Tag Archive | pollinators

Drought Tolerant Plants for Wisconsin Summers

As I write this, we just had two major rain storms pass through the area — one of them bringing high winds and doing a lot of damage. However, having lived through Wisconsin summers, I know there is a high likelihood that we may see little or no rain through July and August. If that’s the case, you’ll want to have these plants in your garden because, being native Wisconsinites, they’re used to living through droughts!

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Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) prefers well-drained sites in light to medium shade. Hummingbirds love this flower.

If native plants are chosen to match your conditions, they will thrive with minimal watering where others fail. To gain the full environmental benefit of lower water usage, it’s absolutely necessary to choose the plants that thrive in the conditions at your location. All native plants are “water-wise” to some extent, but to maximize their full potential, choose those naturally adapted to your specific conditions — soil, sunlight, and moisture.

Native plants create a naturally balanced ecosystem. When you plant natives in the landscape, birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators will soon follow. Because these plants and animals evolved together over thousands of years, they have developed interdependent relationships. Monarch butterfly caterpillars safely consume the toxic sap of the milkweeds. Karner blue butterfly larvae rely solely on leaves of wild lupine. Fritillary butterflies need violets for their larval food source. These are only a few of the necessary relationships between our native flora and fauna. The variety of species that even a small-scale native garden attracts is often amazing!

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Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.) is tough and beautiful! As other plants die off during a drought, Rudbeckia retains its beautiful colors.

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Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) grows 3 to 4 feet in sand, loam, or clay. Full to part-sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some additional species to try in your garden:

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    Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis) grows 3 to 5 feet in sand, loam, or clay. Full to part-sun.

    Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

  • Sky Blue Aster (Aster azureus)
  • Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata)
  • Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)
  • Smooth Penstemon (Penstemon digitalis)
  • Royal Catchfly (Silene regia)
  • Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya)

 

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I Love, Love, Love Lavender!

With visions of Heathcliff on the moors gathering fragrant bunches of heather and lavender, I’m swept up every time I use one of my lavender-scented soaps or walk through my garden and brush against the fragrant blooms of my lavender plants. I didn’t always have success growing the lavender, though. For a while, I had one as a houseplant until I overwatered it and sadly had to add it to the compost pile. Then, I had a couple in my garden that lived but didn’t thrive until I finally decided to do some research on why I was failing so often with this beloved plant.

Enter ‘The Lavender Lover’s Handbook’, a badly needed and now heavily well-worn gift from my daughter-in-law who knew of my love for the plant. This book, by Sarah Berringer Bader, has been a primary reason for the turn-around of my plants from surviving to thriving.

First of all, though, let’s talk about why you should include lavender in your garden:

  • it’s absolutely beautiful with foliage that ranges from various shades of green through gray-green to silver. The flowers come in shades of blue, purple, pink, and white so versatility is huge!
  • the fragrance is incredible and, when dried, the flowers last long into the winter
  • grown in the right spot, very little to no care is needed. As long as the spot has full sun, good drainage, and plenty of room to spread out, you can focus on plants that require your attention. Lavender will take care of itself, thank you very much!
  • lavender attracts a range of pollinators — the good ones that not only pollinate your garden but also eat the pests you don’t want! Watch carefully on a sunny day and you’ll find bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies, ladybugs, and praying mantises drawn to this delightful plant.

There are many, many lavender plants from which to choose so you’ll want to do your homework to make sure you’re ordering or buying a plant that will thrive in your growing zone. Because lavender is exceptionally drought tolerant, it’s a great addition any area of your garden where watering is a problem. Consider combining it with other drought-tolerant plants like Achillea millefolium (yarrow), Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), Gallardia grandiflora (blanket flower), and Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan). The purple / yellow combination of these plants will make a beautiful garden area.

Lavender and roses love growing together as well (see prior blog post here) and makes less work for you! While roses attract aphids, lavender attracts aphid-eating ladybugs. Roses do want more water than lavender, however, so you’ll want to mulch the roses to retain water. The flowers from both lavender and roses can be gathered and dried, but here’s where my skills leave me — utilizing the flowers for teas, soaps, baking, sachets, and crafts. However, with both purple and white lavender in my garden along with some beautiful yellow roses, I’m planning on learning these skills!

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

Authors in our Midst and at our Garden Conference – #2

Author Stacy Tornio

Stacy Tornio was my inspiration to become a Master Gardener. At the time, she was the editor of Birds & Blooms and a Master Gardener herself. Since then, she has branched out to pursue her goal of being a published author — and has been wildly successful. With 15 published books currently available on amazon, Stacy was the keynote speaker at our Garden Conference several years ago and a vendor this year.

Stacy’s most recent book, Plants You Can’t Killwas written with an eye toward inexperienced gardeners but there’s a wealth of information in the book for those of us who can’t figure out what we’re doing wrong! Loaded with beautiful photographs, it’s a book that should be in every gardener’s library.

From the amazon page:

“I kill everything I plant.”

Does this sound like you or someone you know? Give yourself a pat on the back because admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. And lucky for you, you can easily turn your brown thumb into a green one with the help of Plants You Can’t Kill.

Seriously—it doesn’t matter how many plants you’ve killed in gardens past. It’s time to put those experiences behind you and finally grow something in your empty and bare spots. This is the only gardening book you’ll ever need with more than 100 plant picks for every situation. You want veggies? We have ’em. You need to fill a big space? We have shrub ideas for you. You just want something pretty? We have plenty of that, as well.

The plants in Plants You Can’t Kill have been vetted by an amazing and famous panel of horticulture experts (this is just a fancy way of saying they went to college for gardening), so feel confident you’re not wasting money on yet another gardening book. These plants will actually survive your well-meaning, yet sometimes neglectful ways.

Ready for the most resilient, hardcore, badass list of plants known to gardeners? Find them and grow them with the help of Plants You Can’t Kill.

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

Honey Bees

bee-hive1Honey bees are not native to the Americas; they were introduced from Europe in the early 1600’s for honey production. Honey bees are thought to have originated in Asia and expanded to North Africa and Europe. There are two species that are considered to be suitable for apiculture. In recent year there has been concern over “colony collapse” and the risk of not having enough pollinators for our agricultural industry. A hedge against this possibility is to encourage proliferation of native bees. The DNR has published a very good article on what an individual can do http://dnr.wi.gov/wnrmag/2009/06/bees.htm#2 . This year the Outagamie County Master Gardeners will be installing various types of bee houses on the grounds of the Outagamie County Agricultural Extension.

Tom Wentzel

OCMGA chair of The Learning Garden

What was Buzzin’ in Your Backyard Last Summer?

By Janet Wissink

honey-beeAs a gardener, I understand the importance of having bees in my yard. But I didn’t always appreciate the buzzin’ around me, nor did I distinguish between bumble bees, honey bees, solitary bees, wasps and hornets. Now, I realize that bumble, honey and solitary bees are not aggressive towards me as I work in the garden among my flowers, vegetables and fruits. These bees are too busy working to worry about me. Instead of running away from the buzzin’, I stop to take a closer look at what kind of bee is diligently visiting blossom after blossom.

Bees play a key role in agricultural production and the beauty of our yards through pollination. The disruption of natural habitats, the widespread over-use of pesticides, and many bee diseases and parasites has brought bee numbers down precariously low, especially honey bees. The honey bee crisis is broadly termed Colony Collapse Disorder.

Almost 20,000 known species of bees populate the earth. 3,500 live in the United States and close to 400 in Wisconsin. Less than 2% of these are honey bees and bumble bees. The other 98% are mostly solitary bees. Solitary bees live on their own, not in colonies with a queen and workers like honey bees and bumble bees.

Bees are unique among all pollinators (hummingbirds, bats, butterflies, flies and some beetles). Not only do they sip nectar to fuel their own flight, bees are one of the few animals to actively gather large amounts of pollen which they inadvertently scatter widely between flowers. The pollen of many plant species serves as the primary food source for bee larvae because it is rich in protein.

Bee pollination is an ecological service valued at $20 billion a year in North America. More than one-third of the world’s crop species such as alfalfa, sunflower, fruits and vegetables are dependent on bee pollination. Honey bee numbers in North America have been de- clining since the 1950s while the amount of crop acreage requiring bee pollination is at an all time high.

WE CAN HELP BEES

1. Plant bee flowers everywhere! Flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees. Bees obtain all of their carbohydrates from floral nectar, and all of their protein from floral pollen. Honey bees convert nectar into honey and use the protein in pollen to f1-Honey-Bee-001eed their young. Provid- ing a diverse array of plants will help ensure that you support a diverse array of bee species.

2. 60-70% of bees dig burrows in the ground preferring dry, sandy soil bare of vegetation. You can attract ground-nesting bees to your property by leaving some spots of exposed, undisturbed soil. The other 30-40% are cavity-nesting bees. These bees use hollow plant stems or holes in wood left by wood-boring beetles. You can attract cavity-nesting bees by providing tunnels in a man-made structure.

Pesticides are designed to kill insects. Depending on the formula and concentration, they can be harmful or fatal to bees and other benefi- cial insects. Herbicides kill flowers that provide nectar and pollen for bees.

In June 2013, over 50,000 bumble bees were poisoned in Wilsonville, Oregon, after a insecticide was sprayed on linden trees to control aphids, which secrete a sticky residue while feeding, making them a nuisance to parked cars.

“The Oregon bee poisoning is a clear warning. We have to stop pesticide use in cases where human health or food security is not at risk,” stated Dr. Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota, a leading global authority on bee health. According to Spivak, neonicotinoids are now the most widely used insecticides. They are long-lasting in soil and readily move into water. Sadly, most neonicotinoid insecticides have no warning labels to alert consumers about the potential hazard to bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

To learn more about Wild Ones Fox Valley Area visit www.wildones.org.

Resources: University of Minnesota Bee Lab, http://beelab.umn.edu

The Xerces Society, http://www.xerces.org 

Help Our Pollinators!

animalwheelFrom bumblebees to honeybees, wasps to butterflies, and even some birds and rodents, pollinators come in all shapes and sizes.

Honeybees and Bumblebees

There are 22,000 known species of bee, but their numbers are dramatically falling. All bees are vitally important to this planet and all those who inhabit it, although some are deemed “better” at their pollination jobs than others; honeybees for example typically fare better than bumblebees.

Bees prefer ‘single’ flowers, that stand alone and are well open to allow their stout bodies to access them – some great examples include daisies, dahlias, and irises. Double flowers, where there are lots of folds and structure, are more difficult for these insects, and are often ignored in favor of the more easily crawlable flowers. They also enjoy tubular flowers, which allow them to crawl deep inside the plant to feast on the nectar – flowers such as snapdragons, foxgloves, and honeysuckle are perfect. Bees seem to be especially attracted to the color purple, which is likely why they are often seen buzzing around lavender bushes. Other purple favorites include alliums, thistles, heather and geraniums.

Flies

Hoverflies are masters of disguise – they look just like a bee or wasp until they land and you can see them better. They are incredibly docile and lack any sting or fangs whatsoever. They are also very important pollinators, that are responsible for visiting flowers all over the world. They do such a great job in fact that they are widely considered to be the second best pollinators in the world, after wild bees.

Another important fly to consider is the humble midge – we swat at their pesky antics in mild weather and probably swallow more than we care to think about when we’re trying to get about outside, but without these little blighters we would not have chocolate; midges pollinate the tiny white flowers of the cacao plant, enabling the tree to produce fruit. That in itself is worth a mention – thank you midges, and we promise not to get annoyed with you again.

Pollinating flies don’t seem to be fussy – they have been spotted buzzing away on almost any plant. Chances are when creating a garden designed to attract the other pollinators on this list, these guys will also show up, eagerly getting in on the action. Like most insects, they benefit greatly from wildflowers that we often classify as weeds – dandelions, yarrow, buttercups and trefoil being just some examples.

The pollen wasp

The pollen wasp

Pollen Wasps

Unlike most wasps, pollen wasps are vegetarian like their bee cousins, being much more mellow in personality and happy to go about their business eating nectar and pollen.  They are quite hard to tell apart from “normal” wasps. However, for the most part, wasps are harmless, and pollen wasps, in particular, do a wonderful job, rivalling that of our honeybees.

Wasps, like bees, have very high demands for energy and favor plants that yield a lot of pollen and nectar, such as orchids, beardtongue, and waterleaf.

Butterflies and Moths

Butterflies are beautiful additions to any garden, and they also pollinate our flowers, along with their cousins the day moths. Moths also have the added benefit of pollinating nocturnal plants, which release their scents and nectar at night when most other pollinators are asleep.   Butterflies and day-flying moths enjoy many of the same plants as bees, but due to their long tongues can use many flowers that bees cannot easily reach. Some suitable plants include bluebells, clover, marigolds, pansies, and wallflowers. Night-flying moths rely on flowers that open in the evening and at night – examples include jasmine, some orchids, rain lilies, moonflowers, and evening stock.

Beetles

Beetles comprise the largest set of pollinating insects and were one of the first to ever begin pollinating plants – in existence! They are responsible for pollinating 88 percent of the 240,000 flowering plants globally – that’s a lot of work! Beetles are a handsome visitor to any garden, and despite their often slow and bumbling appearances, do a fantastic job at getting around fruits and flowers, pollinating them, and allowing the whole ecosystem to benefit.

Beetles have a strong preference for fruit plants, and can often be seen eating from both the fruits and the flowers. They don’t seem to discriminate, being found on both single flowers such as magnolias and lilies, to clustered flowers such as goldenrod and yarrow. Beetles enjoy many weed species, and like the other pollinators mentioned, will benefit greatly from their inclusion in the garden.

Here are four flowers bees need you to plant now.

  1. Hollyhocks
  2. Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea)
  3. Shasta Daisies
  4. Sedum Spectabile “Brilliant”

Source : Green planet.  

Written by Mary Learman; posted by Vicki

National Pollinator Week

From our friends at WIMGA (Wisconsin Master Gardeners Association) comes this reminder:

sign_pollinators

NATIONAL POLLINATOR WEEK June 15-21, 2015

It’s not too early to get involved — plan or participate in an event in your community! Join the Pollinator Partnership to promote protection of pollinators including bees, birds, butterflies and bats. Go to their website to add your event, get free pdfs and app, purchase materials and books, use the logos, and more!

For information and ideas see the Pollinator Partnership website at pollinator.org/pollinator_ week_2015.htm

Posted by Vicki