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Further Adventures in the Bee Meadow

The Bee Meadow is surrounded by flagging tape to confuse the deer and keep my over zealous neighbor's mower at bay.

Last November with the help of my friend Tim Kiphart I gleaned a medley of wildflower plants from my nursery and installed them near my bee hives.

I called the planting a “Bee Meadow”.  It was planted in part to sustain the honeybees.  I also intended to learn to appreciate and identify the native pollinators that would surely visit.

The Bee Meadow was planted on an old vegetable garden site that is full of white clover.

So far, the meadow has been quite entertaining. Earlier this spring, prairie phlox (Phlox pilosa) mingled with the clover while yellow false indigo (Baptisia sphaerocarpa) bloomed in the background.

Much to my surprise, about a dozen larkspur plants (Consolida ambigua) volunteered. They were remnants of the old vegetable garden where I often planted flowers amongst the veggies.

This volunteer larkspur was a pleasant surprise.

I have really been enjoying the larkspur blooms.

I have noticed that a few honeybees and bumblebees visit the blossoms when they tire of the clover.

Last week, however, on a late afternoon golf cart cruise, I spied a flash of red.  I soon realized that a young male ruby throated hummingbird was visiting the larkspur.

I have seen him two or three times now.

Of course I didn’t have my camera.

But still he was beautiful in all his olive and ruby plumage sipping nectar from a deep indigo larkspur flower.

A couple of weeks ago, I pilfered the nursery once more and with the help of my friend Steve Strong added more plants to the Bee Meadow.  The new additions include New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), rough blazing star (Liatris aspera) and various asters, rosin weeds, obedient plants, ironweeds and grasses.

I’m seeing all sorts of butterflies and interesting solitary bees as well as the usual bumblebees and honeybees.

Now that the planting is done I hope to start identifying these strange visitors.


 

 

Signs of Autumn

This has been a brutal summer.  Last week it was over 100 degrees every day.

I quit watching the weather after I saw a forecast that predicted 111 degrees with heat index.  If it’s going to be that hot I’m better off not knowing!

This time of year, though, I become alert for signs of autumn.

They are subtle, believe me.  Perhaps they aren’t really signs but nuances…

A gentle breeze can bring a smile of anticipation to my face.

I dig that the beautyberries have a purple patina and that my native azalea flower buds are swollen and scaly.

And I’m delighted that a few stalwart fall flowers like the Turk’s cap mallow are beginning their show.

The Turkscap's hot colored blooms are a sign of autumn for me.

Turks cap (Malvaviscus drummondii) is one of those special plants that came with my house – a freebie that I have grown to love.

That first year, when it began to bloom I said “Hello, who are you?’ and reached for my gardening books.

I learned that Turks cap is a hibiscus cousin native to Texas.  It can grow in sun or shade and is remarkably resistant to drought and pests.

Every year it produces a bounty of scarlet pinwheel shaped flowers.  The blooms resemble those of hibiscus in that they boldly present their exerted stamens for all to see.   But, unlike other hibiscus, these flowers never really open.  So the plant is sometimes called sleepy hibiscus.

The flowers appear about the time that school starts and carry on through the hummingbird migration.  Hummers along with sulfur butterflies flock to Turkscap.  Their long tongues allow them to sip nectar from the closed blossoms.

Other birds eat the pulpy fruit that comes later.  It is red and oddly shaped like a turban.

Probably I am grasping at straws to see the promise of autumn in those scarlet flowers.  But there’s also that breeze and the purple tinted berries and those fat azalea buds.  Due to the accumulated evidence,  I choose to believe in the promise of autumn.


 

The Privet Whacking Continues

Peter Loos struggled to clear this privet ridden area along my creek.

Yesterday, I went off to my consulting  job leaving my house guest Pete to his own devices.

When I came home, I was delighted to see that he had continued the privet (Ligustrum sinense) eradication project we started the day before.   He had moved down the creek to the worst privet thicket on my land, in fact.

I will have a lot of work maintaining this area after the growing season starts.  Right now, however, I am really digging the privet free space.

I am finding a few tenacious ebony spleenworts and Christmas ferns in the area.  Today I hope to plant 8 red buckeyes (Aesculus pavia).

The buckeyes should thrive along the creek.  I anticipate that the buckeye grove will be a great place to watch hummingbirds in the early spring.  I always see the first hummer of the year either on a red buckeye or a trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).

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