Wordless Wednesday–Accidental Pollinator Habitats

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There’s a lot of talk these days about “post-wild” planting. And while I haven’t read that particular book, I have read Larry Weaner’s books and been to a couple of his talks on habitat plantings and succession plantings. From what I can glean from interviews with the “post-wild” author, he has made habitat and succession planting just a whole lot more complicated than it needs to be! But maybe I need to read his book–perhaps I do him a disservice.

Take a look here. These are two native plants that have sprung up under my star magnolia. The Spoiler keeps wanting to “pull out the weeds.” I keep telling him that he’d better not, on pain of death (besides, good luck getting out the goldenrod. Its roots are incredibly deep!)

The taller, darker one on the end with the lance shaped leaves is goldenrod. The one in the foreground is a shorter lived succession plant called either white snakeroot, or boneset, depending on which common name you prefer. It actually migrated here from the edge of our woodlands. There is still a little bit there, but it obviously prefers this sunnier spot. Both of these are pollinator magnets, as I will show you later this summer.

What’s left in the woods? White wood aster, also a pollinator magnet.

And what was under this tree? Nothing. We keep limbing it up to let the plants grow in.

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Here’s another “accidental” habitat that most people never see because they use 4-step programs and those programs kill clover. Clover is prime habitat for butterflies and bees. I am always amazed when I see folks walking barefoot on their lawns. I wouldn’t dare–and not because I’ve poisoned it with pesticides either!  I don’t want to accidentally step on all my precious bees!

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Finally, don’t over look habitat in the most unlikely places. This is an overly broad crack between the slates on my walk. Yes, there are too many weeds here that I need to address. But there’s lovely moss, a fern and some violets. Those get to stay.

If nature is doing your “planting” for you, why fight it?

 

It’s Pollinator Week–How Can I Help?

Pollinator Week occurs every year this time.  You can find out more about the initiative at the website, pollinator.org.

It was designed to draw attention to our dwindling pollinators like the monarchs,  originally.  But then bats became affected by white nose syndrome and it became clear that honeybees were in trouble, and our native bees were becoming more scarce and so Pollinator Week has really expanded to include all sorts of pollinators and to bring awareness to ways of gardening and backyard living that can help them.

Another cool thing that Pollinator Week does is draw attention to all the other different types of pollinators besides the ones mentioned above. Birds, flies, beetles, my beloved ants and insects–all of those can be pollinators and some of these can be endangered as well.

So how can you help? First, check out the website.  It will have resources for your part of North America  (sorry if you aren’t in North America–perhaps you recognize some of the plants mentioned for a similar latitude?)

Next, even if you can’t add any plants to your garden, practice responsible pesticide use in the garden you have.  We use no pesticides–& a pesticide is defined as a fungicide,  a herbicide or an insecticide–on our property. We don’t even use algacides in our pond.

But if you do, please use them responsibility.  Read and follow the label directions.  If you are spot treating something,  try to do it at a time when no or few pollinators are present–dusk is often a good time. And that is usually better for the plants (& the gardener) as well since it is cooler and causes less stress.

Finally if you are adding plants, consider natives.  It is a proven fact that they feed all wildlife in all stages of their lives more often than ornamentals.  But don’t feel that you must go crazy.  I will show you why  ( I hope) on Friday.

Leave Them Bee!

There is an ever increasing awareness of bees and their role in our ecosystem. In fact, I saw one statement that said that if every bee were to disappear off the face of the earth, humans would only survive for 4 days. Gracious! Surely in these days of cloning and other advances in technology, we could manage to stretch our survival out slightly longer than that, no?

But let’s hope it never comes to that, particularly with all the other dire news on what ever your news channel of choice is these days.

Still in all this awareness of bees, what I want to call most people’s awareness to is the gentle nature of bees. I don’t want anyone with a true allergy to bees to take any risks, of course–no one should endanger his or her life over an insect.

But for the rest of us without true allergies–those with just a morbid fear of insects (which sadly, is just too much of the population as I can attest to from years of retail gardening)–I am here to say that bees do not want to sting you.

Let me repeat that: bees don’t want to sting. Bees want to pollinate plants. That’s why they’re out there flying around. I can tell you that I have handled an awful lot of plants with bees on them and I have photographed even more and bees will not sting you.

There are exceptions to this rule. Don’t get into the middle of a swarm of honeybees. Those are not in the middle of “doing their job.” Those bees have been displaced and are riled up.

Don’t generally mistake bees for hornets or wasps–although early in the season, unless you step into a nest, hornets and wasps generally are fine as well. It’s only later in the season that they get “ornery.”

And don’t start flailing your arms and legs as if you’re trying to signal some sort of alien fleet if something–bee, wasp, hummingbird, or whatever comes nearby. That generally doesn’t end well.

But if you remain calm and keep your arms at your sides (which is a good idea anyway–who wants to be stung under the arm?), bees, wasps and hornets will generally fly up to you, look at you, and just fly right away.

It’s the same with bats. But that’s a whole different animal–literally.

Wordless Wednesday–Made in the Shade

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This combination of containers holds house plants, perennials, tender perennials and annuals. All of them are shade lovers and they are staged on an old set of back porch steps under a dogwood tree that throws some pretty dense shade.

Behind them, planted in the bed, you can see hosta, euonymous, ajuga and hellbores.

Who says that shade plants can’t be colorful?

A Voice for the Unloved

My long-time readers know how much I love ants. I think they are they greatest insects. And while we don’t ever want to go overboard and say, “Oh heck, ants are just like us!,” it’s true that if you want to compare a bug to human beings, ants are not a bad bug to start with and here’s why: they live in communities (that’s what those anthills are all about); they have defined roles (did you know that there are such things as “nurse” ants, “forager” ants and “soldier” ants, for example? In other words, ants have jobs to do just like we do!

And ants are pollinators as my long time readers know. They pollinate all sorts of spring wild flowers. But many of you have probably reaped the benefits of ant pollination in a more practical sense–I know I have.

If you grow grape hyacinth (muscari species) ants actually pollinate those. Ever wonder how or why they suddenly show up in strange places you didn’t plant them? You can thank the ants.

Ant pollination occurs in a rather unusual way. Certain plants have a structure called an eliaosome attached to their seeds. This structure is rich in lipids and proteins and attracts the ants, who pick up the seeds for these eliaosomes.

Once they carry the seeds back to their nests, the seeds are dispersed and the plants are transported–and in the process, pollinated. Pretty fascinating stuff.

I am not going to ask you to put up with ants all over your kitchen. Even I don’t do that. But please, if the ants are outside and safely away from your home, please let them be. This very active ant hill is on the edge of my driveway,  bothering no one.

And speaking of that, on Monday, we’ll talk about bees!

Road Trip!

Bradley Estate Formal Garden close up

So who’s taking a road trip to Massachusetts this summer? Probably lots of folks are coming to the beach at Cape Cod, right? And many more might be visiting Boston (I hope–such a great city–so much to see and do there)

If you’re in Massachusetts and you’re a gardener, don’t miss this neat new display garden that’s been set up at the Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate in Canton, Massachusetts. That’s a photo of the garden, above, thoughtfully provided by its “caretakers” the Trustees of the Reservation.

The all-summer exhibit is called “Violet Riot” and it opens next Wednesday June 14.  It features purple and chartreuse annuals and perennials. There are featured annual, perennial and shrub talks scheduled (see the sidebar in the press release) as well as concerts scheduled throughout the summer.

Canton, Massachusetts is about 30 miles from Boston–not too far for a weekend trip–and its accessible from Routes 128 or I-93.

Bradley in Bloom Plantings Collage

And one of the great things about visiting display gardens is that you always come away from them with ideas for your own gardens–even if you don’t necessarily like purple and chartreuse!  I am sure that many of the plant varieties used also come in other colors as well. You can see by just this photo, again provided by the Trustees, that the plant palette is richer and more varied than you might expect.

So if you are in the area, stop by this neat garden and have a look around. I am sure you will enjoy it and take home at least one idea for your own garden!

Wordless Wednesday–Wabi-sabi Wednesday

I am not sure how long I have owned my little chipped bird. He was a “freebie.”  I brought it home from the garden center where I worked over a decade ago  ( with their blessing of course) because it was obviously not saleable.

I have a similar small bird on my desk, with just a chipped beak. It’s painted. I call it the blue bird of happiness.

Many folks couldn’t stand such “imperfections” in their lives or their gardens. For me, I find that small imperfections are what life is all about.