Happy July 4th!

Hydrangea bouquet

Happy July 4th to all who celebrate.

These hydrangeas were picked from that hedge that I keep showing photos of. They are Invincibelle Spirit (the pink), Endless Summer, (the blue), and a self-sown sport of the pink which has both pure white and blush pink flowers.

I will post more about those–because I have several of them from two different arborescens type hybrids– on Friday.

Just one other sort of funny comment before we all go off to enjoy the long weekend: this year the first day of astronomical summer–June 21–fell exactly 2 weeks before July 4. Why is that worth mentioning? If you are like me, someone in your life always remarks on July 4th, “Summer’s over.”

And sure enough, summer does seem to fly by here in the frozen north, compared to winter.

But there is still a full 2 months until Labor Day–the “unofficial ” end of summer–this year. And then a few weeks more until the autumn equinox.

And thankfully even after the equinox, it’s usually a couple of months before we have our first “real” snow. So this year, I don’t think that I will let those summer deniers bother me. For all I know, they are just counting the days until ski season begins.

A Love Letter to the June Garden

Annabelle type hydrangeas

Here in the frozen north, June is the best month in the garden. Just about all our perennials and shrubs are in bloom at once, and there’s generally just about enough rain to keep them looking good without having to worry about watering from some other sources.

Hydrangea hedge

In my garden, June is when the hydrangeas really start to shine and they generally continue until later summer.

Hydrangea mini-mauvette
Hydrangea Nikko blue

The above hydrangea is my absolute favorite. It’s an old-fashioned type that blooms on old wood, meaning in years with late frost and snow, I don’t see blooms at all. This year, the plant has quite a few blooms and I am just thrilled.

Herb garden

This area is coming along nicely although the rabbits are eating all the dianthus this year. You might think all the clover and violets we grow would be enough for them. I guess not. They like variety in their diet.

Herb garden

Luckily the bunnies haven’t found this area yet. Maybe the sign about the schnauzer security system is intimidating to them.

Annual container

And of course, the most spectacular of all, is this container of annuals that I planted, not to sit here in this spot but to be further along down the lawn. It was to go in a place where my annual containers regularly get backed over by delivery drivers, newspaper drivers and clients of the Spoiler. That’s why the taller hibiscus in the middle–I thought it might be visible from vehicles as they reverse out the driveway.

I quickly discovered that I can barely see it from my smaller SUV–so I refused to put it where it was just going to be just another casualty to some buffoon who doesn’t know how to use a backup camera–or is in too much of a hurry to do so and will flatten this container like all my previous containers have been flattened. I don’t think I have ever had one make it through the month of July.

And this one is too pretty to wind up like the rest (at least I think so). Of course, I thought that about last year’s container too and it was so flattened that there was nothing left to pick up. You see that I am learning my lesson: if what you are doing isn’t working, change what you are doing!

I called this post “Love Letter to the June Garden,” but I should also be thanking my sister who spent almost 3 weeks here while I was recovering, making sure that there would be a garden for me to return to whenever I am able. It was lovely to spend time with her–but she did so much more than just visit and cheer me through this!

Non-native Pollinators

We just finished Pollinator Week yesterday but of course the work of providing for pollinators is really never done.

And before anyone takes umbrage at my title, let’s be clear about what I am saying. First, I am not advocating for invasive plants–whatever those plants are for you in your region or ecosystem. I just read a post yesterday fra gentleman who is generally a responsible garden writer and he was suggesting planting butterfly bushes for butterflies. I thought that ship had sailed long ago, and we didn’t do that–even though there are now some buddleias that are thought to be sterile. So you’re not going to see anything about those here.

Next, I do love native plants. Period. Full stop. But I married a house with lots of mature plantings. Luckily many are native. Some are not. It is irresponsible and not sustainable to destroy mature and non-invasive plants for the sake of natives.

And guess what? When my pieris japonica blooms in early spring, my native bumble bees are all over it, because it is the only thing in bloom. This is what I mean about non-native pollinators.

Catmint, surrounded by the native plant pycnanthemum

The above photo is a perfect example of what I mean. The bees love this little bit of cat mint. Once the mountain mint (a native) blooms, they will move on. But until it does, they need something.

Ornamental oregano

And it’s hard to see in all the weediness here, but the ornamental oregano is just coming into bloom. This too is a pollinator magnet. It’s obviously not native. Do I care? Not at all.

Clover

If the bees would like native, they may have all the clover. I know butterfly larva like that. I mostly see non-native honeybees on it. Go figure.

Protecting Pollinators is not Always Pretty

So I am still recovering from eye surgery and I have been blessed to have my sister staying with me for a couple of weeks to do things for me, like walking the dog and cooking dinner–things that were impossible when I was face down in recovery and even now I need to do gently so as to not undo the stitches in my eye.

Some interesting things came out in conversation about our property and even Pollinator Week.

First, at one point, she mentioned that it seemed that we had the “buggiest” property on the block. And I said that if you don’t use pesticides, then all insects come to the property. She was referring to these little flying black flies–gnat sized–that bite. We call them black flies. They are an unfortunate late spring phenomena. I am sure that they have some benefit. I don’t know what it is.

Then we talked a bit about pollinators. I was floored when she said she could only think of 3. But then she elaborated and her 3 included “insects,” which is a very broad category. Still, the other two were “the occasional hummingbird and I suppose moths.”

I am not sure if she lumped bees in with the insects–I believe that she did. I think she also put ants in there. I don’t know if she put butterflies in there. We didn’t include bats because we don’t live in a place where they are legitimate pollinators.

But I sure that she would be shocked if I said that I counted 29 kinds of butterflies and moths alone on this property. I have never counted the bees and wasps but I know that I could easily distinguish 10 or more different kinds–maybe more if I worked on it. I have seen 78 different kinds of birds (not pollinators, I know, for the most part). I can’t recall the numbers of different kinds of insects. She would probably be horrified anyway if I could.

Why is there this diversity? We are the only truly organic property in our neighborhood and the wildlife finds us.

You can tell by my Monday post that I am not going out of my way to plant native plants, although if I do plant perennials, trees or shrubs, I do try plant natives when I can. Containers are different, of course.

So what is my takeaway? For me, helping the pollinators has meant going–and staying–organic. Everything else is just extra.

Happy Pollinator Week!

Yes, you saw this pot just last week, but it was in a Wordless Wednesday post so I didn’t really comment about it.

While I didn’t specifically plant it as a pollinator container, it certainly fits the description. I have lots of red, yellow and purple flowers for different pollinators to choose from.

I have different flower shapes–the flat heads of verbena and lantana, as well as tubular blooms of angelonia and tropical hibiscus. And I know that hummingbirds love impatiens because I have seen them on them quite a bit so I added those as well.

Pollinator Week is a national initiative managed by pollinator.org to raise awareness about pollinators and their health and the ways we can support that. This year it runs from June 20-26.

I hope that the above container shows that you don’t necessarily need acres of gardens to support pollinators. Sometimes just a container is fine.

Figs

This was my fig back in February. You can see by its location that in the frozen north I winter it in the house.

Ripening figs

And here’s the fig now. It went outside with 7 figs on it. So far the chipmunks have gotten 3, we have gotten 2 and the other 2 are up for grabs–literally.

Very short posts for a bit–I am only using one eye.