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Thursday, September 12, 2019
Posted By: Marian Vaughan in Pollinators

The days are unmistakably shortening. We are heading breakneck towards the equinox (Sept. 23), and after that, we embark upon the triumph of the night and the days begin to shorten.


In the meantime, our gardens are alive with bees, hummingbirds and even a few butterflies. There are still many annuals & tender perennials to keep them fed, all the various daisies that brighten the garden: cosmos, tender fuchsias, tender sage & geraniums keep them coming back for more.


Bees

Kept fairly happy with Albizzia, Buddleia (Butterfly Bush) & aromatic herbs such as Perovskia (Russian Sage), Limonium (Sea Lavender) & the second blooming of Lavender & Centranthus. I notice them haunting the roses as well, especially the single ones, as do the butterflies.


Butterflies

Adult butterflies are dwindling, but they & their descendants need our help more than ever. Somewhere there has arisen a mania for “Fall cleanup” of perennials in the garden. This is a horticultural disaster, since you are encouraging the frost to kill the perennial growth you want to keep by exposing the tender new growth and removing their refuge from the cold. By cleaning up you also eliminate host plants for chrysalises of butterflies and shelter for pollinators.

If we leave the garden be until spring, we can expect them in greater numbers. Even if leaving your whole garden doesn’t appeal to you, for visual reasons, leaving just a small area can go a long way in helping pollinators.


Hummingbirds

The Rufous hummingbirds have fled South, but we now have over-wintering Anna’s who have followed the feeders North as the climate warms. This time of year begins the season of their real need for our care. There is still food for them: Fuchsias, both hardy & tender, Petunias, red Salvia and a smattering of other plants; But feeders fill the gap as the flowers fade. 


If you like to feed hummingbirds, be aware this is no light commitment. These little birds need feeding in the dead of winter too, at the crack of dawn, from feeders free of snow and ice. We will have more on this later, several of us can show our bare footprints in the snow; But for the moment it is just time to be aware of changing needs.

Although not technically pollinators, native birds: juncos, chickadees, nuthatches & towhees also bring life to the fading garden. These birds greatly need shelter & warmth from now on into winter. The method of leaving the garden be in fall provides this and as a bonus, the birds do their own ‘weeding’: collecting weed seeds from under the canopy.


Although it can seem depressing as the days begin to close in, September is historically a time of preservation of summer’s bounty; a time to nurture all we care for, so that we all emerge triumphantly into the new year to come.
 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Posted By: Marian Vaughan in Gardening

 

Summer

is finally here, and the garden is in full bloom and the weeds have settled to a dull roar. One of the delights of the summer garden is watching hummingbirds & butterflies while listening to the humming of bees. These creatures perform an essential role in the garden as pollinators and many people have begun to deliberately create pollinator friendly gardens. Here are a few of the many plants that can and do attract pollinators for the summer season, as well as tips to make the garden more inviting to them.


 

Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds love red & if it’s red & tubular even more. Crocosmia, fuchsia, the huge tubes of lilies & the tiny ones of centranthus (Jupiter's Beard) as well as honeysuckle & penstemon. They also enjoy albizzia (the tree) and such annuals/tender perennials as firecracker plant, petunias & callibrachoe. While they don't only feed from red flowers, an abundance of red or deep pink in the garden will keep them coming back; they then zip around the garden seeing if there is anything for a second course. Hummingbirds serve double duty in our gardens, they also catch insects on the wing: flies, gnats & mosquitoes; their favourites being spiders and daddy long legs.  


 

Bees

Bees, on the other hand, are colour blind to red & zero in on the blue side of the spectrum: earlier in the year, lilacs & ceanothus & early campanulas. Now, in full summer, buddleia is always swarming with bees as are subshrubs such as rosemary, lavender, sage & thyme. Perennials such as veronica, delphinium & hardy geraniums are good bee plants, as are the scented verbena, agastache and anchusa. Bees don't shun plants just because they aren't blue: both monarda (bee balm) and asclepias (butterfly weed) can & do attract lots of bees, as does eryngium (sea holly) and many annuals & biennials: cleome, cornflowers, snapdragons & foxglove are good examples.

Butterflies

Butterflies happily trip back & forth between the two colours, adding yellow & white to the mix. They prefer flat flowers: achillea, eryngium, echinacea & rudbeckia; but still they share with hummingbirds a love of centranthus & with bees a love of buddleia & lavender. Such strong scented plants as nepeta (catmint) lemon balm, mint, monarda & hyssop attract not only bees & butterflies but many of the lesser pollinators & helpful insects such as parasitic wasps.  If you plant a few night blooming plants: evening primrose, phlox or cardinal flower, you will also be providing food for nocturnal moths; some of these are incredibly lovely.

In considering how to bring butterflies to your garden, it is important to care for them in their larval stage. The caterpillars of the gorgeous Western Tiger Swallowtail, for example, live & feed on poplars, willow, birch & bitter cherry, while the Pale Swallowtail prefers alder. Stinging nettle is home to many baby butterflies as are native thistles. If possible, a small "wild" section at the edge of the garden will ensure an abundance of butterflies. Leaving garden cleanup til spring also means that overwintering chrysalises will not be destroyed

Water & Other Needs

Similarly, bees need more than just nectar: the right housing can increase the number of kinds of bees that come to the garden: in BC our gardens can attract honeybees, mason bees, leaf cutter bees as well as bumble bees to mention just a few.   Some of these are ground nesting and are very important pollinators.  They are not aggressive, stinging only in self defense.   For these bees it is good to leave a bare (uncultivated) area of soil, which remains fairly dry.  Some hornets & wasps also nest in the ground, and they DO sting!!!  Its important to learn to tell the difference between a bee and a wasp before leaving or destroying that nest.

All bees also need a source water: any shallow container with pebbles or twigs as landing sites (changed daily) will keep the entire hive healthy. Butterflies will also take advantage of this "pool".  Hummingbirds prefer to fly through a daytime sprinkler for a bath, or else sit in the rain with their wings open "bathing"' They drink dew in the morning but will drink from a shallow birdbath with a very narrow rim.
 

What Not to Do

It goes without saying, I hope, that the primary way to keep your garden attractive to pollinators is to refrain from using pesticides which are not natural in origin. Pesticides are the worst enemies of butterflies, and if they must be applied, even organic pesticides should be applied in the evening when butterflies are mostly inactive.
 

By Design

Plants that attract the various pollinators vary greatly in appearance. This variation of colour & form can make for a very satisfying garden in summer. Most experts suggest a minimum of ten types of plants to keep pollinators coming back, but in honest anything we do in our gardens is a bonus for these small but very essential creatures.

Thursday, August 14, 2014
Posted By: Laurelle Olfdord-Down in Butterfly Gardening

One of my favorite planters to make is the Butterfly Oasis. Not only is it a beautiful and EASY planter to create, it is also fascinating to watch what comes to it! Expect to see some other winged pollinators such as hover bees, bumble bees as well as the odd Hummingbird.

butterfly oasis planter

I depending on the butterflies frequenting your area and the time of the season you are building this container oasis, you can tailor the plants specifically for your area. Be prepared…when you attract one life stage of butterfly, you inevitably attract the other…caterpillars. Make sure you can identify butterfly eggs and caterpillars of specific butterflies lest you squish them or soap them away.

I like to create both a spring and a summer butterfly planter as space is limited and I want to maximize the lure during each season.

For my spring butterfly garden I’ll plant milkweed, you can get the seeds from a number of sources now and you can start them inside in early spring/ late winter so they catch the early season.

I will also include violas, parsley, Heliotrope, Fennel, Wallflower, Chives, Flowering Currant, Dandelion (yes…generally I seem to get a few volunteers in each pot – mason bees like them too), the aptly named Delphinium ‘Blue Butterfly’, Sweet William and Creeping Phlox to name a few.

summer butterfly planter

For my Summer Butterfly oasis, I have used:

  • Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower…you can grow it from seed)
  • Butterfly Bush and of course we do carry the sterile version
  • Milkweed
  • Nepeta
  • Sedum
  • Echinacea
  • Verbena bonariensis
  • Agastache

as well as Zinnias (you want ones with a centre…not the full doubles), Asters, Hebe’s, Lavender, Phlox and Salvia and a perennial Fuchsia if I can fit it in.

plants that attract butterflies

Not only do butterflies sip nectar from plants, they also cluster around fermenting fruit and especially in the case of Male Butterflies, they cluster around mud puddles to absorb the minerals…especially the salt. I usually sink a saucer and fill with sand or mud and keep that section moist. I also add a pinch or two of salt and then toss an orange or some other fruit at the side…yes, you will get some bees and wasps around it as well. I’ll place a large flat warming rock as well and an old twisted branch for the butterflies or even the hummingbirds to perch. Make sure to keep your butterfly puddle or mud moist but not soaking wet.

Place your pot in the sun, where you will be able to watch it…especially if it’s near a spot where you can sit and catch up on your summer reading and enjoy! Grab a butterfly and moth book from the library and see how many of these flying art pieces you can identify!


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