Sunday, December 18, 2016

Pollinator Friendly

I see numerous articles about planting gardens for specific pollinators.  Especially popular right now is butterfly and bee gardens. 

You can have plants that are especially attractive or needed by specific pollinators but an excellent pollinator garden will try to satisfy many pollinators.

I can tell an experienced gardener from a social gardener by their tolerance for the less attractive pollinators.  It’s easy to love butterflies and not as easy to love wasps. 

Some insects need nectar producing plants for long tongues and others plants for short-tongued insects. 

Other insects need certain plants for the different development stages and not for nectar and pollen at all.   Plus, you have to be willing to tolerate some leaf and plant damage if it’s used at the caterpillar stage of development.           

All insects must have their specific needs met at the specific time of the year and specific to their development stage.

Although there are many plants that prove enticing to pollinators, here are some I’ve found easy to grow in my yard and they’ve helped increase pollinator activity.

Any kind of squash (including pumpkins and ornamental gourds.)  The pollinators go crazy over the flower pollen.

Fall blooming asters are another pollinator food.

Plant herbs such as rue, chives, thyme, marjoram, catmint, other mints, yarrow, parsley, basil, lemon balm, lavender, hyssop, borage, germander, sage, savory, chamomile, rosemary, dill, betony, lamb’s ears, thyme and dandelion.  These are used by both bees and butterflies.

Hummingbirds and bats are also pollinators and they will flock to the herbs bee balm, lavender, pineapple sage, hyssop, mints, rosemary, catnip, comfrey, mallow and globe thistle.
This little guy has been rolling in pollen.

Encircling your vegetable garden with herbs will help seduce pollinators to those vegetable plants, too.

People often say they are leery having plants where stinging insects might interact with humans.  If you are allergic to specific insect stings, you may not be the person to have a large pollinator garden.  If you aren’t allergic, this is what I’ve found:  If I don’t bother them while they’re in the process of pollinating, they don’t bother me.
This busy bee has gold pants made of pollen
Use milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in the garden early enough to provide the only plant Monarch Butterflies use for laying their eggs.  85% of all monarchs feed on these in their caterpillar stage.

Here's some of Pollinator information:

ü 20,000 – number of species of wild bees.  Some species of butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other vertebrates also contribute to pollination.
ü 75% - Percentage of the world’s food crops that depend, at least in part, on pollination.
ü $235 to $577 Billion US dollars – Annual value of global crops directly affected by pollinators.
ü 300% - Increase in volume of agricultural production dependent on animal pollination in the past 50 years.
ü Almost 90% - Percentage of wild flowering plants that depend to some extent on animal pollination.
ü 1.6 million tonnes – Annual honey production from the Western Honeybee.
ü 16.5 % - Percentage of vertebrate pollinators threatened with extinction globally.
ü Over 40% - Percentage of invertebrate pollinator species (particularly bees and butterflies) facing extinction.
ü 90% of all wild flowering plants depend, at least to some extent, on animal pollination.
ü Pollinators also contribute to the pollination of plants used for biofuels, fibers, medicines, forage for livestock and construction materials. 
Daylilies have sweetness they love.

Will your little garden make a difference in the pollinator population?  Not a huge difference.  BUT will lots of little gardens, set aside farmland planted with prairie plants, stopping the indiscriminate use of pesticides and not mowing all the roadsides, waterways and wooded areas before insect and wildlife finish their birthing process will make a difference.

The Genetically Modified (GM) food crop issue is a hotly debated one and the research isn’t nearly done or currently understood.  One of the biggest threats to pollinators through GM crops is the loss of weeds.  “Duh” you say!  Weeds in field crops reduces yield, takes away from the end price and often makes picking difficult.  Often these weeds were the necessary food or breeding plant for pollinators.  However, they do not now have an understanding of the risk (direct or indirect) to pollinators of the chemicals themselves. 

Moving away from traditional (think grandpa) farming practices and no longer having foodstuffs raised in all home gardens are cited as a major impact upon pollinators.  While pointing fingers at crop farmers may be convenient for the internet reading population, assigning blame for those of us who no longer raise all our own vegetables and fruits ranks right up there, too.  We must realize it’s no one thing threatening pollinators; it’s a combination of cumulative things.

The good news is farmer, garden and public land management practices are reducing the risks to pollinators.  An example is while managed bees have been struggling, the wild bee population is holding firm.  Since crop yields depend on both, the wild bees are contributing to the stability in pollination.

Many farmers are also reducing pesticide usage, seeking alternative forms of pest control and adopting a range of specific application practices, including technologies to reduce pesticide drift.  Are all farmers participating in this?  No, but then neither are all gardeners.  The good news is most farm organizations (members include not only farmers but the agricultural research universities) are involved in developing best practices and the distribution of information to help farmers of every crop find the best way to increase yields, increase profit while protecting the land.
Lapping up water at the bird bath.

Some state land management departments are also participating in alternative methods of roadside management.  I saw wheat planted down the medium of the interstate out west, poppies in Canada, wildflowers down south and a general reduction in mowing and turf grass along interstates.  Illinois (always the last in the nation to think about what’s good for it’s citizens) still spends millions of dollars mowing every roadside.  Both spending tax monies when it could be used elsewhere and deleting an important food and habitat for pollinators.

With the exception of California, the general populace has realized yards and roadsides that look like golf courses aren’t as healthy, beneficial nor as beautiful as a more diverse landscape.        

As gardeners, it pays to be well informed about the same practices and issues used in farming.  Although our end result isn’t on as large of a scale, the cumulative good is as important.     



Thursday, December 8, 2016

Frank and His Tigers

A stem of my tigers.
“Taliesin” is the Wisconsin home of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright designed the building AND the gardens.  If you’ve ever looked at any of Wright’s designs, you can see how he was inspired by nature.  This privately owned home is perhaps one of the best examples of just how intertwined these two passions played out in his work life.

The current Taliesin Preservation Foundation owns an 800-acre campus including buildings from nearly every decade of Wright’s career.  The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation owns Wright’s Spring Green WI and Scottsdale AR estates. 

My tiger and phlox.
Because Wright designed his homes to incorporate the landscapes, is it any wonder so many of the homes attributed to him have a feeling of nature and building holding hands to form unity. 

Whether you like Wright’s personal life or his professional work, his landscaping work is awesome.  The history of Wright’s life is as intriguing as any suspense novel; especially surrounding Taliesin. 

One book you might enjoy is “The Gardens of Frank Lloyd Wright” by Derek Fell.

With the history and life of Wright published in many books and articles, this article will focus on one of his favorite plants:  the orange Tiger Lily.

A Tiger from my garden
Lilium lancifolium “Splendens” was registered in 1804 - although they’ve been around for centuries in their native Japan.  (They were formerly L. tigrinum.)  I’ve seen these beautiful orange recurved pendent flowers in the oldest of cemeteries and in old abandoned yards. 

The tiger description comes from the black speckled spots on the petals.  They bloom late summer on 30-36 inch stems.

Like so many old garden plants, you have to want to have a piece of history, search out where to find and then let residents of your home enjoy them for another several hundred years. 

From my garden
The reason for having to search for them in nurseries is because they’ve gone out-of-style.   Today many garden designers feel the need to do something new with all new plants in a new way.  This often eliminates the heirloom plants from their designs, hence from publications and then from nurseries.  At that point, plant suppliers will stop raising and carrying them and we must depend on a few heirloom preservation companies or from someone sharing from their old garden.

Tiger Lilies at the Hopewell Cemetery, Howard County IN
Established 1848.
What’s so good about these orange tiger lilies?  Just about everything!  They are nearly indestructible.  They were the first Asian lily to reach American gardens; first starting in the south but they do well as far north as zone 4a. 

Tiny bulblets on the stem fall and root themselves for easy increasing but I don’t find them invasive.  They transplant easily.  Old House Gardens is supplying Taliesin’s gardens with these lilies for their garden restoration project.  

Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota.
With thousands of tiger lilies - Web picture
I’ve had these in my current gardens for almost ten years and they bloom at a time when the splash of color is beautiful.  Because they start blooming on the lowest buds first, the plant never looks messy.  They also keep well in a vase.  My little patch bloomed for twenty days this year. 

Want a little history?  A little Frank Lloyd Wright design?  Want to fill out a Japanese garden?  Need a splash of orange in late summer?  Need something totally easy?  The orange tiger lily “Splendens” is totally splendid! 
Found on line by unknown artist.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Things that Suck About Social Media


From a Grandma's perspective:

1.   People posting pictures of themselves standing in front of restroom mirrors.

2.   People that post pictures of themselves drunk.

3.   Pictures of couples in various poses of “in heat”.

4.   Having a public fight – back and forth for everyone to see.

5.   Over sharing.

6.   Assuming your prejudices aren’t bias because you’re right.

7.   Posting everything is either wonderfully perfect or everything is horribly awful depending on how your day is going.

8.   Inflicting your drama on every situation.
"Blaze Climber"

9.   Repeatedly posting pictures of yourself to get compliments.

10.      Women posting pictures of cleavage to get attention.

11.      Guys posting pictures of dangerous behavior and thinking it’s macho.

12.      Making fun of pictures of people you don’t know.

13.    Using social media to bully.

14.                 Spouses or significant others posting mean jokes about their mates.

15.                 People reposting news that everyone gets anyway.

16.                 Posting an obscure comment to get people to ask what you’re talking about and then refusing to talk about it.

17.                 Posting a guilt trip “if you don’t like, share or forward this” you don’t love God, don’t care about sick children, aren’t my friend etc. etc.

18.                 Linking God’s goodness to how many posts, likes, or shares a post gets.
"Joseph's Coat"

19.                 Not checking facts before reposting an Internet scare.

20.                 Posting private pictures of other people without getting permission.

21.                 Fictional stories told as real just to get people to cry.

22.                 People who think re posting/liking/sharing something on social media is actually activism and being involved in making the world better.

23.                 Making every situation black or white, right or wrong, red or blue, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, as a way to negate the other person’s opinion or feelings.

24.                 Pictures of people with their tongues sticking out.

25.                 Video recording events with low-tech equipment that isn’t possible to see, hear or play.

26.                 Businesses that use their social media to talk negative about a customer or other businesses.
"New Dawn"

27.                 Businesses using social media to only promote themselves with no value to their customers.

28.                 Changing your profile picture daily to get people to compliment you or otherwise posting pictures of yourself over and over and over.

29.                 Using social media to complain or put down others when the mature way to handle would be discuss rationally in person and in private.

30.                 Not thinking about the future ramifications of comments in a world where threats, indiscretions, sexually explicitness, how you dress, maturity, grammar and profanity will be one measure of how you’re judged for acceptance into a job, a marriage or relationship, another’s family and friends, and legal situations. 

31.                 Claiming “it’s not right or fair” for others to judge you by your social media activities is naive – it’s a fact of life and becoming more so.  Learning and changing your own behavior shows maturity.     
I call this "pink climber" - I know not very original
but I've lost the name of this beauty.

 I've posted pictures of my climbing roses just because they were so beautiful this year.  

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Standing Tall

Why use tall plants around your yard? 
  •      Plants at the back of a garden bed increases layering and structure.
  •      Block out an unattractive feature.
  •      Buffer noise.
  •      Provide shade.
  •      Increase privacy and security.

Eupatorium standing to the left of the stump
is about 7 foot tall.
Layering, by putting tall plants at the back of a bed, gives continuous texture and color.  Layering with plants that bloom at different times of the year provides continuous attraction.

Combined with structural hard scapes (fencing, trellis and etc.) tall plants hide a wealth of unsightly or annoying issues.  A tall privacy or safety fence can be rather stark.  Add climbing or tall plants and it becomes an asset.   

Without hardscapes, try tall thin plants at the back such Juniper bush “Sky Rocket.”  By using thin evergreens, another layer of plants can go in front of them to soften.

Delphiniums, Foxglove, Hollyhock, ornamental grasses, milkweed and Oriental Lilies are a few tall perennials for sunny locations.  Try some of the huge tall Hosta for shade.

Annual morning glory on a
clothesline support.
Thick plants work best for noise buffering.  Evergreens especially do well all year but if summer is your only concern then heavy leafed tall bushes work.  Using layers provides a denser buffer. 

Shade plantings can be tricky.  Put some thought into it before you buy and plant.  Evergreens are slow growing and block breezes.  If they are planted close to a patio you may not get the shade you want nor the cooling you need.  On the flip side if wind is so strong you can’t put a paper plate down then dense evergreens are good.  A deciduous (loses leaves yearly) tree should not be planted close enough to structures or patios that the roots will cause problems.  When mature they will provide great shade but make sure they don’t have fruits, nuts, pods, sticky sap or thorns that will cause constant upkeep.  Large amounts of shade will limit other plantings to those that can survive without much sun.

 Plants used for privacy have the same issues as all of the above but they are a wonderful solution if you want some space between you and what’s outside your borders.  The old joke “fences makes good neighbors” is pretty much true unless you don’t maintain your borders and that’s another issue. 

Annual sunflowers hiding my vegetables.
There are quite a few tall annuals that will provide bright color all summer:  Cleome, Castor Oil Beans, sunflowers, salvia, Nicotiana and many quick growing vines.

The Victorians used to have round flower beds with tall plants in the middle and layered by height to the edges.  It is really quite beautiful and structured.

Another solution is to have a structure or posts for hanging pots.  It requires more watering but it can add height especially if the plant vine down and you have several. 

Another option for tall is potted plants.  One of my favorites is the wonderfully fragrant Brugmansia.  Potted plants (including evergreens) can be moved as the sun changes position throughout the summer.

Large gardens, small gardens, patios, balconies and roof tops can all benefit from tall plants.  Consider them in your future designs.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Best of Everything

I've added some Facebook pictures from some of
my favorite local nurseries.  This is from Nature's Creations,
Galva IL
In the spring, a gardener's fancy turns to wanting the most beautiful pre-made potted flowers in the local nursery.  You KNOW you do.  Walk an isle in the nursery and hanging at eye level are the most beautiful perfect flower arrangements just waiting to decorate your home.  Or walk by that bench with the latest unusual pots filled with new plant wonders that you KNOW you neeeeeeeed.  
From Sunnyfield Nursery, Kewanee IL
Inexperienced and old timers both feel the draw of getting instant and perfect beauty.  And most of the flowers are at their peak of beauty and perfection in springtime.  Now the question:  Should you buy a filled pot if it looks the best it's ever going to look?  Clue:  There's not right or wrong answers.
From Distinctive Gardens, Dixon IL
The answer depends on what you wish to achieve and when.  But the truth is you can't have it all.  Oh how many times have we heard that little truth and cringed.  

If you buy a hanging planter at it's peak of bloom and beauty in May, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to have it still at this peak come August.  The exception is slow growing annuals such as some succulents and shade plants.  
From Dew Fresh Market, Kewanee IL
Some nurseries will pack their pre-made potted flowers/foliage with so many flowers they will be totally root bound by middle summer.  Think about pictures you see on your favorite social media sites of planters and the ones used in decorator books.  They have tall, full, lush plants of many varieties and looking perfect.  If you can't resist these, you need to keep gently repotting into larger containers as the months progress.  Don't break up the mass, simply add more potting soil to the bottom and sides.  Or, immediately take it out of the nursery container and repot into something much larger.

This beauty on my porch stayed lush and 
lovely all summer.  Sorry about the whipped cream 
container aka tacky cat watering bowl.
Some nurseries focus on the design more than compatibility.  We've all had one of those that something immediately dies and something bullies out the others - no matter what we do.  That said,  many of our local nurseries do such a great job of putting planted pots together it will look wonderful for months.   

I've heard gardeners blame the nursery for a pot that's gone over the  hill towards the later part of summer.  Most of the time, it's not their fault as much as it's "the way it is"with annual plants in pots.  
Hornbaker, Princton IL
Even if you pinch/prune back religiously, water the proper amount and fertilize appropriately some plants feel the end of the season coming and will simply not make it through the season.  In that case, take out the still blooming plants and move them to little places that need color in your garden beds.  Compost the ones that aren't doing well.  If you still want color in the fall, get new plants such as mums, pansies and some lovely foliage plants.  I suggest preparing the pots as you do in the spring by washing, disinfecting and using new potting soil.  No sense dooming a new plant right from the start.
Red Barn Nursery, Sheffield IL
If you want to take the middle road, buy spring pots that haven't quite started to bloom fully.  

The fact is no matter if you want to have blooms early or late, there will be a time when you probably won't have it perfect every day, all the time, the entire summer.  One fact for certain, our area nurseries have a wonderful selection of potted plants or plants to make your own at home.  

(Note:  All our area nurseries have wonderful potted examples in every style and price range.  When purchasing, be sure to ask just exactly how to care for them.  They know and want you to have the best season with your purchase.)