Late Season Flowers

And Good For Pollinators Too

Aside from the beautiful fall foliage colors there’s not much color elsewhere.  Chrysanthemum seems to be abundant in autumn but I’m not a fan of it.  I associate it with mourning.  It’s commonly used in funerals and to arrange on a wreath.  So, I don’t plant chrysanthemum in our garden.  We still have plenty of choices for autumn blooming plants and many of them are good for pollinators as well.

I bought Alyssum seed only the first couple of years, now they just come up every year.  Cute little flowers that hug the ground, tolerate light frost and smell like honey as a plus.

White Alyssum seems to self sow much more commonly than the purple variety

Aster is one of the flowers that can lend a helping hand in autumn.  Both native bees and honey bees love it.

I group different colors of Aster together. The white one is a weed though, White heath aster

I put two Maximillion Sunflowers in the garden two years ago, now I have a growing patch of it.  It blooms when other sunflowers start to fade.  It’s a perennial so I don’t have to seed it every year but I will have to divide it next spring as the patch is getting too large for the space.

Flowers are great for pollinators and the finches love the seeds

Fall crocus is also a great pollinator food source.  I’ve seen some bees attempt to pry open the flowers before they have fully opened.

This crocus flowers in late summer and early autumn instead of spring

Moonflower will bloom from mid summer on.  If the weather is warm enough it will keep going.  Its large, white, fragrant flower blooms in the evening.  And, the flower is edible too.

I have this one trailing over our toolshed door.

Calendula is perfect for sunny spots and it self sows.  Its flower is edible as well.

It comes in shades of yellow and orange.

About weeds.  Many weeds are quite beautiful and provide pollen and nectar as well.  I make sure that they don’t overrun the garden.  Goldenrod, with it’s bright yellow flower is a great source of pollen and nectar in late autumn.  It will grow any place that the seeds drop, even between cracks.  I have to pull a lot of them out each spring, sprouting in the wrong place, and it’s the only work I have to do to keep it around.

Once it’s established in the garden it’s very difficult to get rid off. It’s much easier to confine it to one place by cutting spent flowers off so they won’t sprout all over the garden

I don’t know where the first White Heath Aster came from but it has settled in our garden now.  I don’t mind at all.  I just think of it as an aster that is waiting for humans to see its potential.  I do, especially when I see honeybees, Hover fly, Bumblebee and many other small local bees on it’s flowers.

White Heath Aster is just another aster that hasn’t received very many ‘likes’ yet

There are a few more late summer-autumn flowers that are easy to grow and good for pollinators I would like to mentioned.  Until next time.

 

 

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?

 

 

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.

Spring Vegetable Garden

Sprouting Time

After a long wait for fresh backyard salad, I can hardly stop myself from sowing seeds in the vegetable garden.  As soon as the soil softens, judged by seeing weeds coming up, I put Arugula, Radish (Cherry Belle and French Breakfast), Pak choi, Mizuna, Kale, Swiss chard, Scallion, Lettuce, and Broccoli Raab in.   The arugula is always the first to come up.

I also put Snap Peas in the soil directly.  I find that they grow stronger that way than starting them in a container and replanting them.  I just soak the seeds in water for a few hours, placing them between damp paper towels.  The roots will sprout out in two nights.  I drop the ones with roots in the soil and cover them.  I don’t have to worry about hardening them.  If they feel it’s the right time to poke shoots above ground, they will. They are already a couple of inches tall now.  I will have stir-fry sized pea shoots in a couple of weeks.

Some self-sown Broccoli Raab, Borage and Calendula also came up.  Last year’s Red Russian kale, Scallion and Radicchio looks pretty fresh and healthy.  I can pick them while waiting to thin the seedlings (great baby greens for salad).  I also picked my first Asparagus of the season last weekend and will have some more this weekend.  Garlic is looking lovely at this time too.  I have already fed them once.

Yes, the tomatoes have sown themselves again.  They are just an inch above the soil surface right now, not big enough to be transplanted yet.  I will take most of the Borage and Calendula out from the vegetable garden and transplant them along with the flowers.

Anywhere I turn there are signs of new shoots and leaves unfurling, another cycle of life has begun.

First fresh, sweet, asparagus of the season.
First fresh, sweet, asparagus of the season.
Most of these Calendula seedlings will be transplanted to the flower garden.
Most of these Calendula seedlings will be transplanted to the flower garden.
These Snap peas were sown directly in the soil.  I don't have to cover them even on a 39 degree night.
These Snap peas were sown directly in the soil. I don’t have to cover them even on a 39 degree night.
Borage sprouts up right next to the garlic.  I keep a few of them in the vegetable garden, but this one will have to move.
Borage sprouts up right next to the garlic. I keep a few of them in the vegetable garden, but this one will have to move.
Put the garlic cloves in last October and they came up in March.
Put the garlic cloves in last October and they came up in March.

Mix and Match

For a Better Effect and Benefit

It doesn’t matter how much space we have for our vegetable garden, it’s never enough.  We just expanded our fenced in vegetable garden from 16′ x 16′ to 16′ x 22′ this year but I’m still looking for space to put many more seedlings that have sprouted up.  I’ve already hand-crafted 3 trellises for the beans to climb on.  They extend over the garden walkway to save space.  The Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) is allowed to climb on the fence since neither deer nor rabbits will eat them.  Strong scented herbs like Mint, Oregano, Thyme and Sage surround the fence outside to fend off the deer and rodents and draw in beneficial insects at the same time.  Since we don’t use pesticides we have to enlist nature and our winged friends to help out.

Still, the extra space just disappears so quickly.  The culprit?  Tomatoes…plenty of sprouted tomato seeds from our compost pile.  I have a soft heart when it comes to pulling healthy plants out of the ground only to throw them back in the compost pile.  I’ve put a few of them up for adoption.

I also added Calendula (Calendula officinalis), Nasturtium, Alyssum and Borage (Borago officinalis) inside the fence this year.  These flowers help draw in good insects and create a much livelier look for the vegetable garden.  If the vegetable yield is the same as last year but has more bad bugs than good ones, the flowers will stay outside the fence next year.  We already have birds patrolling and they have been working out pretty well.  This year, we are experimenting with having good insects patrol.  We’ll see how that works out.

Trellis for Italian beans along the walkway
Calendula mixed in with basil and tomatoes
Nasturtium, Squash, Scarlet Emperor bean, Borage and Strawberry squeeze in together.
Bitter melon entwines itself along the fence
Self-sown Cherry tomato, Swiss chard and Scallion
Trellis for Asian Long bean with Alyssum at the base