Bees on Blooms – Garden Thoughts at the End of August

Bee-on-Aster

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.

Perovskia-Bee-Ladybug

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.

Bee-butt-reflection

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.

Bee-on-Cleome

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.

Bee-on-Monarda

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.

Bee-on-Perovskia

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.

Cleome-Bee

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.

Pollen-Bound-Bee

And of course the Monarchs are happy in the garden on butterfly weed and perennial verbena. They like annual verbena too.

Bee-on-Asters

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!

Brr-and-HoverflyComing 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.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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43 Responses to Bees on Blooms – Garden Thoughts at the End of August

  1. menomama3 says:

    That is a most extraordinary photo of a bee covered in pollen. Your posts are beautiful to look at and always full of useful information. Love popping in to see what’s blooming in your garden.

  2. Excellent post. You are an amazing gardener, my friend!!!

  3. Lin Celoni says:

    Hi Donna,
    My hydrangeas didn’t bloom much this year either here in Charlotte. Very sad. I bought this house 7 years ago for the garden of hydrangeas! I am organic. I thought maybe I wasn’t giving them enough food. Perhaps it is the evolving nature of things. What is that bright green bee in your last picture?

    • Here the winter just killed off the new buds. I cut them back to flush back out, so next year there should be bloom. Hydrangea cycles some years too. It is a Green Metallic Sweat Bee – Halictid bee – Agapostemon virescens, I think. So many bees look the same. Need your link!

  4. milliontrees says:

    Thanks for mentioning that most of the plants we buy at nurseries have been pre-treated or grown from seeds treated with neonicitinoids, which is the pesticide that is killing bees. I only learned this recently at a panel discussion about colony collapse disorder that is killing bees. Apparently, no labeling of pesticides is required for nursery plants, so gardeners have no way of knowing that they are buying a plant that will kill bees. Our local Pesticide Research Institute did a pilot study of plants sold by large nurseries and found that 54% of the plants tested positive for neonics: https://www.pesticideresearch.com/site/?project=expanded-study-on-pollinator-neonicotinoid-exposure
    Friends of the Earth has a list on its website of nurseries that have made a commitment to sell only plants that have not been pre-treated: http://www.foe.org/beeaction/retailers Unfortunately, there aren’t many nurseries on the list yet. But if gardeners will ask their nurseries about this issue, maybe we could motivate them to make this commitment.

  5. I follow the pollinators and the patterns of the wildlife in my garden and I can tell you things are changing related to our climate. I can’t tell you why, but I can tell you the change is fundamental. The butterfly’s and bee population has continued to decline over the past 5 years…I really appreciate you addressing this issue.

    • I think we are all in your shoes, seeing but not really knowing. That is why I keep researching, but there is to many contradictory theories. Maybe not so much they differ greatly, but that many of these theories are happening simultaneously. It does seem like many factors play into insect loss and climate change, but the external factors are finding their way to hit from all sides and to all things.

  6. bittster says:

    What a great, in depth, post. I was well into it before I realized I hadn’t been paying attention to the pictures and had to go back! -and thanks for the mention, I guess all that standing around the garden watching things unfold has paid off!
    I love your hibiscus. The big blooms are a nice surprise nestled in among the other taller plants, and I think it’s time I tried these plants again. I forgot why I gave them away, I think it was some sawfly problem or something.
    I thought we were having a cold, cold, summer until the local weather station pointed out that this season has been hovering exactly at the average mark. I guess we’ve gotten used to hot weather and it’s like you said, this is a flashback to the normal weather of a few years ago.
    Have a great week!
    Frank

    • 😀 I know what you mean. The other day I was watching this wasp attacking every ant it saw on the driveway. I could not figure out why. Then it came after me and landed on my sneaker. Why I was intrigued by this I do not know, but the wasp territorial of the driveway? The hibiscus are nice plants, but come out so late I often think of pulling them. They flower for a long time though which is nice. Our weather is exactly normal too. Rainfall hit the average first time in a number of years. Your welcome on the mention and thank you.

  7. Sweet little bee all covered in pollen. 🙂 I always find it fascinating to see which plants the pollinators really go for. The best magnet in my garden is Swamp Milkweed–not just for Monarchs, which use it as a host plant, but also all kinds of bees, wasps, flies, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Also popular are Echinacea and Rudbeckia. The non-native magnets include Zinnias, Cosmos, Lantana, and Marigolds. Oh, and the humble Hosta flowers. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch them buzzing in and out of each flower. Good food for thought, Donna.

    • I concur on milkweed of all varieties, I see so many pollinators on that plant. Rudbeckia is not that popular among pollinators here to my knowledge and I have them by the thousands in the side garden. Large ones in the front garden. I never see butterflies on them, but then again, I usually see the side garden from inside the house. It is completely and fully planted with no room for me! There is hosta there too and many other places in my garden, and I see bees in them on occasion. Lantana is in my garden and that is a plant the insects like. It does make me wonder though with all the plants why bees go to some and not others. I can see it for the specialized bees, but the generalists must have their favorites at this time of year.

  8. Emily Scott says:

    The monarda pollen drenched bee and the last photo are both very special. Thank you for helping the bees.

    • It is funny, but I get a lot of photos like the last one. You would think with all the flowers here that don’t have to all have the same ones. Some bees are just so greedy! Other times you will see five bees on the same flower all happily gathering together.

  9. Very detailed and practical ideas on planting. I am trying to get to know the wild flower sand other flora first but am lucky to have neighbours and a local plant nursery with the emphasis on native plants.
    Hope my link works now.

    • You are lucky. No neighbor that I know cares one bit about native plants. The only ones that have them is because I gave the plants to them for free. And my plants are all over this neighborhood. I just don’t tell the recipients the reason for giving them certain plants. Most kill or have exterminated bees and wasps.

  10. It’s obvious you have a fondness for these beauties as they pose for you so well!!! 🙂
    Happy new week, my dear Donna!! 🙂

  11. Even though we got a lot of rain this year, we still needed to water– which I didn’t do enough. I love that bee covered in pollen!

  12. Beautiful photos that continue to amaze me. My hydragnea “Endless Summer” did not bloom this year either. Maybe next year-
    I have seen a lot of butterflies pass through, but it looks like they’re in a hurry and don’t soend a lot of time around here.
    After reading your article last year on the caryopteris I purchased a dwarf one. It just barely survived the winter with a couple of small branches. Now it has gotten taller, but I’m not sure I’ll have any blooms on it. Maybe it will do better next year.

    • Don’t despair on the Caryopteris. They bloom long into October. Let it seed itself too. They make small ones that you can use elsewhere in the garden. As for being a dwarf, they are all moderate size, but cutting it back in spring is how they remain compact.

  13. My Heartsong says:

    As I read your article I found myself thinking about climate change and how that is affecting what people plant in their garden, so observing and planning are so important. I got a kick out of seeing the bees totally covered in what I assume is pollen. it is lovely to see the monarch in all its majesty, perched on top of the flower. Great photos and observations, Donna.

  14. On the general I never really think about things like pollinating and what type of plants attract bees etc…but it was interesting to read about. You have amazing photos here. Some wonderful flowers and oh my those bee shots were fabulous. The one that caught my eye the most was that bee just dusted in all the pollen. A truly amazing shot.

    • Thank you. Many don’t think about the need for pollinators, yet it may one day will be something mandated for all greenspace. Without them, food (many veggies and fruit) crops will seriously be diminished. I guess we all can eat corn daily like the cows!

  15. Great post that touches on a lot of important points (also amazing photos, as usual). I agree about annuals in the borders, I’ve never had as many butterflies as I’ve had this year and the annuals are a huge part of that this year. Also it’s undeniable that exotic plants can be big pollinator draws. The Tithonia this year has been incredible, and it is not native to this area (I think it’s native to Mexico). I think the natives are more important as host plants, though there are exceptions there as well. Incidentally, I have ‘Annabelle’ and she came through the winter just fine, though the forsythia suffered.

    • Tithonia is a Mexican sunflower. I don’t grow them here because of space and height, but saw gardeners that did on Garden Walk Buffalo. It did give me some courage to go higher in my gardens. I agree on the host plants. I planted milkweed and am waiting to see if it grows. I bet my neighbor yanks them out. I saw her in the side garden the other day pulling out plants, I bet milkweed was one of them. She could have been stealing my black iris though, I know she covets them. She always cuts down my Black-eyed Susan so the birds don’t get them in winter. She despises me feeding the birds. Hates the noise and the bird droppings. I should have went out and raised the roof when I saw her in that garden. I really do nothing in that bed because it is completely packed with plants, so it does not need me in it. My hydrangea all look good and healthy, but only those in the boxwood bed flowered and they are the ones that came originally from the florist. It amazes me plants that should not grow that do. I had planted a number of florist plants that came back every year, like zone 8 gladiolus. In fact they multiplied so much I had to eliminate them from the lily bed.That is the same microclimate as the Asian hydrangea. So much stone and masonry keep that bed toasty in winter, plus I pile six feet of snow on top of it every year.

      • So … your neighbor goes into your garden and cuts down your plants? Have you considered calling the cops?

        • Ha, the cops do nothing in NF. I had my hanging baskets stolen and they would not even take a report. In winter when walking to the grocery store, I got accosted by a homeless guy and my cans of cat food taken. The cops did nothing on that either. The guy wanted money and I had none, so he pushed me down and took the bag of groceries. I hope he enjoyed eating canned cat food.

  16. The bees have been all over my tomatillo plant lately and literally will buzz dive me if I get to close to them. Happy Week!

  17. It doesn’t surprise me that honeybees would prefer nonnatives as they are not native. I have only seen one monarch this summer and that was today. Maybe they are just reaching this far north now, but I won’t be here to greet them as I leave Thursday :-). I am very envious of your trip. Hope you found the Down East, you should search their website for other Acadia articles.

    • No honeybees in my photos, all native bees on the non-native plants. Honeybees are such generalists I think being used for so many different crops. They use them for early fruit crops (trucked in and if over 50°F) and that is what mason bees (orchard bees) generally pollinate. Mason bees fly in cooler temperatures than honeybees. I have seen quite a few Monarchs this year. The ones in the images were only taken yesterday. In mid-late July I saw less of them, but early summer and now, there are a number of them. I did send you an email. I bought Down East for my iPad. It really is a nice magazine although it has an awful lot of advertisements.

  18. Donna, no words for this set of photos. Those bees on blooms…..ahhhh!

  19. Christophe Descroix says:

    Donna Every time it’s a great pleasure to read you and see your wonderfull photos congratulations from France thanks

  20. The pollen covered bee is just fabulous. I actually have not had a decline this year once many of the natives bloomed, the pollinators really came out…but I am concerned when neighbors spray because it does carry as you say. It seems all the bees are hanging out in my gardens for refuge.

  21. Marsha says:

    In my garden in northern Germany, the plants most visited by bees of all kinds are the marjorams. They self seed, but are easy to recognize and remove if you have too many. They are pretty draught tolerant and absolutely low maintainence.

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