Don’t Worry….”Bee” Happy

Don’t Worry….”Bee” Happy

CELEBRATE NATIONAL POLLINATOR WEEK THIS JUNE 17TH– 23RD, 2019

After what seems like months…the sun came out the other day and I found an energy emerging that had been buried in the gloom.  I wandered into the yard and felt the warmth and beautiful glow of an old friend.   

    I saw a couple of butterflies lighting on flowers in my wildflower garden and on a rose under the bedroom window…then as I watch them, a bird flew into the yard and landed on a bush, then moved to the tree and back down to some low growing geraniums.  As I stood there absorbing the feel of my bare feet in the dew covered grass, I heard a soft hum and looked around the garden only to discover that bees were at play… going from flower to flower, from geranium blossoms to roses.  There was a time when I would have run from the bees, not wanting to get stung.  But instead, I have learned that they are just going about their business and we can and should share our garden.  Their buzz…or hum, as I call it, is music in the garden as much as the birds singing.  Together they harmonize quite nicely and it feels comforting as I enjoy my morning in the garden. 

It made me wonder at the greater significance of these visitors, so I began a little research on the web.  Oddly enough…that’s when I discovered that there is an upcoming week set aside to celebrate our little helpers, but I learned a few other interesting facts to ponder.  These pollinators…or the few I recognize, help keep our crops producing, thereby keeping our planet fed.   Some of the other pollinators are Hummingbirds, Flies, Lemurs, Honey Possums, Lizards, Beetles (lady bugs J), Moths, and Bats.  According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, these hard-working animals help pollinate over 75% of our flowering plants, and nearly 75% of our crops.  Often we are oblivious as they go about their work, yet without them, wildlife would have fewer nutritious berries and seeds, and we would miss many fruits, vegies and nuts, like blueberries, squash and almonds, PLUS Chocolate and Coffee!   

I also discovered the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture sites that during the past 30+ years, our nation’s pollinator populations have suffered serious losses due to invasive pests and diseases, exposure to pesticides and chemicals, and loss of habitat.  One quote from this article says “Without pollinators, we don’t eat—it’s simple as that.”   I’d say that’s pretty alarming!

I found some ways we can all help the situation from the Natural Resources Conservation Service listed below. 

Here is a list of seven ways to make your garden a haven for native pollinators:                           

  • Use pollinator-friendly plants in your landscape.
  • Add a mixture of plants for spring, summer and fall with different colors, shapes, and scents to attract a wide variety of pollinators.  Adding plants to containers on a patio or in window boxes can help!
  • Reduce or eliminate pesticide use in your landscape. Always use pesticides sparingly if possible and responsibly.
  • Accept some plant damage on plants meant to provide habitat for butterfly and moth larvae.
  • Provide clean water for pollinators with a shallow dish, or birdbath using half-submerged stones for perches.
  • Leave dead tree trunks, in your landscape for wood-nesting bees and beetles.
  • Support land conservation in your community by helping to create and maintain community gardens and green spaces to ensure that pollinators have adequate habitat.

It was enlightening to learn more about the roll these visitors to my garden play in the bigger picture pollination makes to our food chain.  Most of the time I just enjoy them as part of the sensory experience…their song, their beauty, or flight, not giving a deeper thought to their existence, but this adventure opened my eyes and helped me to more appreciate my nature buddies.  I hope it encourages you to learn more about the plight of our pollinators and share it with your kids and grand kids, or fellow gardeners.

Till next time…

                                                                        Jackie Jesch

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Perennials that dance in the wind have a “wild” quality that is so appealing. They express grace and softness in the landscape becoming the “music of the garden” as they sway. I love to see a variety of color playing host to one another, creating a whimsical, inviting appearance. Let’s take a look at a few favorites that attract Butterflies and some that attract Hummingbirds, as well… adding an extra dose of joy!

            Salvia Amistad is in the mint family with deep green foliage on long graceful stems. Its blossoms of purple line the top of the stems in the summer and fall. I like to keep mine at about 3’ tall by simply snapping the stems down to maintain the overall grace and width of this gorgeous perennial. Its water needs fall into the medium range, and likes cool sun to light shade.                               * Attracts Butterflies and Hummingbirds

            Gaura lindheimeri has long stems lined with little flowers that resemble Butterflies and blooms spring through fall, taking a break in the winter. It comes in both white and pink & will need pruning to the ground a couple of times a year to refresh the foliage and flowers. It grows to about 3 ½ feet tall and wide. My personal preference is the white…it seems wispier and a bit taller than the pink. Gaura is deer and rabbit resistant and attracts Hummingbirds and Butterflies.

            Lavendula heterophylla, or Sweet Lavender produces soft, wispy, blue-purple flowers that rise up above the foliage almost year-round. It exudes a sweet lavender scent that adds a nice touch of aroma therapy to your garden, and doesn’t like a lot of water. To keep them thriving by giving them a diet of low water and sunshine. They grow to a nice size of about 3’ x 3’ tall & wide, love cool climates, attract Butterflies, but do struggle in the hot summer.

           Tagetes lemmonii is a soft shrub forming a loose rounded form with fern-like green leaves and golden yellow daisy-like flowers. Its herbal foliage gives it a scent of Marigold…something one loves or strongly dislikes, but its overall bloom appeal is like sunshine in your garden, attracting Butterflies, as well! It needs little water, and loves the sun, blooming mostly in the fall/winter and sometimes into spring depending on the weather. It will need a good pruning after blooming to insure new growth and flowers.

            Centranthus ruber is another eye-catcher with its pink, reddish or white flowers on 2-3 foot slender stems. It spreads by re-seeding aggressively, but can be controlled by weeding out new growth & pruning. I often just chop and pull randomly to keep a nice, wild impression. Centranthus makes an absolute beautiful haze of color spring through fall. It is deer and rabbit resistant, attracts Butterflies and is easy to grow!

           Heuchera sanguinea blooms winter through spring on slender stems about 18” tall lined with bell shaped coral flowers deriving from a cluster of low green rounded leaves at the base. These “Coral Bells” add graces and color as they dance in the breeze. They like filtered sun or partial shade to full sun along the coast, like regular garden watering, and attract Butterflies and Hummingbirds!

Lobelia laxiflora has slender stems with small tubular orange/red flowers at the tips spring through fall, and grows to about 2 ½ feet tall, but spreading to about 4+feet wide. It’s very graceful habit is beautiful in a “Wild Perennial” garden as well as water-wise. It loves the sun to partial shade and takes a little pruning to keep its flowers freshened. It attracts Hummingbirds and Butterflies!

Salvia clevlandii is a bit more of a shrub, but one with some great aroma therapy going on! Between it’s whorls of sweet smelling lavender flowers and the herb scented foliage it carries an amazing scent and wonderful impact when planted in your garden. Its long stems still sway in the breeze and it blooms from spring to mid-summer. It loves good drainage, is water-wise, a California sun-loving native, and attracts Butterflies!

*As an added note, I’d like to suggest scattering California Poppy seeds in with your graceful perennials. They add a wonderful “wild” grace like a spring bloom in the desert, as well as attracting Butterflies with a punch of orange color.