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Entries in berries (2)

Monday
Apr062015

Pollination: The Importance of Sex in the Garden

Heliconius Melpomene Madiera AKA Piano Key Butterfly feeding on Pentas at Butterfly World in Florida.Birds, bees and butterflies are more than beautiful, living garden accessories. They are essential fauna for our flora. Plants need to be pollinated. Some can be pollinated by the wind, like corn and wheat, but these flying wonders do much of the heavy lifting for other plants and are vital for them to produce berries, seeds and fruit. Seed development and fruit production are important for a plant’s continued survival. More than three quarters of all plants rely on pollination for survival. One third of the food we eat is reliant upon pollination to be produced. Chocolate, fruits, vegetables, coffee, even livestock that are raised on grains and vegetables are all dependant on the pollinators. 

Our beautiful gardens do so much more than visually stimulate us. They support an ecosystem. Flies, beetles, bats and moths are also common pollinators, but in a typical residential landscape, we prefer to open our gardens to the elegant birds, bees and butterflies. There are several things to consider when making an inviting environment for our pollinators. 

A common bumblebee hanging out on a centaurea. Scent, color and shape are some of the biggest factors in attracting pollinators to a garden. Clumping plants together in a mass makes it easier for a pollinator to find them. Red, orange, yellow and other bright colors serve as a beacon to attract them. In our gardens we prefer the pleasant scents of lilac, privet, roses, iris, catmint and herbs and so do bees. While bees cannot see red (butterflies and birds can) they are attracted to other bright colors and having several masses of different flowers is the best option to attract them. When you mass flowers, it not only creates a beautiful palette of plants to enjoy it is also beneficial for both the pollinator and your plants. They can easily locate these plants so they can return and don’t have to go far to find additional nourishment. The more colors you have, the more diverse a spectrum of pollinators you can attract.

A typical hummingbird feeder. Note the red plastic flowers to catch their eyes!Birds are attracted by sight to flowers as they don’t have a sense of smell to guide them to nectar. Birds also eat the creepy crawly critters we don’t want in our flowers while pollinating at the same time! Berries are an important food source for birds especially when the weather is cold and there are no insects to munch on. Any plant that can offer shelter for nest building and a hideaway from predators is a bonus for our winged friends. Winterberry, holly, black-eyed Susan, coneflower, millet, liatris, sunflowers, dogwood and juniper all offer berries and seeds for birds. You can also add a bird feeder to supplement their diet during lean, cold months.

A fuzzy yellow moth and an elegant orange Monarch butterfly on a purple butterfly bush.Hummingbirds are a popular bird we try to attract to our gardens and there are several ways to do so. Besides offering them attractive, trumpet shaped flowers you can also put out a feeder (which may also work for butterflies). Make sure to have a LOT of red to attract these hovering beauties and to follow the directions on filling the feeder with the best mixture to attract these interesting creatures. Hummingbirds have been observed sipping nectar from summer flowers like lantana, fuchsia, petunia and begonia. They may also visit coral bells, geranium, bee balm, honeysuckle (make sure it is a non-invasive cultivar), trumpet vine, butterfly bush, weigela, and crabapple. In the Northeast, the Ruby Throated Hummingbird can be spotted during summer months only as they migrate south for winter. If you can’t catch a glimpse of a hummingbird, many of these plants also attract butterflies.

Like hummingbirds, butterflies are also attracted to the color red. However, unlike hummingbirds that can hover while they sip, butterflies need a landing space, a wide petal or leaf to perch upon while they feed. Butterfly weed, yarrow, coneflower, black-eyed Susan, butterfly bush, and herbs like thyme and chives have either leaves or sturdy clusters of flowers to perch upon.

A small fountain or birdbath will provide water as well as style.No matter which plants we decide upon together, it is important to have a succession of blooms throughout the season to make sure you have a constant array of pollinating visitors. There is convincing evidence that pesticides and herbicides have contributed to the honeybee’s population decline. Make sure to reduce toxins in the garden. One of the ways to do this is to avoid open flowers if you have to spray anything to reduce likelihood of contaminating their food source. Choose liquid over powder as powder can stick to a pollinator’s body much like pollen does.  One last requirement for our fluttering friends: have water in the garden! Pollinators need water and having a small dish, birdbath or fountain adds a sculptural element and a necessary source of water for them in the garden.

Are you interested in attracting pollinators to your garden? We would love to answer your questions about flora and fauna. Call (631) 271-6460 or email us and talk to a professional landscape designer today!

 

Written by Ashley Palko Haugsjaa

Photos by Ashey Palko Haugsjaa

Wednesday
Jan222014

Winter Interest in the Garden

Snow topped pine and spruce brings out the blue green color of the needlesWinter gardening in the Northeast can be quite interesting. You might be surprised how enjoyable and beautiful this season can be.

Some highlights during winter include:

EVERGREENS: They stand out this time of year without competition from flowering trees and shrubs. My favorites species are all types of  Holly, Evergreen Magnolia, Cypress and Blue Spruce. Hollies are a deep, shiny green and some have red berries which are great for birds. Variegated English Holly is used as a specimen with the white variegation highlighting any garden space. Interesting structural forms pop when combined with blue-green or yellow foliage on different cultivars of Hinoki Cypress. Anything blue toned like the Colorado or Dwarf Montgomery Spruce is a welcome sight in the winter. I also use cuttings from these for winter decoration in my garden pots and urns or even in a vase indoors. 

Skimmia, bright with red berries in the snow covered landscapeFLOWER COLOR: There are several options for winter blooms. 'Arnold Promise' Witch Hazel blooms mid February with fragrant yellow flowers. Lenten Rose (hellebore) is a perennial that blooms in early March and Snow Drops are bulbs that bloom in late February. Heather is evergreen and can start blooming in November right through to early March. The best thing about these plants is that they bloom anywhere from one to three months and are all deer resistant.

Beautiful closeup of the exfoliating bark on a Paperbark MapleBRANCH COLOR: Try the Red Twig Dogwood, a medium sized deciduous shrub. Their summer appearance is not striking but when is snows the red stems will catch any ones attention. There is also a yellow variety. Important Tip: Prune older brown branches down to the base in the spring to encourage new growth. This new growth will start out a light red and intensify as the season progresses. For the late fall/early winter use deciduous Winterberry. It will give a spectacular show of color with red berries, great for the wildlife. Other plants with attractive berries for the wildlife are Viburnum, Sumac and Bayberry which are all native to our region.

DECORATIVE BARK: Once trees lose their leaves for the winter, their interesting structure and bark is more noticeable. Textures range from the exfoliating bark of River Birch, the cinnamon color and exfoliating bark of Crape Myrtle to the the mottled bark of a mature Sycamore, Dogwood or Stewartia to the smooth, gray bark of a Beech tree. Branching habits are visible on the Contorted Filbert, also known as Harry Lauder's Walking Stick, or the Corkscrew Willow with its curly, twisting branches. These are great to cut and bring indoors for floral arrangements or to use as a support for other indoor plants.

 

The winter can be full of garden delights.

Written by Rick Schneider