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.

 

 

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

Happy New Year

In Anticipation Of A Better Year

Happy New Year 2017

I would like to present you with the image of a warmer day in our garden, the Zephirine Drouhin rose.  A climbing fragrant rose that blooms continuously throughout the season.  One of many things I anticipate again in June.

Zephirine Drouhin is never a disappointment. It blooms heavily at first then continues to bloom here and there until autumn.
Zephirine Drouhin is never a disappointment. It blooms heavily at first then continues to bloom here and there until autumn.

About this ‘anticipation’, I got the idea from a free bookmark I received from the American Horticultural Society of which I am a member.  There is a quote from W.E Johns on the back “One of the most delightful things about gardening is the anticipation it provides.”  It couldn’t be more true for me.

We all hope for better.  We hope our garden will fare better than last year, our beehives thrive, our little friends who stay put survive the winter and our migrating friends come back to visit.  We anticipate for better so we won’t lose hope.

Here are some of the anticipated events:

We anticipate that more Monarch butterflies will be back next year as we have plenty of Milkweed and late summer flowers for them to feed on before they travel back south for their winter hibernation. We hope that children will get to see them in real life, not just on screen, for many more years to come.
We anticipate that more Monarch butterflies will be back next year as we have plenty of Milkweed and late summer flowers for them to feed on before they travel back south for their winter hibernation. We hope that children will get to see them in real life, not just on screen, for many more years to come.
We anticipate the next generation of this Honeybee on Goldenrod will be stronger and more resilient so they can help us humans survive.
We anticipate the next generation of this Honeybee on Goldenrod will be stronger and more resilient so they can help us humans survive.
We anticipate that this summer resident- Baltimore Oriole will bring his children, that were born here, back for a red carpet treatment of fresh oranges and organic jelly.
We anticipate that this summer resident- Baltimore Oriole will bring his children, that were born here, back for a red carpet treatment of fresh oranges and organic jelly.
We anticipate that the Eastern Bluebird which has stayed put with us in the last couple of winters, will bring up more kids, enjoy their communal bath and help rid us of pests. We hope they will continue being our state bird for eons to come since their population has increased in recent years.
We anticipate that the Eastern Bluebird which has stayed put with us in the last couple of winters, will bring up more kids, enjoy their communal bath and help rid us of pests. We hope they will continue being our state bird for eons to come since their population has increased in recent years.

These are just a few of our anticipations for this year.  We have been doing our best to give back to nature since she gives us so much joy.  It’s our sanctuary amidst this divided world.

As for the world outside our garden, we hope that there are  solutions for all conflicts so we stop being so divided and ruining ourselves in the process.  We dream of a magic pill that will wipe out hate, bigotry, and selfishness from so many people’s brains, that the world can be a better place to live and a wonderful place to pass on to the next generation.   Let’s hope that some of these dreams will come true this year.  We cannot lose hope, it’s the only thing that keeps us going.  Even if that hope is just a dim light at the end of the tunnel.

Whatever your anticipations and dreams are, we wish they came true for you.  

 

 

 

First Day Of Winter

And Snow, Right On Schedule

Today is the official first day of winter and it has been snowing lightly on and off all day.  It’s very peaceful and quiet outside, the only sound the birds singing.  The birds are the only bright colors in the garden at this time and without them it’s a plain brown and gray everywhere we look.  We couldn’t fill the feeders fast enough but we’re not complaining.  Here’s my first day of winter outside:

Light snow on and off all day
Light snow on and off all day
Milkweed seeds still hanging on to the seedpod, topped with light snow
Milkweed seeds still hanging on to the seedpod, topped with light snow
Spent Goldenrod flowers
Spent Goldenrod flowers

There’s nothing to do in the garden at this time aside from filling the feeders, cleaning and filling birdbaths, and stalking birds with the camera.  So, I spend time in the house trimming tropical plants, reading and listening to the music.  This time of year the radio stations seem to put Beethoven’s Symphony #9 and Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker on almost everyday, so far, twice today on our local station.  I don’t mind at all especially the Symphony#9 which I always turn up really loud.  For some reason this symphony always sounds so much better loud.  A friend once told me that Beethoven composed this piece when he was nearly deaf so he needed to feel the music.  I don’t know if that’s really true but when I listened to it at Carnegie Hall I could feel the vibration.  The same goes for Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. When not listening to the radio, our outside chorale is equally good to me.  Herewith some of the Avian Chorus’s members:

Male Northern Cardinal in the rose bush
Male Northern Cardinal in the rose bush
Chickadee enjoying a heated birdbath
Chickadee enjoying a heated birdbath
American Goldfinch in show
American Goldfinch in show
House Finch waiting his turn at the feeder
House Finch waiting his turn at the feeder
Nuthatch shares a feeder with an American Goldfinch
Nuthatch shares a feeder with an American Goldfinch

Though nothing is flowering in the garden, flowering continues in the basement and on the windowsill.  Nothing soothes my mood like the scent of jasmine and they are still blooming.

Almond verbena will continue flowering, even under artificial light, if I keep cutting and feeding them
Almond verbena will continue flowering, even under artificial light, if I keep cutting and feeding them
Azores jasmine (Jasminum azoricum) has very subtle scent
Azores jasmine (Jasminum azoricum) has very subtle scent
Winter jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) with delicate vine and flowers but very strong scent
Winter jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) with delicate vine and flowers but very strong scent
Winter jasmine close up
Winter jasmine close up
Moth orchid at the bay window
Moth orchid at the bay window

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.

Flowers For Bees

Something I Overlooked:

This year will be my second year as a beekeeper and hopefully I will do a better job than my freshman year.  At this moment I just hope the bees survive this roller coaster winter.  I know there are still some bees in the hive since I’ve seen dead bees on fresh snow all the time.  I would consider it a small but vital victory if I have a new generation of bees born into and multiplying in our garden, as short as life is for them.

Well, since I can’t do much of anything outside or help the bees in any way I’ll just search through a pile of catalogs for plants that are good for bees that I can add to the garden.  It just dawned on me that there are many other ways to provide pollen and nectar for bees than just growing plants I find in catalogs.  While cataloging photographs I’ve been taken either in our garden or while on vacation, I’ve found some simple facts that I’ve overlooked regarding plants for bees.

  • There are water plants that bees love, like Waterlilies (Nymphaea) and Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera).
  • Letting some weeds flower.  Bees forage on weeds such as Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), White Clover (Trifolium repens), Goldenrod (Salidago canadensis) and Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota).  Weeds to us but food to them.
  • Let leafy vegetables flower.  Vegetables that we seldom allow to flower because we eat their leaves, like Arugula (Eruca sativa), Broccoli Raab (Brassica rapa), Bok choi (Brassica rapa) and Mizuna (or Japanese greens).  Last season I couldn’t pick them fast enough so they flowered and the bees were all over them.

I’ve been letting Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s Lace grow for many years because I like their flowers.  I think I’ll have to make friends with the Dandelions.  Then add more of a Sedum I just found in a catalog (so far) for fall foraging.

Here are little happy bees on some plants mentioned above; the 1st three are from vacation on the other side of the planet:

White water lily
Plenty of bees on white waterlily
Purple water lily
The coming and going of the bees on this purple waterlily was non-stop
Pink Lotus
This pink Lotus attracted more than honey bees
Bee on Queen Anne's Lace
A honey bee on Queen Anne’s Lace
On Broccoli Raab flower
On Broccoli Raab flower
Bee on White Clover
On White Clover
Bee on Goldenrod
On Goldenrod

Flowers For Bees in Late Summer

Still A Lot More

Autumn will be here in a week; September 22nd is the first day to be exact.  I don’t really go by the date when I think of autumn.  I depend on the temperature and plants in the garden to tell me that fall is coming.  The same goes for spring when I’m prompted to start sowing seeds by the sprouting of weeds.

I know I have a few flowers that bloom until the first frost, but haven’t been concerned until this year when I acquired honey bees.  I want to make sure that they have enough natural food to last the winter.   The temperature has been down below 50F in the last couple of nights, but has gone up between 70F and 80F during the day.  The honey bees won’t come out foraging until the temperature is above 50F, but the resident Bumblebees have been very busy from early morning until last light.  There doesn’t seem to be any competition between them.  They seem to co-exist pretty well, unlike the wasps.

There are still plenty of flowers in the garden, Garden phlox, Coreopsis as well as herbs and vegetables flowers.   I let the Goldenrod (Solidago) grow and set seeds.  I know it is a weed but what constitutes a ‘weed’ anyway.  On the other side of the globe, Goldenrod is a cut flower and being sold in the market.  Farmers Markets in NYC also sell them.  I guess the phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” still rings true.  I like them for the bright yellow flowers when there is not much else blooming, and for how much the insects and birds love them.  Our resident honey bees can also forage on them from mid-summer to fall.

Honey bee and wasp sharing the Goldenrod for a moment, before the bee was bullied out.

Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’ (Clematis turniflora) really has a perfect name.  As soon as the temperature cools down, it starts to blossom.  It is a sign of autumn approaching.  They create a cluster of small white flowers so dense that they look like snow from afar and they are lightly but beautifully fragrant.  A plus side?  Bees love them.  A minus side?  It can grow to 30 feet in one season.  I cut everything down to a couple of feet off the main branch in spring; it grows right back on to our roof by the end of summer.

This bee has a lot of pollen to carry back, but still adding more to her load from Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’.

Another autumn flower is Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.  It’s great for full sun and dry areas, and it’s hard to kill.  As soon as the flower blossoms, the whole mop head will fill with all types of insects.  I’ve never really liked it much, but it came with the house so I keep it.  I keep dividing them and replanting them in an area that doesn’t need much care.  I may look for a different variety next year since I want to provide a variety of food for my resident bees in fall.

Taking nectar from Sedum

Abelia (Abelia grandiflora) is another staple for mid-summer to frost blooming.  This compact shrub with dark green leaves provides little white cluster flowers with a light fragrance.  I don’t have to do much aside from cutting some old stems off at the base in spring so it doesn’t get too crowded.  Mulching with compost once a year keeps it in good health.

No bees on this one, but Bumblebees and day-flying moths are frequent visitors on this Abelia.

I can’t leave this last one out, Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii).  This lovely shrub can be very invasive if I let the flowers set seeds.  But it makes up for the down side by providing a lot of beautiful and fragrant flowers.  They are still blooming in our garden in September, though less than a month or so ago, but still providing scent for the garden and food for the insects.

Honey bee taking nectar from a Butterfly bush. Notice the little, pink tongue.