine. (In the lower left is a ‘Goshiki’ Osmanthus.)

I love it, too!

The Search for Pollinator-Pleasing Plants for Pots Begins

Across the sidewalk from those pots is a group of three more, containing a mix of Coleus and Iresine, which also look fine – but I’ve never seen a single bee or butterfly on them. Which makes sense because I don’t let them get tall and flower, then flop.

So while they look pretty and even clean a bit of air, I suppose, they seem ecologically sterile to me, especially compared to the Joe Pye Weed and Bronze Fennel behind them that are so loved by bees and butterflies. Okay, it’s taken a few years of pollinators in the news but I’ve finally noticed the plants that under-perform,  pollinator-wise. 

So for next year I’m determined to replace the Coleus and Iresine with colorful annuals that will attract bees and butterflies, dammit.  So where to look for inspiration? Public gardens, of course!

U.S. Botanic Gardens Conservatory

So yesterday I rode my trusty bike around the National Mall and boy howdy – I found some stunning containers!

I’d love to see these arrangements in my front garden but they have to be do-able by me.  Plus, I didn’t see them covered with bees on the early September morning of my visit. I’ll note the flowers that did meet that requirement.

The Coleus used here isn’t blooming, but there’s still plenty of blooms here. Mostly too tall for my smaller pots.I just love the subtlety of these colors and textures. The reddish plant above is ‘Rubra’ Malabar spinach. Pretty cool! 

Hey, that might be my old friend Persian Shield at the rear of this gorgeous arrangement. The pink, clover-like flowers look promising – is that Globe Amaranth?

U.S. Botanic Garden’s Bartholdi Fountain and Garden

Though not strictly in containers, the annuals tucked in the tight space around the fountain might work for me – at least the shorter ones. 

There’s a nice glimpse of the Capitol in the distance, with the much-less-loved Rayburn House Office Building on the right. The sculpture is by Frederic Bartholdi, whose most famous work is the Eiffel Tower.

The signs like this one surrounding the fountain surprised me. People were walking in these narrow beds? Where were they raised, these bed-walkers?

More plant ideas, and appreciation for stand-out colors for the pots themselves. Say yes to the turquoise! A piece of living art, amirite?

Smithsonian’s Ripley Garden

I chatted up a lovely volunteer working in the garden, who said annual Salvias like the one above are great for the critters I’m looking to feed.

All design and plant choices by the Ripley gardener herself – Janet Draper. Janet knows how to create drama. This container includes ‘Carolina Snow’ Euphorbia and the little pink flowers may be Pentas.  More drama, and Coleus with flowers – that don’t seem to attract much insect action. The structure behind the birdhouse is the Hirshhorn Museum.

During my visit this African Blue Basil had the most bee action of any other plant I saw.

The bees also seemed to like this ‘White Cloud’ Calamint, but it’s a perennial, and it hadn’t done well in the ground for me. I won’t be trying it in a pot.

Smithsonian’s Enid Haupt Garden

A flowering shrub I wish I could grow – Mussaenda ‘Queen Sirikit.”

Freer Gallery Front Garden

I love this combination of groundcover Juniper with what seem to be Globe Amaranth.

Got Ideas?

I’m taking notes for next spring.