Wordless Wednesday–Is Your Flowering Cherry Dropping Flowers?

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Flowering cherries are lovely but, like all flowering trees, their blooms seem so short-lived.

So imagine my dismay when I saw fully opened blooms on the ground under the tree the same day that the flowers started to open. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I hadn’t remembered that from prior years.

The answer was revealed the following day when I came home from walking the dog. I found a pair of finches systematically plucking off the blooms. They would pluck, hold the bloom in their beaks for a brief moment, and then discard it.

As I started to notice, I found a pair of house sparrows doing the same things to the new shoots of my Japanese maple. And squirrels do this to my sugar maples, but they do it with larger bits, breaking off small twigs.

It’s only the loss of the flowers I regret, though. You can see why below.

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Planting a Pollinator Garden

On Friday I talked about the Million Pollinator Challenge and I linked to the site. Today I am going to get more specific about one aspect of that challenge, planting your garden.

You may already have a garden that is a habitat garden of sorts. Or you may have a garden full of native plants. You may have one that you have designed to attract butterflies or bees or birds–or perhaps all three. These may already be pollinator gardens.

 

To decide, go to resources about planting your garden.

If you’ve ever done any sort of habitat garden, it’s very similar to that. Pollinators need exactly what any other “wildlife” needs: food (i.e., nectar), shelter, cover (in this case, it would be protection from wind, because they are sensitive to wind) and places to raise their young (so in the case of butterflies, you know that that means caterpillars and tolerating chewing damage–and not cleaning up the garden in the fall and cleaning it up very late in the spring, say). A nice sunny site is also desirable because in the case of butterflies, for example, many can’t fly until the temperature reaches 70 degrees.

A couple of other things–common sense to me but not always to everyone. If you read my “intro” at the top tab of this blog you’ll see that I became an organic gardener because when I moved to my property (24 seasons ago now,) there were no butterflies. A little bit of research told me that butterflies were highly susceptible to pesticides, so we went organic.  Within 2 years, we had 27 different kinds of butterflies and moths–a success story if ever there was one! So it is critical to avoid pesticides to every extent possible. That clover and those violets in your lawn are actually butterfly nectar food sources. And bees love them too!

Finally–and I talked about this when I talked about “don’t try to “get the garden done in a weekend!” It’s critical to have something in bloom for the longest time possible. At my house, it starts with snowdrops–or maybe hellebores–and it goes through to goldenrod and asters in late fall. Try your best to keep something in bloom during all the months of your growing season.

Our pollinators need–and deserve our help. With some of these tips, we can not only help them but grow some beautiful gardens as well!

The Million Pollinator Challenge

So who feels like a challenge? I talked on Monday about not cleaning up the garden until it’s safe for pollinators.

But how about actively gardening to attract and keep them safe in the first place?

GWA (that’s the association for garden communicators, formerly known as Garden Writers Association–you see the logo on the blog that means that I am a member) is partnering with the Million Pollinator Challenge to help gardeners learn about gardening for these important creatures. And before you decide that this sort of gardening isn’t for you, head over to their site. I’ve made it easy for you. Click here.

Okay, now that you’ve seen that you really don’t even have to touch a trowel to be involved, maybe I have your interest. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting about the various ways that you can take the million pollinator garden challenge but just so you have a taste of some of the ways, here they are.

First, of course you can plant something–and you don’t need to plant a prairie. A simple container of flowers will do.

Next, if gardening isn’t your thing–or perhaps you might have allergies (either to bees or plants)–you can read about the various pollinators (I have friends who hate the outdoors but love reading. This is a perfect way to join the challenge if you’re someone like that!)

If you’re someone like me and likes to register your garden for various things, you can sign your garden up for the challenge. I’ve already done it. We’ll talk about that in greater detail in a different post.

Plant sustainably–that one is dear to my heart. Again more to come.

And finally, spread the word, and if you do so on social media, use the hash tag #polliNATION. There you go. It’s not asking a lot, particularly since up to 1/3 of all of our edibles is pollinated. Think about that.

Isn’t it about time we gave something back?

Wordless Wednesday–Spring Color

 

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After my whining last Friday about how we were never going to get spring,  a few warm days have brought out the flowers.

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You can see how early it is. The trees still have no leaves and very little is greening up. These photos were taken April 14–the very day that I was whining that we don’t have spring.

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So it’s nice to see a little color to prove me wrong.

Stop Right There! Is It Safe to Clean Up Your Garden Yet?

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You’re going to hear a lot about pollinators from me and all the other Garden Writers (yes, I use capital letters because we’re all members of GWA, formerly Garden Writers of America) in the next few months.

For years we’ve been hearing about particular individual pollinators like bats, who were in decline from white nose fungus, or monarch butterflies who were declining because of loss of habitat and perhaps pesticide use and of course the honeybee and colony collapse disorder.

But have we ever stopped to consider that we might be the cause of some of the problem? It’s a dreadful thought, and not one that any of us want to think about I’m sure.

I know that I like to think that I do my part for pollinators. I plant native plants whenever possible. And I am the organic gardener that I am specifically because of butterflies–or the lack that I found when I moved to my current property in 1994. As soon as I convinced the Spoiler we had to stop using pesticides, the butterflies came back (now, if only I could convince the rest of the neighborhood!)

But I recently read this fascinating piece from the Xerces Society about leaving spring clean up in the garden until later in the season to allow the ground nesting native bees to seek shelter on cooler nights and to permit the overwintering butterflies to hatch out.

Whoa! That’s huge! Why does no one ever talk  about this?

I know we’re just starting to publicize leaving leaf litter and twigs, etc in the garden in the fall for just these same reasons–shelter and cover for beneficial insects and native bees.

You’ll be seeing a lot more from me–this month and in June, during Pollinator Week–about this topic.

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The realization that for my climate I still need to be leaving the stems of my perennials standing a wee bit longer was amazing. I’ve been thinking about cutting them back for weeks and only time and wet weather prohibited me (thank goodness it’s raining again!)

If you live somewhere warmer, file this under “to be remembered.” The Xerces Society post has a great chart about how to know it’s safe to do spring clean-up by simple things like whether you have done your first spring mowing or whether the apple and cherry trees in your neighborhood have finished blooming.

Considering that’s a big fat “NO!” for me right now, I guess I and my neighbors will need to look at a messy yard a little bit longer–at least on my property!

I’m Feeling A Bit Left Out….

April is National Garden Month….

And while that garden journal that I keep has shown that in other Aprils there have been plants in bloom, trees in bloom, bulbs past bloom at this point, this is not one of those Aprils.

You might have even heard the statistic: all of New England was exceptionally cold for March and Boston was colder in March than it had been for December, January or February. Now that’s cold!

I am fond of saying that we don’t really have spring here in Connecticut. Yes, trees bloom and we do have all sorts of lovely plants like azaleas and rhododendrons. But quite often, there is this “2 steps forward and 1 step back” pattern where we will have a nice day or two, followed by cold wet days (which we desperately need to end our drought, by the way and which we should all be grateful for but it’s hard to be grateful for them after the winter). And it’s especially hard to be grateful for them when it doesn’t really rain–when it’s just damp.

We will always get a teasing heat wave around Memorial day, and then the first and second week of June are so cold that I usually head right back for some kind of fleece and wonder if the plants I have just planted are going to make it.

It’s only at some point in July that the weather finally turns warm enough to finally make us think that summer has arrived. And then by August, cooler nights set back in and we’re back on our way to fall, which, thankfully, is a lovely season here or no one would live in the state at all. It would be deserted.

I know lots of people–gardeners even–live in much more inhospitable places.  I am just not sure what mechanisms they use to cope.

Wordless Wednesday–Hellebores

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Hellebores are known for blooming at major holidays. I have had this one in bloom as early as Christmas in freakishly warm years.

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This one blooms later. Technically it is supposed to be called the Lenten Rose. It’s just squeaking in under the wire since Lent ends in a few days. But then again, up until a few days ago, we have had an abnormally cold March and April.

These plants are tough (I have had snow all over the white one and it just bounces right back!), deer resistant, and the foliage is evergreen (when not snow covered.)

There are some cultivars that are much more exotic than these, with flowers that absolutely dazzle. If you don’t grow these plants, consider adding some this year!