Monday, March 15, 2010

Bloom Day, March 2010

Outdoors the crocus and daffodils are just beginning to push their way up through the soggy ground - we have had several days of "April Showers" this March. Last year I wrote on my calendar that my first crocus bloomed on March 25.

My bee balm, several wild flowers and helenium are already showing their first few leaves. The neighbor's silver maple and box elder have blossoms just waiting to bloom. So does my forsythia - I cannot wait to see it this year. It is finally a good size and should be quite a show. I started it from a cutting when I left Maine.

Indoors my crown of thorns is blooming. It is yellow. Also, my little stars orchid. My little stars orchid sends out this delicious fragrance but only at night. Its scent permeates the entire room. I wish I could add a smellorama feature.

 Little Stars Orchid

And, most appropriately, my shamrock is blooming (though this picture is taken while she is "sleeping" - her leaves close up in the evening).


Bloom day is hosted (and created by) Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Beehind Bee of the Month

I purchased a bee calendar through "The Great Sunflower Project" that I have been meaning to share with you. Each month features one of North America's native bees. Who knew there were so many different kinds of bees? Well, since it's March and traditionally calendars begin in January, you get THREE bees for the price of reading one post!

January ...

... featured the Bumble Bee, genus Bombus. Queens emerge in early Spring followed by female workers in late Spring, and finally males.

Bumble bees are ground nesting bees.

Bumble bees are large fuzzy bees usually black with varying patterns of yellow, red or light colored bands. Queens are much larger - over an inch - than female workers or males. Female workers carry pollen in a fringe of stiff hairs in their hind legs also referred to as a 'pollen basket.' Noted to 'buzz pollinate' tomato blossoms, increasing the size and yield of fruit. (I can vouch for this!)

Tomato yield from last summer ... a mix of heirlooms and 'Sweetie' and yellow cherries. 
My tomatoes were abuzz with bumble bees all summer!

You might find bumble bees in your garden if you grow the following: beardtongue, california poppy (I almost wrote poopy - ha!), lavendar, rosemary, or fleabane.

February ...

... featured the Mining Bee, genus Andrena. They also emerge in early Spring and are also ground nesting bees.

Mining bees are mostly dark green or black with elongated abdomens. They carry pollen in the hairs of their behind legs. These pollen-coated hairs appear to be purple or blue (cool). Many Andrena species are oilgoletic (BIG word meaning) - collecting pollen only from a limited range or single genus of plants.

You might find mining bees in your garden if you grow the following: phacelia, gilia, california poppy, suncup.

March ...

... features the Mason Bee, genus Osmia. Mason bees emerge in Spring to early summer. They nest in pre-existing holes in wood constructed with mud or leaves. You can buy mason bee homes (or make your own) to encourage them to nest in your garden, or even buy existing nests to emerge in your garden come Spring!

Example of Mason bee house offered from the Backyard Bird Company. 
Photo from Backyard Bird Company.

Mason bees are small to medium sized displaying metallic or iridescent coloring from green to dark blue. They are much more efficient pollinators than honey bees. Just 250 Orchard Mason bees are needed to pollinate an acre of apple trees that would require 20,000 honeybees!

You might find mason/orchard bees in your garden if you grow the following: catnip, sage, phacelia, gilia, and orchard fruit trees like cherry, apple and pear.

This is a wonderful calendar with fabulous photos and I've quoted from it quite a bit (without permission but figure I am promoting their cause). If another is offered next year be sure to pick it up - not only will you "bee" helping the cause for bees, but there is much to learn! If you plant a pollinator garden (see my last post), "bee" sure (okay, I can't help myself!), to watch for these native bees and more. Not only do they like native plant sources but many varieties of herbs as well. Stay tuned for the next bee of the month!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Perfect Side Dish for Your Vegtable Bed, A Pollinator Garden

Soon gardeners who like to eat what they grow will begin planting their vegetable beds even here in North Country. What is a perfect side dish? A pollinator garden! Those veggies and fruits depend on them. I am really trying to learn more about native plants in my area AND how to attract pollinators and beneficial insects. Bonus for me, the two go hand in hand. Pollinators include birds (i.e. humming), bees, butterflies, flies, wasps and even bats, beetles and mosquitos. Part of the fun for me in making my new garden is seeing what new insects show up each year the more I plant. I would like to make at least one of the new distinct sections of the flower border that I will be reworking on the edge of my potager attractive to pollinators. A great resource I discovered through one of my native plant sources, Amanda's Garden (perhaps a source for you as well if you live in NY and surrounding areas), is a website entitled Pollinator Partnership. You can learn all about pollinators and even download a guide to the pollinators in your specific area in the United States and what native plants will attract them! For example, I am in the Eastern Broadleaf Forest (Continental) Province. This certainly seems much more interesting and specific than the "Northeast."

Some plants that I already own (either by purchase or volunteering), or that I have on order that will attract pollinators in my area include foam flowers, golden rod, heath asters, honeysuckle, jacob's ladder, joe-pye-weed, swamp milkweed, virginia creeper, and wild grapes. There are many more! And as you can determine from this brief list, you can attract pollinators with sun or shade. I will be sure to post any interesting sightings this season.

Photo from Bluestone Perennials web site.

Helenium and Solidago 'Fireworks' (Golden Rod).
Photos from Bluestone Perennials web site.

Wild grapes growing on my "treasured" chain link fence.
A wren built her nest in this house.

Virginia Creeper berries in the fall. 
The leaves turn a brilliant red.

If you garden in the midwest, another one of my favorite sources for native plants (that will attract pollinators in your area) is Prairie Moon.

Let me not forget to mention that you should not use any pesticides or chemicals in your garden if you wish to attract pollinators and birds who rely on insects for feeding their young.

Happy pollinating!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Order Up!

What am I doing today? NOT working, NOT cleaning, NOT laundry, NOT painting the walls ... I am going to catch up! I have so many posts on my list and here it is March already. I also have more orders to place for plants and seeds!

I have already placed two orders. From Nature Hills I ordered my rhubarb (Canada Red) - yeah!, everbearing strawberries and long awaited Serviceberry, Amelanchier Laevis - another check off my "list!" The Serviceberry is an excellent northeastern native choice. It is an understory large shrub or small tree that has spring blooms, fall color and berries that are a favorite of the birds. It is hardy to Z4. I will be placing this tree in my new "woodland edge" section of my garden. I will be working on this section over the entire summer into fall.

Serviceberry, Amelanchier Laevis
 Photo taken from Nature Hills Nursery website.

From Johnny's seeds well, I ordered seeds! And quite a few. For some of my newer flower beds and near the potager, I ordered a variety of sunflowers. Sunflowers are easy to grow and they make a big, bold statement as well as providing a good screen. The birds and bees love 'em, too. I make sure to choose varieties that DO have pollen. I chose Ring of Fire, Valentine, and Velvet Queen. I still have some Mammoth seeds leftover from last year.

Mammoth Sunflower

Also for decorative, edible edging in the potager, I ordered some nasturtium, kaleidoscope mix. I also have some nasturtium seeds saved from last year as well as a TON of marigold seeds.


For the real tasty stuff I ordered scarlet runner bean - also a favorite of humming birds. I plan to put together an arbor for that to climb on. April will be a month of making garden support structures! I also ordered royal burgundy bush beans - they are purple but turn green when you cook them, how fun! - northern pickling mini cucumbers, bright lights swiss chard, a couple lettuce/greens mixes, cilantro, and some dill and fennel. The fennel I ordered is not a bulbing type and I do not plan to harvest it. I ordered it as a host plant for butterflies - dill and parsley are also favorite host plants. I plan to work the fennel, some of the dill and some parsley into the flower border along the potager. The border now is mostly all lilies with a backdrop of wild grape and I will be reworking it.

The flower border a couple of years ago. This will be reworked - 
slightly wider with three distinct sections.

Lastly, I ordered some verbena seed, Verbena Bonariensis. I have read repeatedly that this is a favorite of butterflies and that it reseeds itself. I will be working this into the border along the "nice driveway."

I plan to place at least three more orders. From one of my native plant sources, Prairie Moon, I will be ordering some common witch hazel and a swamp rose (bare root). Both of these are natives. The common witch hazel will go in my very new "woodland" garden section (surrounding future patio). The swamp rose will be incorporated into the border along the potager in the above picture. There is a section that tends to be very wet in the spring. The swamp rose will provide winter hips for fruit eating birds.

From Mountain Rose Herbs, I will be ordering some seeds: calendula (thanks to my blogging friends!) for edging in the potager, borage for the flower border, and california poppies for along the driveway.

From Bluestone Perennials I will be ordering some plants for the border along the driveway which I plan to expand. I am planning big and bold! One choice is indian grass, an American native grass that grows to 6' tall and is hardy to Z4. This will be a nice screen as well as provide cover for butterflies and birds, and winter interest. I will also order goldenrod. Contrary to popular belief, goldenrod does not cause hay fever - that would be ragweed. It is a favorite among all sorts of insects and offers a great fall show. Also on my list is giant cone flower, Rudbeckia Maxima. This will grow 5- 7' tall! Another great screen and appealing to butterflies. The leaves are blue in color and also attractive.

Whew, I will be busy as a bee! Time to order up!


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