In Honor of National Pollinator Week

Just the other day I was out gardening and noticed an incredible amount of honeybee activity on my blooming Oakleaf Hydrangeas. The blooms for this native shrub are large and conical and are comprised of a composite of four-petaled flowers. The honeybees climb under the petaled flowers and collect pollen. Often the blooms will look like they are just “shaking” when in fact there is a honeybee or two doing their job. Obviously this shrub is very desirable to honeybees~ making it a great native shrub to plant in your yard!


Just Say No: Morning Glories

There are times in our lives where we look back to advice a family member has given us and Kick ourselves for NOT taking heed to their wisdom/experience. Every person out there has done this in some way or another, and this particular time; for me, was my eldest brother’s warning. A warning I ignored even though the guy is essentially a master gardener.

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Morning Glories taking over bed of Black-eyed Susans.

I had just moved into my current home as a renter (I purchased the house 2 .5 years later) and upon my first spring in this house, I wanted to create a garden of the flower variety. In my excitement and naïveté I wanted it All and I wanted it Fast. Upon speaking to my brother and explaining what I wanted to do, he told me, ” Do Not Plant Morning Glories, they will take over and become the Bain of your gardening experience!” Yeah, I thought, he doesn’t know; these flowers are blue and pretty and prolific; it’ll be fine.

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Morning Glory Seedlings; just days after hand clearing along fence.

Boy, oh boy! Was he Right and I was Wrong! After 15 years working this garden/yard, the only plus from planting those few morning glory seeds way back when is that I think of my dear brother and his kind advice EVERY SINGLE TIME I pull a seed start out of my flower beds! When I till soil only to see days later 50 new morning glory seed starts, I clearly hear his advice in my head. And, especially when I’m struggling to unwrap their vines from my perennials or bushes, I vow to always honor his gardening directives! This has become my battle: EVERY year, Battling and grappling against the onslaught Invasion of what I once thought was so pretty.

Now, these “lovelies” have spread to my back yard in great swaths across flower beds and giant bushes, overtaking anything it can, searching and burdening down it’s host in great mass; similar to our local invasive wild grape vine, or English Ivy, or daresay: Kudzu. Ugh.

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Taking Over.

I’m not a big chemical user in my garden. And if I do use it, it’s targeted, and even then I’m uncomfortable with the environmental impact of said weed killers; especially with all the new research. So, I’m left hand picking, pulling, and cleaning; which is pretty much Impossible when it comes to Morning Glories. To battle this well established seed would be a daily project beginning in the early spring until the late fall. Unfortunately, I’m not the super diligent gardener ~ the enviable one who is out deadheading and weeding every day~ hence my preference for planting low maintenance perennial flower /flowering bush beds. This yard/garden is close to a 1/2 acre in little ‘ole West Asheville, and it is a struggle just to keep your normal variety or weeds and seedlings at bay, let alone: “these guys!”

So, take it from me – since I’ll still be pulling up and dealing with the scourge of morning glories many, many years from now: Do Not, I BEG you, do not plant them. Please, take this passed along advice as they have no Place in our flower beds or vegetable beds and they Will take over.


The Birds and the Bees.

 Birds, bees, and butterflies.

When I think about a garden, I often think of birds and all the beneficial insects first. I love to see the bird activity throughout the year at our feeders; in the snow when the street and neighborhood are softly soundproofed, in the Spring when the birds begin to bring their fledglings to the feeders, and in summer and fall when their activity is frenetic and their calls soar over the constant buzz of crickets. For me , it’ so much fun to see our migratory birds, visiting briefly or our ground feeding birds that are wonderful to pick up stray seeds and eat bugs off the ground. And, I’ve recently spotted Flycatchers, who are also amazing to watch, as they dance mid air snapping up misc. flying insects.

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Developing a bird and insect-friendly garden is quite simple, as there are so many low maintenance perennials, shrubs, and annuals that will attract your birds, bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. (We chose not to put out hummingbird feeders, as I try to plant flowers that attract and feed them.) If you have a shady yard or area, Hostas are a wonderful; their blooms attract hummingbirds and pollinating bees and the plants provide under story cover for your ground feeding birds. Ferns are also lovely, though most require a nice damp spot, with a little sun exposure.

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For nice sunny areas: Butterfly bushes are drought tolerant, come back every year, and come in a wide range of purple, pink, pale blue, and even yellow flowering varieties. Butterflies and pollinating bees Love these blooms and will actively visit your bushes from July through September. Bee Balm is also a nice addition; drought tolerant and, if happy, spreading in nature. Their bloom period is short, about a full month or so, creating a full on buzz of bee and hummingbird activity. Echinacea or Corn Flower is also a drought tolerant perennial that loves full sun and spreads each year. Butterflies and bees love them and the flowers are wonderful for cutting for vases/bouquets, which personally, I feel is a Big plus. (I adore cut flowers from the garden!)  Both the Bee Balm and the Echinacea blooms will seed out when they are done and many finches love to eat the seeds, also helping in “spreading” the next year.

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This year, I was so thrilled to have my first sun flowers grow and bloom. These plants were all volunteer, most likely, spread through droppings from the birds at my feeders. I have so enjoyed finally having a few sunflowers and watching the bees, then the golden finches (who do not frequent my feeders) feed off the seeded out sunflower heads. I figure, I feed the birds who then plant plants that then feed the birds!

Many gardeners believe that a healthy garden involves insect and bird activity. And, for you, it’s a win-win; beautiful flowers that are low maintenance while creating a beneficial microcosm for all.

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