First Flowers, Then Bees


When temperatures rise and the sun shines, many people start prepping, planting, and pruning. The garden is suddenly abuzz with activity.

BLUE FLAX ANDCALIFORNIA POPPIES are among the first to bloom in spring

“When we moved four years ago, our yard had grass with a couple of shrubs and a few trees. That was it,” said North Ogden resident, Suzie Long.

Having lived in the desert before, Suzie knew water resources were scarce. And now, more watering restrictions are looming. So, what is a gardener to do?

“I want less grass overall. Fortunately, my family supports my flower habit,” she said.

Suzie started talking to people at nurseries, reading, and going online for more resources.

“I’ve met such smart and helpful people at our local nurseries. My friend and her dad are great gardeners, so I asked them lots of questions, and USU has a good list of which plants are water-wise. We lived in Santa Fe for a while. There, everything is xeriscape, which is great, but my goal is more of a desert-cottage look, if that is a thing,” she said. “My husband is very good at adding drip and managing our water, which makes my flower addiction sustainable.”

Nurseries and gardeners-next-door have great information; best of all, they have experience. For her garden, Suzie wanted lots of color, perennial plants, and plants that were able to take the desert heat. She looked at University of Utah’s list of native plants and plants that tolerate or even thrive with less water.

“For me, I started with flowers and then added the bees the next year,” Suzie said. “Though I do add flowers every year, and the bees just keep populating. My first flower purchase here was coneflowers.”

Then, she added Lewis Blue Flax, red hot pokers, lavender, lemon balm, and catmint. She’s picked these for their mix of color and shape. Her Lewis Blue Flax is among the first to bloom, along with California poppies. Both these flowers tolerate drought while also easily producing seeds. The poppies will keep their bloom through the fall, too, even without a regular watering habit. Lavender is very similar and only needs a weekly water to produce its elegant flower and pleasant smell. Suzie’s red-hot pokers tend to bloom on the fourth of July. She can always expect them to bloom exactly where they’re planted, too, because they won’t spread. Alongside these taller flowers, she plants catmint because its white flowers stay lower to the ground. Lemon balm has a mounding habit, which is an entirely different shape from the rest. Finally, coneflowers give the garden its purple shade while not growing entirely symmetrical, adding a unique shape to the flower bed. Herbs like thyme, skullcap, and mint can even work in the winter. Just be careful because they can easily take over your entire backyard.

“They all love the sun, which our backyard has a lot of. They don’t need as much water either, especially after they are established. I found gaura at the nursery, and sedum adds great texture and color in the fall. Herbs are fabulous as well, not only are they medicinal, but they are so easy to grow,” she said. “After the flowers, I ordered bees.”

Not honeybees, though; at least, not yet.

Leafcutters are summer bees. They help pollinate vegetables and flowers and herbs.

“I started with leafcutter bees for two reasons. First, they don’t sting. (Only the female bees have stingers, and they very rarely use them.) Second, my kids gave me a bee house for Mother’s Day. Leafcutters are summer bees. They help pollinate vegetables and flowers and herbs. I ordered my first leafcutter bee tubes from Mason Bees for Sale, which is online but based near Logan. And now, I have so many filled tubes, I give them away. The second year, I ordered early orchard bees called Mason bees, and this year, I ordered berry bees,” Suzie said.

After she raised the leafcutters, she fell even more in love. Leafcutter bees are super cute and fuzzy, while being small and clumsy. The bees get their name because they actually cut tiny circular holes out of leaves and roses without harming the plant. They carry their leaves back to their tub as a sleeping bag for their tube. It is so funny to watch.

Suzie said native bees are easy to keep because there is not a hive or a queen to protect, which means no stinging. There’s also no honey, but there is less work overall and lots of great pollination, she explained.

A vase filled with Suzie’s coneflowers

“A six-inch deep bee house with phragmite reeds, an east or southeast facing area, and a couple of tubes that are ready to hatch is really all you need to get started with native bees,” Suzie said. “Mason Bees for Sale is a great resource, as are extension services, to learn more about bees. I hang my bee houses outside in the spring. I vacuum the houses to clean up the leaf debris left behind by emerging bees, replace tubes with fresh ones every year so the emerging bees have a new, clean home, and keep my filled bee tubes in the garage during the winter so they don’t freeze. That’s it,” she said.

For bee houses, Suzie suggests looking online or building one. “I have bought houses, made houses, and my husband even added an extension to a too-narrow house so that it was deeper,” she said. “There’s really not a wrong way to help our bees. Native bees are just as important to pollination as honeybees.”


When selecting plants, Suzie looked at University of Utah’s list of native plants and plants that tolerate or even thrive with less water.

Water-Wise Plants

Here’s a comprehensive list of other “water-wise” flowers, which is another way of saying flowers you can forget occasionally, because they don’t need that much attention.


Alpine Aster
Alpine Speedwell
Alpine Willowherb
Apache Plume
Apricot Blanket Flower
Autumn Colors Black Eyed Susan
Avalanche White Sun Daisy
Basket of Gold
Bearded Iris
Bee Balm
Big Bang SunTickseed
Big Kahuna Coneflower
Big Smile Daylilly
Birchleaf Spirea
Black Lace Elderberry
Blue Mist Shrub
Bronze Carpet Sunrose
Candy Stripe Creeping Phlox
Caradonna Sage
Cheyenne Mock Orange
Chocolate Flower
Coconino Desert Penstemon
Curl-Leaf Mountain Mahogany
Deep Purple Rockcress


Desert Olive
Desert Willow
Double Blue Balloon Flower
Dwarf Korean Lilac
Early Sunrise Coreopsis
False Indigo
Fernleaf Yarrow
Ginger Wine Ninebark
Golden Current
Goldstrum Black-eyed Susan
Grow-Low Sumac
Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick
Hardy Pink Hibiscus
Lamb’s Ear
Hummingbird Trumpet
Limoncello Barberry
Little Leaf Mountain Mahogany
Lynwood Gold Forsythia
Magenta Pasque Flower
Mariachi Bandera Helenium
Maximilian’s Sunflower
McDaniel’s Cushion Phlox
Mormon Tea


Mount Baker Lilac
New Vintage Violet Yarrow
Orange Vanilla Popsicle Poker
Oriental Poppy
Ornamental Onion
Ornamental Oregano
Pincushion Flower
Pink Delight Butterfly Bush
Popcorn Viburnum
Pop Star Pinks
Red Heart Rose of Sharon
Royal Purple Smokebush
Ruby Candle Beardtongue
Scarlet Monardella
Slim Leaf Rosewood
Sonoran Sunset Hyssop
Sticky-Leaved Rabbitbrush
Sulfur Buckwheat
Thrift Leaf Perky Sue
Trailing Cinquefoil
Turkish Veronica
Utah Serviceberry
Vision Light Pink Cranesbill

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