Planning a "bee lawn" in Klamath Falls - what flowers do you recommend?

Asked April 28, 2018, 5:22 PM EDT

Hello! I live in Klamath Falls, Oregon and I am planning on converting my front lawn to a "bee lawn." I learned about this concept from the University of Minnesota: https://www.beelab.umn.edu/bees/beelawn. The idea is to add flowers to a traditional lawn and then let it grow long and loose. They have some flowers they recommend (white clover, creeping thyme, ground plum, lanceleaf tickweed, lanceleaf self-heal, calico american aster) I would like to choose flowers that will work with a bit less moisture (since I am in a high desert environment and try to limit watering) and include some natives to the area. The idea is that in the fall I will scalp my lawn down to an inch or less, then areate it and drop flower seed into the holes. In the spring, I'll delay any mowing for as long as possible to allow the new flowers to establish. Then I will mow the lawn, but not as often as a traditional lawn, and I'll keep it at 4 inches. Thus, the ideal flowers would be ones that bloom under four inches and are attractive to pollinators (bees, butterflies, hover flies, etc.). So creepers and little short flowers are desired. I am willing to be pretty flexible about native status, though some natives would be fun. Here are some I am considering. -Purple poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrata) -Quail plant (Heliotropium curassavicum) -Matted lupine (Lupinus breweri) -Dwarf California poppy (Eschscholzia caespitosa) Can you tell me what you recommend? Thanks so much! Emma Rohwer

Klamath County Oregon pollinators lawns

1 Response

Thank you, Emma, for using Ask an Expert. You are to be commended for wanting a landscape to attract pollinators and to be water-wise. We must remind you of he obvious, however, Klamath Falls is not Minnesota. Most mixed lawn/flower combinations do not look wonderful in winter. In Minnesota (USDA Zones 3 &4), that's not as much of a problem because much of the state has a snow carpet in winter. Yes, K Falls (USDA Zone 5) can be cold and snow does occasionally fall, but the USDA plant hardy zones are different enough that finding compatible lawn grasses that take little or no water and look good in winter and summer along with perennial plants that are short and have a long blooming period is very tricky.
We'd like to make a few suggestions, however, that you can research further to see what might appeal to you and what would work for you. First of all, there are several ground-hugging shrubs that bloom and fruit over a reasonably long period in spring and early summer. Cultivars of kinnikinnick ( Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ), notably 'Vancouver Jade' and 'Massachusetts' can be used as a base (no mowing needed) and interplanted with ornamental strawberry (pretty shocking pink blooms in spring and intermittently through summer) or any of the creeping thymes ('Pink Chintz' is a hardy choice). There are countless other combos to consider; you might check the website of Highcountry Gardens located in Colorado for their "Alternative Lawns" suggestions. (OSU does not recommend specific nursery suppliers: this suggestion covers only the website information.)
There are also seed mixes of lawn grasses and wildflowers described in several sources: check out the mixtures from Wildseed Farms or the website of a northern California organic grower at groworganic .com. Should you want to revisit your original plan, keep in mind that wildflowers are difficult to establish and most bloom for a very short period.
I think you will discover you can have the landscape you seek, but not necessarily as the particular combination of lawn and plants described in the Minnesota article. Wishing you well with your search!