A Last Thought about Pollinators

If you happened to see the comment on my post last Monday, it was quite insightful. A regular commenter noted that most pollinators are not natives (think honeybees for example), and asked why natives were better.

My answer was that I was relying on the many books of Doug Tallamy (otherwise known as Douglas W. Tallamy, PhD, entomologist) and that the statistic I remembered best from Bringing Nature Home, the book that really made him famous (so to speak) was that oaks fed 462 species while magnolias only fed 30.

Since then, Tallamy has authored a few more books and his most recent is one specifically on oaks called The Nature of Oaks.

So what’s the takeaway on all this?

As with anything, I think that much of this is still evolving. Because weather patterns are in flux–I will leave it to you to decide how much of this we have caused–can natives still help the situation? If plants are blooming earlier, will this help the creatures that rely on them?

I don’t think that any of this is settled right now. So as gardeners, I think we owe it to ourselves–and perhaps to the creatures that use our habitat, if we are providing for that–to try to grow pesticide free, diverse choices for the wildlife.

Right now, perhaps that’s the best we can do.

A Late Season Garden for Pollinators

Garden of goldenrod and white snakeroot

Right now this garden doesn’t look like much. There was once a magnolia stellata here but it must have reached the end of its useful life because it died abruptly one winter. Its stump is still there, but the vegetation hides it nicely.

When all of this plant life started coming up–because it’s all self-sown–the Spoiler asked me why I wasn’t weeding the garden. Fortunately, I recognized the plants for what they were–goldenrod and a native called white snakeroot (ageratina altissima) so I told him that they weren’t weeds; they were plants.

A weed among the roses–or not

And of course, the distinction is not really all that fine. I came home from my Mom’s memorial service, found a lovely early aster coming up in my rose garden and said with exasperation, “Geez, look at that weed in there.”

I love the asters in the garden with the goldenrod. Among my roses, maybe not so much. But I left it, knowing that the pollinators love it.

It is especially important to have later blooming plants for late migrating butterflies and bees that hibernate locally. Asters and goldenrod are 2 great choices–and contrary to popular belief, goldenrod does not contribute to allergies. It is the ragweed which blooms at the same time that causes allergies. So don’t be afraid to plant goldenrod.

It’s also nice to have later blooming perennials so that you are not relying on annuals like mums. There’s nothing wrong with those, but it’s great to have a garden that simply comes up by itself every year, and helps pollinators too.

So perhaps this year consider adding a later blooming plant or two. The pollinators will thank you.

Planting for Pollinators

Annual container

Today begins Pollinator Week, a week devoted to the plight of declining Pollinators in the United States. You can find out more at Pollinator.org, and see some neat posters and other things on offer (if they are still available).

Generally accepted wisdom is that native plants are best for pollinators. I don’t disagree. However, since I just lost many of my native hollies (while interestingly my non-natives survived the drought just fine. So much for the idea that natives are adaptable to climate change–at least in my yard!) I am kind of holding off on replanting anything right now while I see what’s what.

But of course I still want a little color for the summer.

So I have noticed that the bees are loving this purple verbena.

And of course our lawn has plenty of clover for them to enjoy as well.

They are also enjoying my flowering herbs, particularly the oregano, lavender and chives.

So yes, I still do love native plants–so long as they survive in my yard. Friday I will post about my late season garden for pollinators.

We have to try to do what we can when we can–at least I think so.


Swallowtail caterpillar

To paraphrase the old movie saying, if you plant it, they will come. This caterpillar managed to find the container of parsley that I have outside our door–the one that I really planted for cooking purposes.

Oh well, no matter. Anyone who has been reading for awhile knows that I would never begrudge a plant to hungry larva, especially butterfly larva.

And there’s more parsley in my herb garden if I need it, if the rabbits don’t find it first.

But that is what gardening is about: the challenge, sometimes literally, of growing your own food with these competing interests. You can stress, you can be grateful you’re not doing it for a living (or needing to survive on this through the winter without the benefit of a local grocery store), or you can be grateful there will be one more butterfly because of your container of parsley.

I will take the butterfly.

Another look

Rose Time

Roses by mailbox

I came home from the hospital to discover that I had completely missed my peonies this year but that’s okay because the roses are putting on such a glorious show that it’s hard to be disappointed.

Closer view
Another view

The decaying bulb foliage is for the colchicums that will be back in September.

A different garden
And yet more!

So it’s hard to be sad about missing the peonies.

Let’s not talk about the weeds, however.

There’s a Drought Where?

Dead ilex glabra

This is a slightly different photo from Wednesday because now I am intentionally showing the dead inkberry holly. It’s one of 2 on our property that has yet to be removed. I have lost track of what we have already removed.

All of the is carnage from last year’s severe drought here in the Northeast. I am willing to bet that unless you lived it, you were unaware of it. That’s surely understandable with the events of the past year–but did you hear about the multi-year drought from 2014-2016?

It seems that unless drought occurs in a farming state, it rarely makes news. And while I certainly don’t want any more negative news in the news cycle, it might be useful for national news outlets to cover drought whenever and wherever it occurs.

The same goes for wildfires. I wonder how many of my United States readers heard about the major US wildfires in New Jersey and Massachusetts in the last 2 weeks? Why is this happening? Well, gee, it’s dry again and windy. Has anyone heard about this?

Homes were evacuated in New Jersey too. The fire was along a major roadway, in a state forest, and caused evacuations. Luckily it is out, the homes were saved and no one was injured.

Again, with a 24 hour news cycle, there surely ought to be time for more coverage of this. It would let people know that events like these are no longer regional–sadly. And once people understand that, they might understand more about what is happening to the planet.

Careful About That Pruning

Kolkwitzia amabilis Dream Catcher

This shrub is so large that it literally is taking over the garden. It’s totally my fault. It’s exactly what I talk about when I lecture. One of the things that I always remind people is that we often fail to envision what a mature tree or shrub will look like–or, as I say colloquially, “remember, 6′ tall is bigger than me!”

Well, I always fail to plan for mature plant size, because nothing is ever happy in my horrible wet clay soil so it is a rare plant that achieves its full size. This kolkwitzia is such a rare plant.

And while it is just glorious this time of year when it’s a glowing wall of flowers, if you notice at the base, it is completely obscuring my lovely flowering quinces. Sigh. My bad.

A neighbor’s kolkwitzia

But at least I didn’t do this–pruning at the wrong time so that I cut off most of this year’s bloom. There are actually 2 of these. It’s sad to see.

In this neighbor’s defense, perhaps these shrubs were damaged by wind or heavy snow or something. But I walk this way pretty regularly and I don’t recall that. I am going to stick with the original “pruned at the wrong time theory. “

I suspect it won’t happen next year, knowing these neighbors. As for me, my lack of vision will persist, sadly.