Planting for Pollinators

I’ve done a lot of posting over the last week or two about what I’m planting–my herbs, both for me and for the pollinators, the annuals in the herbs garden, my indoor succulent corner (which no pollinators can get to, of course, unless they accidentally get inside the screened porch–and why would they want to?

As I was thinking back over this and thinking forward to Pollinator Week, which occurs this year June 17-23, I realized that for all my talk about native plants, I hadn’t planted any native plants.

Is this a catastrophe? No. I already have a lot of native plants in my yard. But as someone who talks a lot about native plants, I do like to add them when I can.

But one thing I didn’t do this year was add any trees, shrubs or perennials–the sorts of plants that are native plants. So that’s why no natives this season.

So should I consider my whole season a loss? I guess that depends on what you are trying to accomplish. This season, I am lucky that I can get a little gardening in. I am hoping to be able to harvest just a few tomatoes and some green beans–and to have some fresh herbs to cook with.

I’d like a few pretty flowers to look at and I have chosen those flowers with pollinators in mind. In the past, I have seen both hummingbirds and sphinx moths on impatiens so I chose those for a semi-shaded spot.

For the sunnier spots, I chose annuals in colors of blue and yellow, primarily to attract bees and butterflies. One of the containers has some lantana, which I know the butterflies in my area love.

20190429_173847

My earlier spring container, which was a Wordless Wednesday photo, was violets and alyssum. I have watched honeybees and smaller bees on that until I moved it to a shadier spot where I don’t get to observe it so readily.

So I am not feeling too sad about the gardening season so far. I am just hoping that the deer don’t eat the green beans, as they have in some years. Time will tell!

Boston’s Gardener’s Gathering

Celebrate the start of the gardening season! The 44th Annual Gardeners’ Gathering brings Boston-area gardeners together for a free day full of informative workshops, engaging exhibitors, networking, and inspiration. Held at Northeastern University, the Gathering features more than two dozen workshops on everything from Healthy Soil to Urban Foraging. Urban homesteaders can learn about keeping bees or chickens, making fermented pickles, and growing gourmet mushrooms. Gardeners can hone their skills with workshops on garden planning, managing pests and diseases, and more.

This year’s Gathering will feature special guest speaker Aziz Dehkan, Executive Director of the New York City Community Garden Coalition. Aziz is an activist, community organizer, former organic farmer, and a tireless member of #Resist. He has worked for many social and environmental organizations including Mother Jones, The Coalition for the Homeless, The Fortune Society, and Peace Action Network of NY. Aziz will address the history, current state, and future of community gardens in NYC, looking at them through the lens of social justice and climate change protection. He’ll speak to gentrification and racial inequality and delve into how community gardens can be in the vanguard of climate change monitoring, adaption, and mitigation.

When
Saturday, March 23
10AM-5PM

Cost
FREE

Contact
617.542.7696 x2115
mdelima@thetrustees.org

Shillman Hall, Northeastern
115 Forsyth Street
Boston, MA

I’ve been posting and whining about the weather being too cold to do any gardening and about a week ago I got this fabulous flyer from the Trustees of the Reservation about their Gardener’s Gathering.

What’s so interesting to me is that rather than just being another “plant conference,” (not that there’s anything wrong with those–we do all need to learn!), this “Gathering,” seeks to address ways in which gardeners can be part of important solutions to very real problems.

I am getting some questions in my lectures about whether growers are addressing things like climate change as they breed plants so I do know it’s on gardeners’ minds. It’s certainly on my mind when I shop for “replacement” plants–what on earth should I be doing to try to help our environment and what on earth should I be planting if I need to replace something long-term like a tree or a shrub?

Unfortunately the timing of the conference isn’t one that I can attend. But I sincerely hope to see more like this. And perhaps some of my readers in the area are able to go and to get some benefit from this interesting day of education!

Fall is for Planting

20180922_101457

Most of the summer, I looked at this dead tree. It was a star magnolia. It went into last winter without a problem, but it didn’t form its buds, as magnolias do. Perhaps that should have been my first clue that there would be a problem this spring.

Sure enough, this spring, when all the other trees began to flush leaves or blooms, this magnolia did nothing. The Spoiler, ever the optomist, kept saying, let’s just see what happens. By mid-July, it was obvious even to him nothing was going to happem

So we finally cut it down. It is in morning sun, so that gives me some nice options.

20180922_101441

I left the self-sown goldenrod on one end of the bed.

In the rest of the bed, I put my “test” plants that had been accumulating all summer. There are 6 veronica (3 blue and 3 white), 2 pink perennial pelargoniums, and 2 smaller hydrangeas.

I also put a dwarf joe pye weed in, and I left some self-sown asters as well. I need some pollinator plants, after all (although the bees loved the veronica all summer, even in pots!)

Generally planting in fall is much better for plants because the soil is still warm. For those of you who live near any type of water, you know how long the water takes to warm in the spring–soil is similar.

Likewise, in the fall, water stays warmer longer than the air–that’s why maritime communities get frost a little later. Again, soil cools more slowly than the air so planting into the fall actually aids the plants by settling them into warm soil.

I will want to watch these–& perhaps mulch them once the ground freezes–so that they don’t “heave up” out of the soil. But otherwise, no other special care is needed.

I still have some bulbs to add here, but nature hasn’t been my friend on the timing–as usual, the rain on the weekend isn’t conducive to bulb planting.

Parking Lot Landscaping That’s A Bit Unusual

I am sure that I am not the only one that is fascinated with parking lot and strip mall landscaping. For the most part, there is a lot of sameness to it–Knockout roses and Stella D’Oro daylilies. There’s a reason for that–it works because those are very tough plants.

_20180708_093027

I’ve had this photo on my blog before, a few years ago, in the middle of a drought after a very cold winter. At that point, these river birches (betula nigra) looked dead. I am delighted to see that they have recovered but I still find them an odd choice for an island bed in the middle of asphalt because, as a general rule, they are a somewhat thirsty plant.
Nevertheless, they do seem to be thriving.

_20180708_092836

This planting is in the same general area. Yes, there are daylilies, but no Stella D’Oros in sight. And the coneflowers are a delight. I walked over for a closer look, expecting them to be devoid of life, but I found several types of bees on them.

_20180708_092850

It may be a little hard to see but this flower in the foreground actually has two big bumblebees on it! What I hope that means is that these beds aren’t pesticided to within an inch of their lives. It’s quite refreshing.

So every so often even commercial planting can surprise me–in a good way.

Garden Re-Imagining

So I have been talking about how I like to use plants as living mulch. This idea is gaining traction with some popular garden design books, most recently the very well received Planting in a Post Wild World.

20180603_113311

This is what that looks like in various parts of my yard where it is already established. Here is my rose garden around my mailbox. The “living mulch” is catmint “Walker’s Low” and golden hops.

This is a raised bed–actually a bed created on top of my driveway and behind a stone wall about 5′ high. The bed is so large that it contains a native dogwood that was planted when the house was built–so 60 years ago. There are numerous other shrubs in there are well, including one of several Japanese maples on the property. While it faces east, because of the dogwood, it is mostly shaded. I am encouraging moss and the ferns that have naturally begun springing up to cover the rest. While it is still in progress, it is progressing quite well and is a lovely, shady oasis.

20180603_113207

My “wildlife” garden, which is a mix of native and non-native shrubs and perennials, is also a work in progress. Most of it has filled in nicely and needs no wedding or cultivating each year.

20180603_113450

The front corner has never managed to do well, however. It is on the northeast side of the bed–perhaps it’s too shaded by the other parts of the bed, or by overhanging trees. Whatever the reason, I have replanted it several times already. So needless to say, I haven’t managed to get any sort of perennial ground cover in there yet–unless you count the grass!

20180603_113405

In fact, as I was on my hands and knees patiently weeding out all the grass before replanting, I overheard a couple walking by. The man remarked to the woman “That’s why perennials are better…” The rest of his comment was lost to me as they continued on. Just as well. Little does he know that annuals have never graced this bed. Perhaps little does he know, period, or he’d see that the entire rest of the bed is perennials, and shrubs.

20180603_172829

In any event, here is the result of my weekend planting. Two swamp milkweed, two agastche, two liatris, three black-eyed susans, a mountain mint and a tanacetum (apparently I never learned the rule that everything needs to be planted in 3s!) There’s a dwarf Joe Pye weed yet to come, but a rabbit nibbled it down to a stalk and I have to wait for it to regenerate to “garden” size.

And yes, everything is spaced much closer than the “rules” say they should be on the tag. How else will I ever get my living mulch (and shade this ground so all that dreadful grass doesn’t grow back?)

After all, these are perennials–they can always be divided later–provided this time this corner really does grow!

And also, remembering my post from Monday, these are all pretty much blues, yellows or oranges–good butterfly attracting colors, of course, but also now my “preferred” garden palette. We’ll see how it turns out.

Sustainable Gardening

It’s easy to walk into a big box store–or even some garden centers–and get very discouraged by the bewildering array of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. All you need to do is approach these aisles and you can smell these products. And generally, they are not good smells.

With all of that going on, then, it’s hard to remember that we’ve come a really long way since that first Earth Day over 50 years ago! More than ever before, people are indicating an interest in growing organically and growing their own food organically.

And more than ever before, people are listening when you tell them, please don’t spray this–or please don’t spray now–because you will endanger our pollinators. Those sorts of things really are resonating with a majority of people in a way that they might not have 10 or 20 years ago.

In fact, I have even had people tell me that the word “sustainable” is too out of date. I am not sure what the current word or term or phrase might be. I kind of like “sustainable.” To me, it indicates something that’s going to be around awhile. Isn’t that what we’re aiming for?

The other thing that’s almost mainstream these days is native plants. Even the box stores are carrying them. They may not have big signs screaming “Get Your Native Plants Here!,” but they will have some tough, hardy natives that grow well in almost every region available.

Part of this has to do with planting for pollinators. Part of this has to do with planting for unpredictable weather–natives seem to cope with that much better than other plants (once they are established, of course). And part of this has to do with the fact that natives are just nice plants to grow–many of them bloom for a long time, or produce berries or have lovely fall color–all attributes of other ornamentals that might be harder to grow or fussier in other ways.

Back on that first Earth Day, almost no one was growing natives–or if they were, their neighbors were looking upon them with suspicion as “long haired hippies”, no doubt.

And those first Earth Day chemicals? Names too terrible to mention. So we really have come a long way.

It’s Hard to Be Ecologically Correct with the Spoiler Around

20170618_171312

You may remember this post from my discussion of pollinators. I said it was a native pollinator garden, no planting required–and that’s absolutely true.

These native plants “planted” themselves and they are now blooming, providing late season nectar for butterflies and other pollinators.

But last week, the Spoiler says, “Hey, what’s happening down there by the road. We never had all those weeds. Do we have to have it looking like that?” Sigh.

So I explained–again–as I do every time he has our helper come over, why he can’t “weed” all this stuff out, that these are native plants and that they are providing food for our butterflies.

“But we never had them before, ” he groused.

“We did, ” I reminded him. “They have just migrated from the edge of our lot to under this tree to get more sun.”

And then we had an interesting discussion of “which” edge, since technically our lot has 4 edges (although if he were paying attention to my statement, and what we had done in the yard, he would know that there is only 1 place they could have come from–but that’s another whole story that I’m not going to bore you with!)

Back in the pollinator post, I put in an offhand reference to Larry Weaner and his idea of succession habitats. One of these plants, the white snakeroot (or tall boneset, if you prefer) is a short lived native that does migrate around. Its botanical is eupatorium altissimum for those who like to know these things.

It may stay here, under my magnolia for a few seasons and then be gone–but chances are, it will crop up across the street in my neighbor’s tree line. That’s what it does. Still, I am grateful to have it when I do. Once it’s gone, I hope the wood asters (another native) will fill in, as they are doing on the edges of my woods.

I am fighting off the pokeweed, which would also like to fill in. That I would prefer not to fill in!