You might think these images belong on my other blog, Nature and Wildlife Pics, but I assure you, there are many bees there. There is a few important points I want to make in this post on gardening, which I don’t touch on Nature and Wildlife Pics. It is on the non-native plants like the annuals or Perovskia for instance. Take a stroll around my garden to see what is blooming.
Does it really matter what plants bees are foraging at this stage in the game?
I asked a question last post on my garden, “Any guesses which one (plant of those pictured) is the leader for the bees in late summer?” And one blogger, Frank from Sorta Like Suburbia got it right. It is the Perovskia, second only to Caryopteris which leads by a landslide every year. It is two non-natives luring the pollinators in hoards to my garden in late summer.
Just take a look at my garden, it is filled with asters, agastache, monarda, phlox, coneflowers, goldenrod, gaillardia, butterfly weed, trumpet vine, coreopsis, yarrow, white sage, and even the penstemon gave a second go with other native plants all in bloom currently.
Most gardeners think these cultivar plants are true native plants. The insects and I are a bit more particular. In fact, pollinators really don’t like my goldenrod ‘Golden Baby’ or yarrow ‘Moonshine’ and ‘Coronation Gold’. That befuddles me.
The Season So Far
This year was one that started off rather slow with a long winter bringing cool spring temperatures. Our summer has been closer to what they were like when I first moved here. We had regular rain and days were never too hot.
I would say this summer was great for gardening, but having had the opposite for years with droughts, the water table is very low and when rains came, left the gardens dry by the next morning. Water penetrated quickly leaving surfaces dry. So watering was a must. See my post, Do You Water Your Garden?. Thoughts on watering, even with a garden planted heavily with native plants like my own.
Please click the galleries to see the images, the whole image is not in view.
So why Has It Been Cooler?
It has been very confusing as of late with science trying to explain the cooling trend from heat being collected deep in the ocean, to the sun itself cooling. There must be 30 different theories ongoing. I appreciate the cooler summer we had, even the constant snow cover all winter, but it is unsettling as to what lies ahead. Pollinators are on the decline and this is something to be concerned about for our food production.
Plants for Food
Produce I plant I let go to flower for the bees. All my herbs, lettuce, kale and the peas were enjoyed this year by insects. If I were a bee, I would not give one hoot to where my pollen and nectar was gathered, as long as it was plentiful and could be obtained without ill-effect to my health.
I don’t use pesticides and herbicides, yet it is likely plants in my garden have had applications before they arrived here, perennials included. It is getting to the point that we must accept much of what we consume or plant has been treated as a plant or as a seed. And even if you don’t spray, your neighbors might and the wind carries it from place to place.
When I go out into the garden, the spray fumes are sickening. Just because it is on a neighboring property does not mean that is where it stays.
Gardening no matter how conscientious, we cannot escape how prevalent the pesticide and herbicide industry has become. What we see as wildflowers, most see as weeds needing herbicides.
Are Some Plants No Longer Suitable?
The recent severity of weather has made it more difficult to plan for planting gardens. Plant drought tolerant and the next thing you get is relentless rains. Plant fruit crops and get late frosts.
In my garden I have quite a few hydrangea which do like moist soils. They are getting too finicky for the winters and summers. I find now, they are harder to maintain. They are also very popular in our area, from the Asian mop heads to our only native hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens, with cultivars like ‘Annabelle’ or ‘Invincible Spirit’. Oakleaf hydrangea is not native here although many think it is. Below flowerless, ‘Big Daddy’, ‘Endless Summer’ and ‘Bluebird’.
This winter was brutal on them where those planted in dappled shade under lilacs did not flower. Those Asian mop heads inside this micro-climate that is better protected from winter winds by the boxwood bloomed nicely. In full sun, they never wilted. It has been a challenge to select plants for gardens in these last few years, always considering winter protection or summer drought and heat.
I talk a lot about planting for continuous interest and color, and having sequential bloom to keep pollinators happy and constantly in your garden. The annuals help on all fronts.
Hard-working alyssum is under constant buzzing. So are the annuals cleome, verbena and zinnia. The alyssum self-seeds in my garden as does the cosmos, but the others were planted expecting a parched summer.
Perennials are upholding their end of the bargain to the pollinators. This little girl below just left the Monarda. She is not going anywhere soon.
And of course the Monarchs are happy in the garden on butterfly weed and perennial verbena. They like annual verbena too.
One plant that is overly abundant is the asters enjoyed by bees.
Rethink using annuals to add blooms for pollinators.
Not all are water-hogs and the insects really do like having them in gardens. I don’t fertilize them. They would do better with it but, it is just my choice not to worry if I have the most robust annuals in the neighborhood.
Annuals only need to supplement a garden, not command it. They can be all self-seeding so one feels less guilty about using them, or they can be exotics like all those I have native to Mexico – as long as they are a food source for pollinators. Sure they are aesthetically pleasing in my garden, but that is not their main function. Food for thought!
Coming up on GWGT, a post comparing what is blooming over a three-day span four years running. Why? Wait and see. First though, the Open Gardens, and then, one on pollinators and feeding the birds – not a happy pair.