Tag Archives: anise hyssop

Spring Is Coming

And It Will Not Be a Good One

We came back from our vacation to a sharp drop in temperature.  Our friends told us that while we were gone the temperature had gone up to the 60°F for a couple of days and mostly hovered above 50°F for the rest of that period.  I can see the result of warm temperatures in our garden.  Roses, hydrangeas, tree peonies started to bud.  The silver maple in the front yard has blossomed.  The crocuses and snowdrops are blooming.

Many of over 200 crocuses we put randomly in the lawn last autumn have blossomed.
Many of the over 200 crocuses we put randomly in the lawn last autumn have blossomed.
Flowers open up with out bees to pollinate since the temperature was a little bit too cold for them to come out
We put crocus in as early food for bees but this spring the flowers opened up without the bees to pollinate since the temperature was a little bit too cold for them to come out

Then two days after we came back, the temperature dropped again, combined with a high wind that resulted in a wind chill below 0°F.  Last night the temperature was in a teens and today it is barely above freezing.  It’s de ja vu of last spring.  Plants started budding only to get frost burn.  We didn’t have any hydrangeas last year for this reason and the first round of roses looked awful.

Plenty of Snowdrops pushed themselves through mulch leaves
Plenty of Snowdrops pushed themselves through mulch leaves
Two bulbs of rescued tulip have become a healthy clump
Two bulbs of rescued tulip have become a healthy clump
Young leaves of Anise Hyssop stay close to the ground. Hopefully they won't get frost burn.
Young leaves of Anise Hyssop stay close to the ground. Hopefully they won’t get frost burn.

I don’t even know how the honeybees are.  They’ve been so quiet, no sign of dead bees in front of the hives.  We weren’t here when the temperature soared up to see if they were out cleansing.   They’ve been too quiet for my liking and I have no way of checking on them.  It’s either too cold or too windy to open the hives up for inspection.  To be on the safe side, I have ordered one more package of bees to be delivered in May.

Beehives, all wrapped up, amid snow when we left for vacation. Due to lack of storage, we left empty supers out in the garden, unwrapped.
Beehives, all wrapped up, amid snow when we left for vacation. Due to lack of storage, we left empty supers out in the garden, unwrapped.

Though it will not be a promising spring, I still look forward to it.  It’s time for me to start tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings and prep tropical plants in the basement for a warm and less seesaw temperature outside.  In a little bit over a month the seedlings should be able to set their roots in the garden and tropical plants will enjoy real sunlight.  And, hopefully, the hives will have survived another winter.

Flowers for Pollinators II

Vegetables And Herbs

As I mentioned in the previous post, I left some vegetables and herbs flowering for pollinators and for seeds.  It also helps to draw beneficial insects into the vegetable patch.  The downside is that these beneficial insects don’t discriminate, they eat anything they can grab, honeybees and bumblebees included.  But we never have to spray our vegetables.

Globe or Greek basil has very strong flavor for a very small basil. I let some flower and draw a lot of bees in
Globe or Greek basil has very strong flavor for a very small basil. It’s only 6 inches tall with tiny bright leaves.  I grow many types of basil and found that they cross pollinate as well.  Last year I planted seeds I collected from the Globe basil but the basil that grew from it turned to be a short basil with small green leaves, a hint of purple and with a Thai basil taste.
Anise hyssop is everyone favorite-bees, wasps, butterfly and I.
Anise hyssop is everyone’s favorite, bees, wasps, butterflies and myself.  I like to brush against it which causes it to release an anise aroma.  The tiny flowers are also good in salads or desserts as it has a sweet nectar and anise scent.  Once the flower fades, the American Goldfinches take over for the seeds.
This is a honey bee favorite, Garlic chive. The flower is edible with strong chive flavor. Sometime I wonder if it will make honey smell and taste like chive
This is a honey bee favorite, Garlic chive or Chinese chive.  The flower is edible with a strong chive flavor. Sometimes I wonder if it will make the honey smell and taste like chive.
Any type of mints will do, they love it. Just don't forget to cut the spent flower off otherwise there will be plenty of mints in the garden. I have that problem and have to pull seedlings out.
Any type of mint will do, they love it.  Just don’t forget to cut the spent flowers off otherwise there will be plenty of mint in the garden as it spreads like crazy.  I have that problem and have to pull seedlings out.
Borage has pretty lavender and pale pink color that taste like cucumber
Borage has pretty lavender and pale pink colors and tastes like cucumber.  Flowers are good in salads and sweets.  However, it self-sows easily and can take over your garden in no time.
I love broccoli raab for it bitter taste. The wild one is very hardy
I love broccoli raab for its bitter taste.  Birds love the seedpods. The wild one is very hardy.
Chinese broccoli is one of my favorite
Chinese broccoli is one of my favorites.  It’s great in soup, stir-fry.  It’s also very hardy and self-sows.
Saffron is a type of crocus that bloom in late summer. I let the bees have the pollen before I picked three stamens off to dry.
Saffron is a type of crocus that blooms in late summer.  I let the bees have the pollen before I harvested three stamens off to dry.
I plant lavender along our walkway and stonewall where we can brush against them to create aroma in the garden. Not that many flowers that are deer and rabbit proof but this is one of them
I plant lavender along our walkway and stonewall where we can brush against them to release their perfume in the garden.  Not that many flowers are deer and rabbit proof but this is one of them

There are many more herbs and vegetables in our garden as both of us love eating fresh vegetables and drinking herbal tea.  Rubbing fresh herbs in your hands for the scent is also very refreshing.  I think the herb pollen that mixes in with the honey is also a good medicinal property.

Next will be flowers for bees from what we love to hate….weeds.

What’s Left

Late Autumn

Did we really have a summer?  Briefly.  Most of the leaves are gone now and the plants are ready to take a rest.  But some plants in the garden are still pushing out their last show of the season.  I envy some of them when I do garden chores in a sweatshirt in a bracing chilly wind and see them with their bare branches and leaves or what’s left of them.  And there are these, the ones that still put on a show for us:

Alyssum
Alyssum

This clump of Alyssum is self-sown year after year, self fed as well.  I left them where they came up since they are very good at drawing in beneficial insects and smell like honey.  This one is in the vegetable garden, draped over the raised-bed reaching for sunlight.

Anise Hyssop
Anise Hyssop

Another readily self-sown, Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), is loved by birds and bees.  The second batch that sprouted up later this summer is flowering now.  It can be really invasive but the American Goldfinch love the seeds and my honeybees love them too so I let them grow.  Makes a great tea as well.

Borage
Borage

I have to pull a lot of Borage (Borago officinalis) out since one plant can take up a lot of space and they self-sow vociferously.  The plants that sprouted in spring are long gone.  These are the ones that came up in late summer.  Aside from the blue star shaped flowers that look so lovely, the bees love them as well.

Calendula
Calendula

These Calendula still produce flowers because they are fenced in with the vegetables.  Their relatives outside the fence were eaten down to the ground by deer and woodchucks.

Rose 'MME. Isaac Pereire'
Rose ‘MME. Isaac Pereire’

This old garden rose ‘MME. Isaac Pereire’ continues blooming from late spring to frost.  Deer have nibbled it’s tips and buds but missed this one.  I will put a net around the plot next season so I can have more than three roses in fall.

Rose 'Knockout'
Rose ‘Knockout’

For some reason deer won’t eat this rose.  This “Knockout” continues to bloom from late spring through autumn, plenty of them.  It has a lovely color that changes from salmon to pink as it matures.  If it had any scent (nope, hasn’t any), it would be a perfect rose.

There are some Hollyhock, Garden phlox, Echanecea and Aster flowering here and there and that’s about it.  The growing season is coming to a close again.  Frost is predicted this coming Sunday.  Where has the time gone?

 

 

Dependable Summer Plants

And They Don’t Require Much Care

The heat and humidity are here.  In mid-summer heat I do my garden chores from shade to shade, trying to stay away from the sun.  The lovely times in the garden in mid summer are the morning and early evening.  The cool of the morning makes the mixed flower scents very pronounced, especially the Garden phlox and jasmine.  It’s very soothing.  I water the vegetable garden and the potted tropical plants every morning when it’s still cool.  Water evaporates less and will dry up in the sunlight soon enough as not to encourage any disease.  The sweet scent of Bitter melon fills the vegetable garden air now.  The second flush of roses also adds fragrance to the air though not as strong as in early summer when the majority of bushes were filled with flowers.  Even when I don’t have to water them, I still go out in the garden every morning just to breathe the scent that no perfumery can duplicate.  I do the same in the evening when I get home from work.

I hardly water the flowers in the garden now but they are still doing well in the heat.  Most of them are self-sown and I let them grow freely.  Once in a while I either move or thin some of them to prevent diseases due to over-crowding.  The plants posted below are care free, self-reliant, great for pollinators and dependable in bringing colors to the garden in the heat of summer.

Anise hyssop
Anise hyssop

Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is actually an herb.  I grow this for the bees but it’s also good for making tea and potpourri as well.  I have a few patches of them, two by the vegetable garden entrance that a send out licorice scent every time I brush against them.

Black-eyed Susan
Black-eyed Susan

This double Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) is a product of open pollination.  I’ve never bought any double flower version but I let the seedlings grow and this is the result.  Some of them look even more like chrysanthemums with smaller petals.

Black-eyed Susan
Black-eyed Susan
Daylily
Daylily
Beebalm
Beebalm
Echinacea
Echinacea
Garden Phlox
Garden Phlox
Queen Anne's lace
Queen Anne’s lace

Many people regard Queen Anne’s lace (Anthriscus sylvestris) as a weed but I love them.  When they grow in a row or large clump, they look so beautiful and delicate.  They are also great for insects and bees.

 

Newcomers

The New Bees On the Block

Since I started keeping honeybees I have been more conscious about which new plants I put in the garden.  I check to see whether it can be a good food source for the bees or not.  I have been adding more herbs and wild flowers lately.  It seems to work well.  I’m happy to see that the garden is filled with a variety of bees and wasps aside from the honeybees.

This time of year is when Anise Hyssop blooms, and I have a whole patch of them.  The bees were busy from early morning onward and I enjoy watching them.  To my surprise, this giant showed up this summer.  Two of them as far as I know, since I’ve seen them working on two different patches at the same time.  They are Giant Resin bees (Megachile sculpturalis).

It’s pretty huge for a bee, around an inch long.  The body length is similar to the Eastern Carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) but much slimmer.  It was big enough that I thought it was a different type of wasp at first.  However it’s a native to East Asia that landed in the US in the early 1990s.  First spotted in North Carolina in 1994 and now spotted as far north as Vermont.  So far it’s harmless to other bees, except for Eastern Carpenter bees.  It will nest in an existing tunnel in the wood and sometimes takes over a Carpenter bee tunnel.  I have plenty of Carpenter bees nesting inside the patio beams that if one or two tunnels are taken over by these giants, it won’t be much loss.

 

Giant Resin bee on Anise Hyssop
Giant Resin bee on Anise Hyssop
Trying to go from one flower to another without flying
Trying to go from one flower to another without flying
The back
The back
Close up
Close up

References:

  • National Wildlife Federation ‘Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America by Arthur Evans
  • Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity‘ by Stephen A. Marshall
  • Bees, Wasps, and Ants: The Indispensable Role of Hymenoptera in Garden‘ by Eric Grissell

 

Flowers For Bees

Let Herbs Flower

Since I started keeping honey bees, the decision on what plants to add to our garden factors in the honey bees as one of the reasons.  I used to think of fragrant, native, butterfly and bird friendly as reasons to choose a plant.  Flowers that butterflies love is not necessarily good for bees.  The butterfly has a very long proboscis, much longer than bee mandibles, so it can easily access flowers for nectar that the bee can’t reach.  If I can find flowers that are good for both of them, it’s perfect.

The first group of plants that work well for both butterflies and bees are herbs.   I have to let them flower, not just keep eating them and make sure to cut off most of the spent flowers.  I let the mint set seed many years ago and it has been a mistake I’ve been paying for ever since.  I have a forest of mint that I can’t get rid of.  Though it smells nice and I can and do use it in many ways, it grows faster than I can consume or give away.

I made the same mistake last year with Anise Hyssop, but they’re easy to transplant.  I dug the seedlings up and replanted them in a group at the edge of the property and they turned out pretty nice when they flowered.  The American Goldfinches love snacking on its seeds so they help to reduce a burgeoning plant population.

A small variety of the herbs I grow is below and aside from being great in many food dishes, in salad and tea, they are also magnets for bees and butterflies.

Spiky lavender blue flowers look lovely when growing in a group.
Spiky lavender blue flowers look lovely when growing in a group.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is a good source of nectar for bees.  The flowers and leaves can be used in salad and tea.  I love the smell of crushed leaves, very soothing.

Star shaped blue flower, sometime pink, is a beautiful addition for a vegetable garden.
Star shaped blue flower, sometime pink, is a beautiful addition for a vegetable garden.

Borage (Borago officinalis) has lovely star shaped flowers in blue, white and pink.  I have both blue and pink in the garden, still searching for white.

Calendula comes in many shade of yellow and orange
Calendula comes in many shade of yellow and orange

As much as birds like to eat the Calendula (Calendula officinalis) seeds, there are still plenty left for self- seeding.  The petals can be used in tea and salad or as a substitute for saffron as well.

Pure white, spiky flowers attract so many types of bees and wasps
Pure white, spiky flowers attract so many types of bees and wasps

I don’t think I have to write much about what we can do with the mint.  I wish it wasn’t so invasive.  But I no longer feel guilty when pulling it out and putting it in a garbage bag.

What can be more perfect for Italian bees than Oregano?
What can be more perfect for Italian bees than Oregano?
I'm not sure whether to classify this under vegetable or herb since its properties fall under both.
I’m not sure whether to classify this under vegetable or herb since its properties fall under both.

The bright Canary yellow of a Bitter Melon flower (Momordica charantia) has a sweet fragrance that is very strong on a cool morning.  Bees, Hover flies and small butterflies love it.