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.