Too Cold To Be Outside

A Good Time For Planning: Flowers For Pollinators I

Snow came down two days ago accumulating just three inches.  Today the garden is still covered with snow and the temperature dropped down to just above 10°F.  It’s a perfect winter day for bird watching through the patio door.  Since the ground is covered with snow and the sources of water around here have turned to ice, they congregate around our feeders and heated birdbaths.  It’s also a good day to start planning for the next growing season.

The plant catalogs have been piling up. I have picked out a couple of new vegetables I want to try and am now looking for flowers that bees and butterflies will like. A new Cosmos ‘Cupcake’ looks very tempting. I have already put 200 crocus in this autumn. If they haven’t all been dug up by the squirrels and chipmunks they should blossom when spring arrives.  Any new plants I choose I make sure will benefit all pollinators, not just honeybees.  If I have to pick and choose however, flowers for the bees will come first.

Here are some plants that work for our pollinator garden and I start with flowers:

Alyssum comes in white, pink and purple. It blooms until frost and has honey scent
Alyssum comes in white, pink and purple. It blooms until frost and has a honey scent.  It’s great for ground cover too.  The white variety self sows very well
Honeybee seems to like this Aster more than the lavender color
Honeybees seem to like this Aster more than the lavender color.  It’s a good late season food source for pollinators.
Summersweet
Summersweet has a perfect name; its fragrance is really sweet. I grow both the pink and white varieties. But it can be a problem in the garden as it produces a lot of suckers.
Sunflower is also everyone favorite, birds included.
Sunflower is also everyone’s favorite, birds included. I was able to grow sunflowers again last year after I put the deer net up.  Prior to last year, all flowers, in fact everything, became deer food.  Sunflowers are fun to grow as there are many colors and different heights to choose from.  The Maximillian’s sunflower below will also brighten up late summer in the garden
Maximillian's sunflower 'Santa Fe' is a perennial that can grow over 6 feet tall and produce plenty of flowers on each stem
Maximillian’s sunflower ‘Santa Fe’ is a perennial that can grow over 6 feet tall and produce plenty of flowers on each stem.
Echinacea is a must for pollinators garden
Echinacea is a must for a pollinators garden.  There are a variety of colors to choose from: pink, white, yellow, orange.  The native purple (dark pink actually) readily self sows.  I propagate other colors by digging them up and separating them after a couple of years.
Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)has a strong fragrance and easily self sows.  I pick off spent flowers before they set seeds which encourages the plant to produce more flowers and no seedlings that I will have to pull next season.
This iris is a re-blooming variety
This iris is a re-blooming variety and fragrant.  I planted more bearded iris last autumn and look forward to seeing them bloom this spring.
Water Jasmine
Water Jasmine is a tropical flower with a mild, soothing fragrance.  In it’s native tropics, it’ll bloom year round but in a cold climate it blooms heavily in summer.  Bees and moths love it. The honeybee in the photo above is covered with hollyhock pollen .

These are just some of the flowers I managed to photograph with honeybees on them.  There are many more flowers that they like- crocus, snowdrop, Black-eyed Susan.  Next post will be on herbs and vegetables that I allow to flower, both as a pollinators food source and as the next season’s seeds.

 

 

 

Summer

Bright And Sunny

Summer is finally here and the temperature is making the point so far.  We had a very cool spring which was very good for the roses and many other cool loving plants.  Tomato, chili pepper and basil think otherwise.  My basil are only a couple of inches tall and the chili peppers are taking their sweet time to grow.  But I’m not complaining.  I deal with whatever nature throws my way.  It just seemed like ‘early’ spring weather lasted too long this year.

It doesn’t matter what the official summer date is, my summer is here when the Black-eyed Susan and Echinacea bloom.  They brighten up the garden like little sunflowers.  We have more flowers this year as a result of putting up the deer net around our property.  We are really happy that the net works so well.  Rabbits still nibble plants here and there but they stay in the lawn most of the time.

The Black-eyed susan are all self-sown.  I don’t remember when I bought them last time, probably ages ago.  I just let them grow and move them when they get too crowded.  It results in many shades and markings on the flowers.

Self-seeded Black-eyed susan
Self-seeded Black-eyed susan
Another Black-eyed susan with brown radiant
Another Black-eyed susan with brown radiant

I let the Echinacea set seed as well.  Birds love them and they are a good food source in winter.  Seeds that the birds dropped sprouted.  I don’t mind at all since they are slightly fragrant and the bees love them.

I bought many other  Echinacea in various colors and shapes but they have to be propagated by division.  Here are some of them.

Plenty of Echinacea this year
Plenty of Echinacea this year
Echinacea-Coral Reef
Echinacea-Coral Reef
I don't remember the name of this one but it seems each nursery gives it a different name
I don’t remember the name of this one but it seems each nursery gives it a different name

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.

 

Flowers For Bees (Continued)

Summer Flowers

Summer flowers in our garden are easy to grow and most of them are drought tolerant.  Having a full time job I have to be practical about what I plant in the garden.  I water the vegetable garden regularly since most of the vegetables don’t do well without constant care.  The opposite goes for the rest of the garden.  Most of them are doing fine being left alone.  I weed, prune and feed them when I have time.

So, summer flowers for bees are the ones that will bloom even when neglected.  Here’s some of what I grow..

This lady goes from flower to flower, non-stop
This lady goes from flower to flower, non-stop

Black-eyed susan ‘Gold Sturm’ (Rudbeckia fulgida var sullivantii ‘Gold sturm’) helps brighten up the garden even when everything else wilts.  Bees and butterflies love them.  The seed buds become finch food. It is also much more compact and mildew resistant than other varieties.

I need air traffic control on the Butterfly bush
I need air traffic control on the Butterfly bush

Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) lives up to its name; it draws butterflies in like moths to a light.  It has a lovely sweet fragrance.  The down side is that it’s very invasive if you let the flowers set seeds.

Honey bee and bumblebee sharing nectar on an Echinacea
Honey bee and bumblebee sharing nectar on an Echinacea

I should have classified Echinacea under herbs since it has herbal properties.  This one is a native that will grow wherever the seeds drop.  The birds also like the seeds.

A good day for this honey bee since no wasps are not around yet
A good day for this honey bee since no wasps are not around yet

Well, a lot of people see this Goldenrod (Solidago) as a weed but I found the bright yellow flowers really beautiful.  It can take care of itself even along side the road where nothing else would grow.

Summersweet ranks right up there with the Butterfly bush
Summersweet ranks right up there with the Butterfly bush

Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) is another flower that lives up to its name.  The fragrance is sweet to the point of intoxication when enough of them bloom at the same time.  The white one above is called ‘Vanilla spice’ the pink one below is ‘ Ruby spice’.

Here, they're sharing again.
Here, they’re sharing again.
She goes from flower to flower
She goes from flower to flower

I grouped a variety of zinnia together this year and they came out really nice.  I also planted them where they can get full sun all day long.  That helps the flowers to stay longer and suffer far less mildew on the leaves.

Frost

The Beauty of Icicles

I looked out at the garden this morning and discovered that the garden was coated with an icing, as well as the lawn.  It was a beautiful morning, sunny and calm, but pretty cold.  As much as I had to work against the sun that was rising and melting the tiny icicles and everything it touched, I tried not to walk on the lawn or disturb the crystal-coated  leaves and spent flowers.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone.  There will be another frost tomorrow, but the ice crystals will not form the same way.

Here are some of the crystal displays putting Swarovski to shame.

Frost on what is left of Abelia
This die-hard tiny chrysanthemum is still blooming despite snow and frost.
On what’s left of an Echinacea seed head
On Goldenrod, coral-like but looks more like snow than frost.
On a blade of grass
On the base of an Echinacea seed head
On English Lavender
On Maple leaves
On Rugosa rose ‘Blanc de Coubert’
On Red Russian Kale

November Garden

After being Beat Up By Two Storms

A little over a week after Hurricane Sandy rolled over our area, a Nor’easter rolled right in and brought us 6″ of snow over night.  After the storm cleared, the temperature slowly creeped up to mid 60° F, and then the rain hit today.  Not much left of the garden, really.  Some leaves are still holding on to the branches, refusing to give up.  Our honey bees seemed to enjoy the 60 degree day.  They came out en mass, from what I’ve learned, to clean themselves.  Some of them even came back to the hive with pollen.  I have no idea where they got the pollen from.  Our half-spent ‘Heritage’ rose is the only thing blooming in the garden at this time, and the bees fought over it.

I moved my fuzzy pet, a Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar, outside so he can hybernate properly.  Lesson learned from last year when the Black Swallowtail emerged on our office desk in early winter with nothing much to eat.  This time I’m letting the weather direct the metamorphoses process by leaving the caterpillar outside, but I check on him once in a while.

Nothing much to do now aside from feeding the birds, taking care of the tropical plants in the basement, leafing through plant catalogs and planning for the next season.

Three bees fighting over what’s left of this half-spent rose ‘Heritage’
The honey bees came out to clean themselves when the temperature rose above 60 degrees last Sunday. I’ve stapled chicken-wire over the entrance as a mouse guard.
Some Japanese Maple leaves still hang on tightly to the branch. When I see something like this, I wish for snow or frost. The leaves would look great with it.
The birds, especially the American Goldfinch, did a pretty good job in cleaning up the seeds from the Echinacea.
Took this photo when the rain paused for a few minutes today. Droplets on young Iris leaves.

Summer Garden

Tough Guys All, They Stand Up to the Heat

It’s been around 90 degrees and no rain in sight.  I have to water the vegetable garden daily but only once or twice a week for the rest of the garden.  The flower plot along the driveway doesn’t get any water at all.  I let mother nature take care of them.  Most of them are self-sown and they weather the heat pretty well.  Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia), Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata), and Coreopsis don’t seem to mind the heat and drought.  Actually, the variety of Echinacea in the garden are doing well when it’s so dry like this.  No flopping and no mildewing.  The only problem is they’re getting too crowded.  I’ll have to weed some of them out next spring.

Garden Phlox, Echinacea, Coreopsis, Bee balm along the driveway. They’re all self-sown.
Echinacea and Rudbeckia along the driveway.
Bee balm and Rugosa rose “Mrs. Doreen Pike” still bloom under the heat.
Don’t underestimate this little Coreopsis, it will grow even in a little crack in the walkway.
Echinacea “Sun Rise” really stands up to the sun.