by Darrell Hopps, Guernsey County Master Gardener

Pollination is the process by which pollen from the anther or male part of a plant is transferred to the stigma at the top of the female part.  On the stigma, a pollen tube is generated. Through this tube, the two sperm cells travel downward toward the ovary. Fertilization takes place when one sperm cell joins with the egg nucleus and the other with the endosperm part of the egg cell which eventually supplies nourishment to the growing embryo.

Pollinators can be bees (note that there are over 600 varieties of bees), wasps, bumblebees, ants, and even the wind.  There are many other insects that pollinate.  The thing we need to do as gardeners is to recognize our pollinators and provide them with a safe environment.  In my opinion, the elimination of poisonous chemicals we use as sprays and dusts would be a step in the right direction.

We can encourage the birds to come into our gardens by providing them with housing, water and by helping them through the bad weather by feeding them.  They also eat many of the insects that we do not want in our gardens.  They also eat seeds and then pass them through their digestive systems and help to propagate new plants.

We also can pollinate by hand, using cotton swabs or other means, to create new plants.  This is called cross-breeding.  Many beautiful flowers and shrubs, called hybrids, have been developed.  I was surprised to read that cross-breeding has been going on for thousands of years.  Our early ancestors had a very good understanding of plant pollination and plant breeding.  In many ways they lived closer to the land than we do.  There are many excellent books on pollination to use as resources.

The more we learn, the more we grow.  Not just in the gardens, but in our minds.