Tree Peony-Nishiki

Getting More Beautiful Every Year

We weren’t able to enjoy our tree peonies in the last two years as it was either too windy or too much rain which brought down the flowers as soon as they opened up.  This year, though we had a lot of rain, there was a brief period without and it coincided with the tree peony blooming. Not just us enjoying the flowers, the bees were also busy collecting pollen from them.

The flowers are so big, they weigh the branches down a little
Each flower is around 7-8″ in diameter

We have only two tree peonies in our garden as they grow very large and don’t like to be moved once established.  The ‘Nishiki’ has been with us for 10 years and is around 3.5 feet tall.  It usually produces around 15 to 20 flowers each spring.  We look forward to seeing how many flowers it will produce each year since it produces more flowers as it gets older.

One on top of the other
Close up
Looks beautiful even when it’s fading

It’s a flower that’s worth growing.  It’s not fussy and doesn’t need much attention, however, it’s a slow grower.  The beauty of the flowers make it worth the wait.

Water Jasmine

A Tiny Fragrant Star

Winter is my time for basement gardening.  Where we live we have to put our tropical plants in the basement for the winter.  It’s a lot of labor to go through twice a year.  We take them in when we know that the night temperature will drop and stay below 45°F, usually around late September or early October.  Then take them back out in spring when the temperatures will stay above 45°F at night.  It was easy when they were small but it gets much harder once some of them grow taller than us.  But it’s always a pleasure to have them around.  They keep me going in winter and give us fresh herbs even when the ground is covered with snow outside.

Basement garden- with Kaffir lime in the foreground. The tropical plants reside here under plant lights during winter
Basement garden- with Kaffir lime in the foreground. The tropical plants reside here under plant lights during winter

Tropical plants that are taller than us in addition to Kaffir lime and the Ficus, are the Water Jasmines (Wrightia religiosa), of which we have two, one over six feet tall and the other is around 1.5 foot tall.  I grew both of them from seeds.  I did try air layering once but that plant survived only a couple of years.

Water Jasmine provide plenty of fragrant flowers for months during summer.
Water Jasmine provide plenty of fragrant flowers for months during summer.  Each flower blooms for a day but it flowers continuously.
The branches spread out in layers with flowers under each layer
The branches spread out in layers with flowers under each layer
Each little branches fill with tiny white flowers
Each little branch fills with tiny, fragrant white flowers
Clustered of flowers
A cluster of flowers
A closer look at the flower
A closer look at the flower
A cluster of white flowers that ready to bloom once the opening ones drop
A cluster of white flower buds ready to bloom once the open ones drop

They never flower when they are in the basement.  I guess it’s not quite warm enough and perhaps not enough light.  The taller one gets very finicky with temperature changes too.  It drops 95% of its leaves when we first take it outside or when we bring it back inside.  Leaves and flower buds come out again after a month in full sun.  The tiny white star-shaped flower has a light, soothing fragrance.  Each flower blooms for just one day but there clusters of replacements ready to bloom in its place.

When they are outside and in full bloom, various types of bees, honeybees included, come for the nectar during the day and the moths take over at night.  Its seed pod is also interesting, it looks like a wishbone.  Once it’s matured the pods split open and release seeds with a silky thread attached that the wind will catch and carry to a new place.  That is how I propagate it, by the seeds.  The plant grown from a seed takes a few years before it will flower.  Air-layer and cutting are recommended for faster flowering.

Its seedpods look like wishbone
Its seedpods look like a wishbone
Mature seedpods spliced open with seeds with silky thread
Mature seedpods opened up exposing seeds, each with a silky thread
Seeds I keep for propagation
Seeds I keep for propagation

Water Jasmine is easy to grow in a pot, as I do.  It needs a warm temperature and plenty of sunlight to bloom. It can be planted outside in USDA Zone 8 and up.  If planting outside it can be used as a hedge.  It can also be trained to create a Bonsai.

It seems to have no known pests when growing outside, however Spider mites are the main problem when growing indoors.  I use an insecticide soap to get rid of them and mist the plant with water weekly.  I’m looking forward to germinating some of these seeds in March and hope to have a few more to create Bonsai from.

Flowers For Pollinators III

Weed Flowers

Most people hate weeds, maybe with an exception for Cannabis.  I don’t like weeds either but as I turn our little garden patch back to nature, to make it into a sanctuary for other species as well as ourselves, I have to learn to get along with weeds.  When I walk through a farmer’s market, I also note that they sell many flowers we usually call weeds.  Quite expensively too, for something you would like to get rid of.  So, it’s still true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Pollinators love weeds.  There is no doubt about it as we try to eliminate them but they continue to proliferate with help from pollinators.  Many of these weeds are also edible and have medicinal properties.  As I’ve gained more knowledge about them, my perception has changed drastically and I have made room for them in the garden.

Here’s to beautiful weeds…

Queen Anne's Lace is loved by many pollinators
Queen Anne’s Lace is loved by many pollinators.  I have a patch of them and they look like snow in summer.
Chicory flower changes color from sky blue to lavender blue as it ages
Chicory flowers change color from sky blue to lavender blue as it ages.  Roots can be used as a coffee substitute.
Milkweed
I let Common Milkweed grow mainly for Monarch butterflies but I realized that honeybees love it.  It also has very sweet fragrance.  The downside is that it can spread not just by seeds but suckers.
Wild rose
I let Wild roses (Rosa multiflora) grow along our property line as they are very thorny and can be trimmed into a hedge.  With a strong clove scent and plenty of rose hips for birds, how can I ever deny its existence.
Morning glory
If you let Morning glory set seeds, you’ll not be able to get rid of it.  At least in my area winter helps kill them off but their seeds will grow next year.  My solution is to dig them up and replant where I want them.
Virgin Bower
Virgin’s Bower (Clematis Virginiana L.)  is in the clematis family and bees love it.  I don’t know how it gets into my garden.  The first one grew in the area that my two dead clematis used to be in.  I thought it was a seedling from one of the dead clematis.  Since I wasn’t sure what it was, I let it grow until it flowered this year.  Now ‘it’ has become ‘they’ because where ever the stem touch the ground it grows roots.
Clover
I have plenty of White Clover (Trifolium repens) in the lawn and I have to be careful when to mow so I don’t cut down the flowers.
Goldenrod
Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) is a late season food source for pollinators
Jewel weed
Jewel weed (Impatiens pallida) is not just beautiful, it’s leaves also help sooth itchiness from poison ivy.
Dandelion
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) represents spring.  I know that spring is surely here when the lawn explodes with this bright yellow flower and I can stop feeding the bees.  It’s leaves and root are edible too.

There are more weeds growing in our garden than what I’ve mentioned above.  I’m fascinated by the fact that many of them are edible. I have not tried them all except for wild Daylily and dandelion.  I’m also surprised that many of the flowers and herbs in our area are considered weeds someplace else.

References:

  • Weeds of North America by Richard Dickinson and France Royer
  • Weeds of the Northeast by Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal and Joseph M. DiTomaso
  • Edible Wild Plants: Wild Food From Dirt to Plate by John Kallas, PhD.
  • Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer
  • Northeast Foraging by Leda Meredith

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.

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.

 

 

 

Last Resource

Ode to a Honeybee In Late Autumn

We are having a warm autumn this year.  The daytime temperature is still hovering above 50° F on most days but drops back to slightly above 30° F at night.  We had frost for a couple of days early on in the season which killed off most of the garden.  So there is not much left for the bees.

Honeybees being honeybees, they still come out looking for food when the temperature is above 50° F and to relieve themselves as well.  We had fed them in mid-October but now we still worry that their food storage may not be enough for a winter that has not yet come.  Since they spend more energy flying around instead of semi-hybernating in the hive during this time of year, they probably have gone through more of their storage than usual.  So we are putting sugar syrup out on warm days.   They know exactly where the feeder is and zoom right to it.   They still go for any flowers they find blooming at this time of year: Alyssum, Chinese broccoli, Broccoli raab and…Saffron.

Alyssum, despite being tiny and low to the ground, they weather a light frost quite well. They smell like honey too.
Alyssum, despite being tiny and low to the ground, they weather a light frost quite well. They smell like honey too.
I let some broccoli raab flower and it turned out to be a good thing.
I let some broccoli raab flower and it turned out to be a good thing.
Honeybee collecting pollen from saffron flower
Honeybee collecting pollen from saffron flower

I should have grown more saffron but I always start small with any newbies.  If it fails I haven’t wasted much.  My fellow blogger suggested that I may be able to leave them outside since they are hardy to zone 6.  I will leave one pot out as an experiment.  If they are like other crocuses that bloom in spring (which I grow in the ground) they should be fine.  Then I can have plenty of saffron for tea and cooking, and plenty of food for honeybees in late autumn.

This girl didn't even wait for the Chinese broccoli to open fully
This girl didn’t even wait for the Chinese broccoli to open fully
They also go for the water at the heated birdbath
They also go for the water at the heated birdbath

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