SAVE OUR BEES AND POLLINATORS

Articles gathered by Sherrie Eoff

Here’s how important bees are to our food system: 70 out of the top 100 human food crops — which supply about 90% of the world’s nutrition — are pollinated by bees.

More than 1,000 of all pollinators are vertebrates such as birds, bats, and small mammals. Most (more than 200,000 species) are beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths and bees. 

Monarch butterflies have declined by 90% in the last 20 years. 

25% of bumble bees species are thought to be in serious decline.

Avoid pesticides to save pollinators

Some pesticides pose direct risk to pollinators. The elimination of bee-harming chemicals from agriculture is a crucial and most-effective first step to protect the health of bee populations.

Why this matters 

Believe it or not, you have a bee to thank for one in every three bites of food you eat. Honeybees perform about 80% of all pollination, and a single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day, making them essential to farmers. But a deadly mix of pesticides, parasites, and climate change have put bee populations in crisis around the world.

The problem 

Since the 1990s, beekeepers have noted a sharp and astonishing decline in bee populations. Industrial agriculture methods, parasites, and climate change are killing off bees in droves, and the widespread use of bee-harming pesticides are particular threats to honeybees and wild pollinators. Without them, feeding the world’s growing population will be nearly impossible. It’s time to ban these damaging pesticides and protect vital pollinators.

*info from the Green Peace website

How To Save The Bees

Saving the bees is a big job- but taking action is easy! By starting in your own community, you can help make our world a healthier place for bees. Here are some things that you can do to save our bees:

Protect bee habitat

One of the largest threats to bees is the lack of habitat due to urban sprawl. If you notice a lack of green space in your neighborhood, you can volunteer to plant a bee garden or create a habitat corridor with nectar-rich plants such as wildflowers. You don’t need a ton of space to help save the bees- gardens can be established in small spaces like balconies or street corners, and flowers can be planted along roadways and other public areas. You can also get involved with your local government to advocate sensible limits to development where you live.

One of the largest threats to bees is the lack of habitat due to urban sprawl.. 

Avoid harmful pesticides.

Synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides are harmful to bees. Using these pesticides in your garden can not only keep bees away, but also endanger their lives. If you must treat your garden, opt for organic pesticide options and spray at night when pollinators are least active. Or use beneficial insects such as praying mantises and ladybugs in your garden. Avoid chemicals belonging to the neonicotinoid family at all costs, as they are especially harmful to bees.

Plant a bee-friendly garden. Plant  Natives.

Flowers help feed bees and other valuable pollinators. Not only will you be helping save the bees by planting bee-friendly plants, but you’ll helping your garden as well. Some tips:

Avoid hybrid flowers, which may be sterile and have little or no nectar or pollen

Skip the double flowers, which lack pollen. Make sure you’ll have blooms for bees year round.

Plant flowers in patches – bees like to focus on one flower type at a time

Leave an undisturbed plot for ground-nesting bee. **Native plants co-evolved with the native wildlife of your region. Native plants form the foundation of habitat for pollinators by providing them with pollen and nectar for food, cover from the elements and predators, and places where their young can grow. The best way to attract beautiful butterflies, busy bees, speedy hummingbirds and other pollinators is to fill your yard with native plants.

Bees Need Trees.

Bees aren’t only just interested in perennials! In fact, did you know that bees get most of their nectar from trees? When a tree blooms, it provides bees with hundreds if not thousands of blossoms to feed from. Trees are not only a great food source for bees but they are also essential to a bees habitat. Tree leaves and resin provide nesting material for bees, while their natural wood cavities make excellent shelters. With deforestation and development on the rise, you can help bolster bee habitats by caring for trees and joining tree-planting parties in your area. Did You Know that bees get most of their nectar from trees?

Create a Bee Bath.

A fun activity that can also help save the bees is creating a bee bath. Fill a shallow bird bath or a small dish or bowl with clean water, and arrange pebbles and stones inside so that they poke out of the water. Bees will land on the stones and pebbles to drink the water as they take a break from foraging and pollinating.

Build homes for native bees.

Did you know that, with the exception of honey bees, most bees are solitary creatures? 70% of bees live underground, while 30% live in holes inside of trees or hollow stems. Since many solitary and bumble bees build their nests in undisturbed land, why not keep an untouched plot of land for them in your garden? “Bee condos” allow solitary bees like mason bees to take up residence and pollinate your garden, and are widely available for sale online. **There are 4,000 bee species native to North America (the honey bee is a European import) and most of those don’t form hives. Instead, individual female bees lay their eggs in tunnels in decaying wood or in sandy soil. You can offer such nesting spots by leaving tree snags on your property, by leaving bare batches of sandy soil, or by building or buying whimsical native bee houses.You can also learn how to build your own bee condo and create a better space for solitary bees.

DID YOU KNOW? 70% of bees live underground, while 30% live in holes inside of trees or hollow stems. 

Support your local beekeeper.

You can make a difference by supporting a beekeeper in your area. These keepers work hard to nurture their bees and better the local community for bees and humans alike. The easiest way to do this is to buy locally-made honey and beeswax products. Many beekeepers use products from their hives to create soaps, lotions, and beeswax candles. Plus, local honey is not only delicious- it may be made by bees that visited plants in your own backyard! You can also contact your local beekeeping societies to see what kind of volunteer support or donations they might need.

Do : diversify and maximize blooms

To help bees make the most out of their active months, it’s ideal to have plants that bloom at different times across the seasons. Early spring and late autumn blooms will be especially helpful for early foragers or bees going for their last harvest before hunkering down for the winter. It is also ideal to have a variety of flower shapes – from flat to tubular – to accommodate bees with different tongue sizes. Be sure to prolong your plants’ blooms by removing dead blooms and leaves.

If you have a grass lawn, consider replacing it with colorful pollinator plants to make better use of your space and save water. You can also make a compromise by allowing your lawn to share space with flowers that attract bees, such as dandelions, clovers or siberian squill (more on squills below).

Don’t : plant treated or hybridized plants

It is extremely important to avoid using any insecticides, herbicides, or pesticides on your plants – even organic ones contain substances that are harmful to bees. Pesticides contain neonicotinoids, chemicals that are a known danger to bees. If we’re going to do our part in helping the declining population of bees, we must be adamant about keeping our gardens chemical-free. When purchasing plants from nurseries, make sure they haven’t been treated. Also, avoid hybridized plant varieties, as they are often less beneficial for bees).

Flowers that Attract Bees

Early Spring

Pansies

USDA zones 4 – 8. Full sun. Blooms early Spring – Fall.

Whimsy, joy, colors – pansies have it all, and bees love them. They are great for containers or ground cover, but are often treated as annuals because of their ability to spread quickly. Bred from their predecessor the wild pansy, the many types of pansies can bloom in early spring or later in autumn.

Pussy Willow

USDA zones 4 – 7. Full to partial sun. Blooms early Spring.

These North American wetland shrubs have a beautiful greyish hue and fur-like blooms. Their blooms mark the arrival of spring, making them a perfect treat for early foraging bees. Humans may also enjoy using their dried stems as decorations.

 Siberian Squill

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms early Spring.

These beautiful blue blooms have a stunning presence that you can enjoy for a few weeks each year. If you have a grass lawn, you can make the most of your space by planting Siberian Squill bulbs throughout it. Their colors will make your lawn pop in early spring, and the plants will recede just in time to let you start mowing in late spring. Just make sure they have good drainage to prevent bulb rot, and be cautious about their ability to spread quickly.

Snowdrops

USDA zones 3 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Winter, early Spring.

Snowdrops are known to announce their arrival by poking out of the snow. They are great for climates with mild to cold winters. Just keep in mind that the flowers will be dormant by summertime, so the soil in which the bulbs rest will be barren.

 Spring, Summer

 Peony

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms in Spring.

With their colors and sweet scents, these flowers will attract bees, hummingbirds, and possibly your neighbors too. Peonies benefit from cold winters to aid their bud formation. Try to place them in loamy soil in a spot protected from wind.

 Milkweed

USDA zones 4 – 10. Prefers sun. Blooms Spring – Fall, depending on variety.

Milkweed not only serves as food to bees, but it is also the only host to monarch butterflies. These plants are great food sources for bees, but beware of their complex flower structures, for bees can get trapped or lose a leg in them. Many varieties are drought-resistant and prefer sun 

 Bee Balm

USDA zones 4 – 9. Full to partial sun, but shade tolerant. Blooms Summer.

As you may guess from the name, bees love these North American prairie flowers. The blooms almost resemble little fireworks, and come in befittingly vibrant shades too. Favoring warm climates, you can enjoy these perennials’ lush, colorful blooms year after year, and so will bees and other winged things.

 Lavender

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms Spring, Summer.

Bees love them for their nectar, humans love them for their scent and flavor. Everyone wins, and with many different varieties of lavender to choose from, you’ll likely find one that will settle happily in your garden. The plant can do well in many climates, but prefers warm climates and well-drained soil. It is rather drought resistant once established. 

 Phlox

USDA zones 2 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms Spring, Summer.

With their star-shaped blooms, these plants are a beautiful addition to any garden, and can make a great ground cover. There are several different varieties, including the wild ground phlox. This variety bears its pink blooms in early spring, which is the reason Native Americans dubbed the April full moon the “Full Pink Moon.”

 Zinnias

Annual. Full sun. Blooms Summer.

Zinnias come in many colors and will attract both bees and butterflies to your space. They are relatively easy to plant and will bloom in abundance all summer long if dead flowers are removed.

Marigolds

Annual. Full sun. Blooms Summer.

Like zinnias, marigolds are annuals that can bloom all summer long if properly groomed. Their edible blooms can brighten up your salads as well as your garden, and they are even known to repel pests and animals, such as nematodes.

 Goldenrod

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms in Summer.

These flowers are sometimes considered weeds because of their ability to spread easily, but kept in check, they are an invaluable resource for bees and have medicinal value as well. To keep their spread in check, just cut off the dead flower heads before they re-seed.

 Chives

USDA zones 3 – 10. Full sun. Blooms late Spring, Summer.

Resist eating their tasty purple flowers and the bees will thank you! This perennial tolerates cold climates rather well, and is a great way to add a fresh, oniony taste to salads, dishes, or eggs.

 Late Summer, Fall

 Liatris

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Summer.

These flowers, found in purple, pink, and white, bloom on grass-like spiky leaves that can grow 1 – 5 feet tall. They are relatively low maintenance, and are rather tolerant of drought, pests, and cold weather. Butterflies will also thank you for having liatris in your garden.

 Mint

USDA zones 3 – 10. Full sun, but tolerates some shade. Blooms Spring through Summer.

Mint is invigorating with its fragrance and flavor – and bees go crazy on their flowers too. Mint is a great choice if you’re looking for an herb that’s low maintenance. Easy to grow, but easy to lose control of too, so be careful about their spread. DO NOT plant in the ground, plant in a container to control it’s spread.

 Sage

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full sun. Blooms Spring, Summer, Fall.

It’s great in stuffing, sauces, and herb pots! Bees love sage’s beautiful flowers, and these perennials are rather easy to grow. Of all the flowers that attract bees, make sure to incorporate this one into your autumn squash dishes.

 Nasturtium

USDA zone 9 – 11. Full sun. Blooms Summer through Fall.

Nasturtiums can keep bees buzzing in your garden well into autumn. Their edible blooms will bring a burst of color to your outdoor space. To maximize the amount of blooms they have, water them regularly and opt for poorer soils. Most nasturtiums are annuals, but some varieties are perennials in zones 9 – 11.

 Black-eyed Susans

USDA zones 3 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Summer, Fall.

These are flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and bring a burst of yellow to your garden. As members of the sunflower family, they can grow up to three feet tall! They make excellent borders, but spread very easily, so be careful about placing them in – or letting them grow into – other plants’ space.

 Borage

Full to partial sun. Blooms Summer, Fall.

Also known as starflower, borage’s star-shaped blooms start out pink and mature into a beautiful blue. Borage is considered a good neighbor for tomatoes, which bees also love. These plants are annuals, but they re-seed readily, so keep an eye on their spread.

 Thyme

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full sun. Blooms Summer, Fall.

Irresistible to bees and pun-lovers alike, placing one of these shrubs by a walkway will prove to be a wonderful way to pass the thyme. These perennials bear bee-loving flowers in pink or purple, and can grow up to one foot tall.

Oregano

Full sun. Blooms mid-Summer, Fall.

This perennial has pink, purple, or white flowers, and its late blooms will be appreciated by your bee friends. Oregano provides excellent ground cover and is rather hardy. Harvest its leaves for cooking or medicinal purposes. Drying them will help you make use of its reported immune-boosting properties throughout winter.

TREES

Native flowering trees are not only beneficial to foraging bees and other insects but also to the larvae of many native butterflies and moths that feed upon tree foliage.

Suggestions would be; Tulip Poplar, Bigleaf Maple, Redbud, Dogwood, Staghorn Sumac

This is a very short list of plants that are good for the bees.

 Plant for Bees, Plant for Change

 They say flowers that attract bees also bring good tidings for the gardener. Okay, maybe they don’t say that, but there’s something undoubtedly powerful about planting pollinator blooms. The art of gardening is not only a form of relaxation, but also of creating change. With every haven we create for bees, we make clear our stance on their importance, we designate ourselves as their allies, and we become leaders in the movement to create a world that is nourishing to the very creatures that nourish us too. Gardening is no longer a hobby – it is a grassroots movement.

*From the HONEYBEE CONSERVANCY

**from the National Wildlife Foundation

Check out www.pollinator.org for more information

BEE FEED FLOWER MIX

This mix is a blend of annual and perennial flowers that provide nectar and pollen to wild bees, honey bees, and other pollinators. The seeds are open-pollinated, non-GMO and untreated. 

To plant: either plant directing in the soil or in a container. 

Direct sow: Plant in a well-drained cultivated soil during early spring or fall. For best results, loosen soil with rake or hoe. Mix seeds with a cup of sand or other inert material and spread over calculated areal. Lightly rake seed into soil or cover with peat moss or similar light mulch. Keep soil moist until plants begin to grow.

Container: Fill container with potting soil to within about 2” of top. Scatter seeds on surface. Cover with about 1” of potting soil, water and wait. 



I’VE BOUGHT BULBS, NOW WHAT?

PLANT IN THE GARDEN:

*Plant bulbs in soil with good drainage. This is the MOST important instruction. Moist conditions will cause the bulb to rot

*Cut as little foliage as possible when cutting flowers from your bulbous plants. The leaves and foliage are essential for storing food for next year’s blooms.

*ALWAYS let the foliage die back on its own in the garden before trimming it back or digging up the bulbs. Trimming back healthy foliage will cause the bulb to not perform well next year. Do not “braid” the foliage, as this damages the foliage’s ability to store food.

*Store bulbs in a dry, well ventilated area to prevent mold or mildew. Do not store them in an airtight container.

*Label the bulbs as you plant them. Labeling prevents you from accidentally digging up the bulbs out of season.

*Do not use any strong commercial fertilizer or fresh manure when planting bulbs. A bulb nutrient such as BULB BOOSTER can be added and mixed into soil, but be careful not to sprinkle directly onto bulbs, this can burn the bulbs. Bone meal or blood meal work well also.Brent Heath(Brent and Becky’s bulbs) recommends adding compost only to feed bulbs. 

*Do not let the flower go to seed. Cut flowers as they fade and remove any seedpods that form. Leave the foliage to keep the bulb strong.

*Do not dry bulbs in the sun, always in the shade in a well ventilated area.

*Do not grow tulips bulbs year after year in the same place. Sooner or later they may be attacked with a fungus disease called fire blight. Either change the soil or the location.

*Planting depth of bulbs depend on the size. A good rule of thumb is the depth should be three times the diameter of the bulb. Check individual planting instructions for specifics.

*The most effective planting technique is to plant most bulbs in clumps of odd numbers, rather then in a line. If you know the color, softer colors in front with more vibrant in the background. Group according to height and in sequential bloom patterned for a long lasting show.

*In spring sprinkle again with bulb food. This will encourage flowering and help to recharge the bulb for next year. If the weather is dry, water bulbs during the growing period.

*Tulips love to be dry in summer. Try planting them where you never water or near thirsty trees and shrubs. Well drained soil, good sun, regular fertilizing, let the foliage ripen, plant 6-8” deep. Another way is to dig bulbs when their foliage yellows, store in a cool, dry spot and replant in fall. Some varieties are just better. Dr. Klingaman recommends Darwin varieties and older varieties often perennialize best. 

*Plant tulips with herbs.

*Plant Daffodils with your Daylilies

*Divide bulbs late May-early June. 

*Bulbs root best at 50-60*

*If bulbs stop blooming add compost to feed the bulbs. 

 FORCE BULBS IN WATER:

 

For planting in pebbles; start by choosing large, plump bulbs. Next select a glazed pot or bowl, and fill partway with pebbles, place bulbs on pebbles. Add a few more pebbles to support the bulbs. Pour in water to the base of the bulbs. Don’t let the bulb set in water, only the very bottom of the base should be in the water

    Keep the bulbs in a warm, light place and growth should begin immediately. Keep the bulbs well watered. Flowers should appear in 3-6 weeks. They grow so fast, you can almost see them grow. You may need to stake them to keep the foliage from flopping over. To keep plants looking their best, display in a cool location. If set in a cool place like a sheltered porch where temperatures are in the 40-50’s, the blooms can go on for 3 weeks. But they can not take freezing temps. Paperwhite bulbs work best for this, but you can use hyciniths bulbs also.

 FORCE BULBS IN POTS OF SOIL

You can bring the spring in by forcing bulbs indoors before the weather is ready outside

Forcing bulbs in pots of soil is even more fool-proof than forcing them on water, and it works with just about every kind of bulb. 

Plant bulbs close together (but not touching) just below the surface of the soil — to leave as much room as possible for rooting. For an even more lavish display, you can set one layer of bulbs just above another, alternating so that bulbs are not directly on top of one another — but combining different types of bulbs in one pot is hard to pull off successfully since rooting and blooming times vary. Arrange tulip bulbs with the flat side facing out for a more uniform display of leaves. 

Water. Set in a dark, cold place for 8-16 weeks. This could be in an unheated mudroom, attic, or garage; a cold-frame; or your refrigerator, though many refrigerators are too cold for optimal forcing. Thetemperature during this rooting period is critical: 40° to 48° is ideal. Avoid freezing temperatures. The best way to monitor the temperature is to use a maximum-minimum thermometer available from any good garden center. 

Another way to provide a cold dark place for forcing is to dig a trench a couple of feet deep — in your vegetable garden, for example — set the pots in the bottom of it on rocks or something that will provide good drainage, and cover them with at least 18 inches of straw or other mulch. 

Keep pots evenly moist but not soggy. When roots show at the hole in the bottom of a pot, and top growth has begun, bring it into a cool spot — 50° to 60°F — with subdued light for a week or two. Move to a brighter spot — a window (but not into direct sun) or under fluorescent lights — but for best results continue to keep it relatively cool (as if the bulbs were outside in the spring) as buds develop and bloom. 

PLANT BULBS IN CONTAINERS

 Now is the time to plant spring bulbs in containers for those beautiful spring blooms. Be sure to pack the containers full of bulbs for the best display. Not only will these containers create focal points throughout the garden, but they will also welcome visitors at entryways and add a touch of bright color to the spring garden. This is a great solution for someone with limited garden space or only a patio to garden on.

  Any bulb can be planted in a container, but tulips are best because of their simple form and infinite choice of colors. You can combine different types of bulbs in a single container, but be sure they bloom at the same time, or you will have that unsightly dying foliage marring your display. Planting only one type of bulb per container gives you maximum impact. Try staggering bloom times in different containers for a succession of blooms from March through mid-May.

PLANTING:

    Use a 24” container with good drainage. 

    Use 40 tulips, 40 large flowered daffodils, 50 small-flowered daffodils or 100 minor bulbs, like Crocus, Muscari, Scilla, or Iris species. I like to use either the tulips or large daffodils mixed with Crocus.

     Use a good grade of potting soil and fill the bottom third of container, mix in some time released fertilizer, such as Miracle Grow or Osmocote or bone meal, or bulb fertilizer.  Add more potting soil to fill container to the recommended planting depth of the bulbs you are using. Add bulbs and finish filling container with soil, being sure to leave at least ½” space between the surface of the soil and the top of the container for easy watering.

     If you are planting a container with different species of bulbs, plant the larger bulbs first, cover them with soil and then plant the smaller bulbs at their recommended planting depth. See diagram.

   Water planted container thoroughly, then water periodically throughout the winter. You don’t want the bulbs sitting in soil that is too wet, the bulbs will rot.

OVERWINTERING:

    I set my planted containers either in an unheated garage or in a protected area of the gardens until late Feb. or early March, when the bulbs start to emerge, and place at focal points or throughout the garden. I place mine on the front porch for the winter, overplanted with violas. You could also use pansies.

    After the flowers have faded, plant the bulbs in the garden. Tulips tend to not do well for me after the first year, so I compost them. Have fun and enjoy!

It’s a Hodge Podge of Plants!

Horticulture Report — September 2019

By Sherrie Eoff

Ironweed: vernonia lettermanii-Letterman Ironweed: the narrow leaf or thread leaf ironweed is a plant species known only from Arkansas and Oklahoma. In its native range this species occurs on gravel bars and adjacent rocky outcrops in droughty, sometimes flooded sites. Ironweeds are members of the daisy family. Narrow leaf ironweed is typically two feet tall and three feet wide; a long-lived, tap-rooted herbaceous perennial with stems that originate from a dense crown. It has entire, 1/8th-inch-wide by 3-inch-long leaves that cover the unbranched stems from top to bottom.  From early August through September the plant is topped with open clusters of purple disc florets joined into an inch-wide head. Ironweeds are favorites of a wide range of butterflies and are often covered with them. Allan Armitage, the University of Georgia plantsman who has introduced a number of fine plants, selected “Iron Butterfly,” a vigorous and floriferous selection from seeds obtained from Arkansas sources. The plant is named for George W. Letterman (1841-1913), a reclusive botanist said to have been famous amongst plantsmen of his day. Letterman had a one room cabin near St. Louis and collected plants from the Meramec River, the principle river system that drains the northern portion of the Ozark Highlands and enters the Mississippi River near St. Louis.

Ironweed

*The feathery foliage creates a soft texture that is a lovely addition to a perennial border, container or wildflower garden. In bloom it is covered with bright purple tassel flowers. Very tolerant of drought, it performs beautifully in a wide variety of soil types and seems to thrive in summer humidity. 

*Full Sun, 24-30” tall, blooms late summer-early fall. Attracts butterflies. 

Stachys: Stachys monnieri, ‘Hummelo’, Hummelo Alpine Betony was named after Piet Oudolf’s hometown. The low growing rosette of textured green leaves is topped by showy spikes of lavender-pink flowers in mid-summer for an extended period. Stachys ‘Hummelo‘ is a tough, carefree beauty. Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Appreciates some light afternoon shade in hot, humid climates. Soils should be kept evenly moist, but established plants have some drought tolerance. Spreads by creeping stems (stolons) that root as they go along the ground. Plant 12-18” apart for use as a ground cover. Cut back the flowering stalks to encourage re-blooming. Clumps will spread over time to form a dense ground cover. Although some species of Stachys are grown primarily for their gray woolly leaves (e.g., Stachys byzantina or lamb’s ears), this species is grown primarily for its vivid flowers which can provide a spectacular display, particularly when massed. Great addition to borders, cottage gardens, informal naturalized areas. Interesting edging plant. 

Stachys

*Full to part sun, great for cut flowers, 18-20” tall. Tolerates Deer, Black Walnut**

St. Johns’ Wort: Hypericum calycinum- Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Tolerates wide range of soils. Thrives on sandy soils in full sun. Less floriferous in part shade. Evergreen in warm winter climates. Usually dies to the ground or suffers some tip dieback in cold winter climates, but blooms on new growth and comes back nicely each spring. In areas where it does not die in winter, shear or mow plants in late winter or early spring every 2-3 years to renew and induce new growth. Spreads rapidly by underground stems and can spread aggressively in ideal growing conditions. Plant 18″ apart for use as a ground cover. Mass as a ground cover. Rock gardens, border fronts, naturalized plantings. Edger for open woodland gardens. Also effective massed on slopes, hillsides or embankments for stabilizing soils. Plant under trees where it competes well with shallow tree roots. Allan Armitage calls the species “one of the finest ground covers available”.

St. John’s Wort

*Attractive evergreen groundcover with deep green foliage and 2” gold flowers with pincushion-like stamens in late spring and early summer. Plant in average, well-drained soil.

*Full sun, 15-18” height

Japanese Anemone: ‘Honorine Jobert’. Japanese windflower is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers fertile, consistently moist, humus-rich, neutral to slightly alkaline soils with good drainage. Best in part shade. Flowering stems tend to flop in too much shade. Prefers sheltered locations with protection from wind. Foliage tends to burn in hot, dry, sunny summer conditions. Soils must not be allowed to dry out. Avoid wet, poorly-drained soils, however, particularly in winter. Plants may not survive wet overwintering conditions.

*A timeless classic-this stately, clear white selection was made in the mid-1800s and is still beloved by modern gardeners. Add to a patio container or plant directly into flowerbeds for a dramatic late summer show of blooms. 

Anemone

*Use in perennial borders, cottage gardens, woodland gardens. 

* Part shade, 3-4’ height, blooms mid to late summer, white blooms. Tolerates deer

Comfrey: Symphytum officinale herb, Comfrey is a tall, easy to care for perennial plant that is often grown simply for its beauty. However, comfrey was once grown as a popular medicinal herb. Unfortunately, we have recently learned that it can be carcinogenic when taken internally, but it is still used as a topical treatment for skin irritations, cuts, sprains, and swelling. It is also used as livestock feed and making compost. Comfrey plants shoot up quickly, early in the season. Comfrey is in the same family as borage, a smaller plant with a similar structure. Because of its deep taproot, comfrey is extremely drought tolerant and a useful clay-busting plant. It produces multi-colored flowers born on forked cymes.

Comfrey

*Beautiful foliage is outstanding all season. Nodding bell shaped flowers in blue, pink, purple, or white. A well-behaved ground covers that lights up shaded or woodland gardens. 

*Blooms late spring to summer. Part sun to shade. 15” tall.

*Attracts pollinators.

* Provides habitat for beneficial insects with its huge leaves, which helps to keep the garden pest-free. 

*Fertilizes with nutrient-rich mulch. It is a nutrient accumulator, reaching its roots deep into the ground to mine the subsoil for nutrients (potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and more). The nutrients accumulate in the fast-growing leaves, which can be used as fertilizing green mulch.

**Toxic Juglone: black walnut trees are not always good companions in the garden and yard. In fact, they can be toxic to nearby plants. Very often, when sensitive plants are grown near the roots of black walnut trees, the plants die.

Black walnuts contain a chemical called juglone which can be allelopathic to other plants. According to Purdue University Cooperative Extension, “Juglone has experimentally been shown to be a respiration inhibitor which deprives sensitive plants of needed energy for metabolic activity.” What that means to gardeners is that many plants growing in the vicinity of a black walnut tree will either be killed or will struggle to live, with yellowing, wilting leaves.

Here are seven ways we can take advantage of comfrey’s goodness to enrich and condition the soil for healthier and more bountiful crops (for free!).

Activate Compost: Comfrey cuttings are high in nitrogen, making them an excellent bio-activator in the compost bin. If you have a large amount of dried brown material–such as fall leaves–layering it with comfrey cuttings is an efficient way to balance out the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and jumpstart decomposition. To give the compost pile an immediate kick into high gear, collect comfrey leaves and crush them. Garden scissors can be used to quickly cut through the leaves roughly. Add a small amount of water and stir/crush for a minute or two to make a paste. Add more water to liquefy, and then pour the entire solution onto the compost pile. This quick little extra step is the equivalent of chewing food. The pre-digestion helps beneficial micro-organisms of the compost pile (like those of our stomachs) get to work faster. The finished compost will have a higher nutrient content with the addition of comfrey cuttings. Comfrey cuttings are ready to be used as green manure, green mulch, or crushed and added to the compost bin.

Comfrey Manure: Green manure is an alternative to—or supplement to—animal manures as a soil amendment. Green manure plants are simply cut back and turned into the soil. For those on city lots who may not have easy access to livestock manures, green manures are the way to go.

Manure sources are rated for their N-P-K values (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) since they are the primary nutrients plants need for healthy growth. When comparing comfrey manure (1.8-0.5-5.3) to chicken manure (1.1-0.8-0.5) for example, we can see that they are relatively close in value, with comfrey actually having higher nitrogen and potassium values. By comparison, the value of homemade compost usually falls around 0.5-0.5-0.5, highlighting the fact that the benefit of compost is in its beneficial microbial content and as a soil conditioner, rather than as fertilizer.

When using comfrey as a green manure, add chopped comfrey to garden soil in the fall. Gently mix it into the top layers of the soil using a digging fork. By spring, it will have mostly decomposed and enriched the soil. Comfrey cuttings and compost soil are added to beds in the fall as a green manure soil amendment.

Powdered Comfrey: the dried comfrey leaves are used to make a healing salve for cuts, scrapes, bites, bruises, sore joints, and all manner of external ailments.

Dried and powdered (root or leaf) comfrey can also be used to build and fertilize garden soil. Make your own by air drying comfrey or by using a dehydrator at 95 degrees until crisp. Remove the dried leaves from the stems and use a blender or coffee grinder to make a powder. Store in an air-tight container.

Simply mix powdered comfrey into the soil with a digging fork, about two weeks before planting. Remember that powdered comfrey is more concentrated than fresh leaves, so a little goes a long way. A sprinkle along each row should be plenty. The benefit of using the powdered comfrey is that it can be used in the late winter/early spring garden before the comfrey plants have woken up and produced leaves. The powder will also decompose more readily than fresh leaves, which is better for the spring garden.

 Condition Soil: Comfrey’s roots reach 6-10 feet deep into the earth, breaking up heavy clay and creating channels for aeration and better water absorption. Over time, its decomposing leaves and roots will fertilize the soil. This dual action of decomposing leaves and roots can help improve marginal land. Since comfrey prefers rich soil, when planting it in poor or damaged soil, give it a head start by adding a shovel of manure or compost.

Boost Seedlings: Young perennials and fruiting vegetable seedlings will enjoy a nutritional jumpstart from comfrey. At the time of planting, bury a few comfrey leaves (not flowering stems) underneath each planting spot. As the comfrey leaves decompose, they will provide essential nutrients and help the young plants grow strong and free of pest and disease.

Compost tea is an excellent way to provide an immediate nutrient boost to established plants. It is made by steeping fresh plant matter in water for a certain amount of time, straining the liquid, and using it to water stressed plants for a mid-season boost. The extra nitrogen in comfrey compost tea will help overall growth, while the potassium will encourage better flowering and more vigorous growth in perennials and mature fruiting vegetable plants such as tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cucumbers, etc. Comfrey compost tea is not recommended for young plants.

To make a strong comfrey compost tea: Fill any size container halfway with fresh comfrey cuttings. Fill with water, cover, and steep for 3-6 weeks. Warning: This will smell really bad! Strain off the liquid and dilute by half. Or if using a hose end sprayer, no need to pre-dilute.

To make a weaker (less smelly) comfrey compost tea: Add one gallon of water for every quart of fresh comfrey cuttings. Let sit for three days, stirring daily, and then strain and use full strength.

Comfrey Mulch—in general—is a great way to protect soil and prevent erosion. Mulching with comfrey—also called chop-and-drop—will help to retain moisture and protect beneficial soil organisms. Comfrey mulch is a slow-release fertilizer that is best used under perennials and fruiting vegetables. We grow comfrey underneath our cherry trees so that the fruit trees benefit from comfrey fertilizer.

HELLEBORUS

By Sherrie Eoff

Helleborus or Christmas Rose

Helleborus, also called Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose, is one of the most attractive and longest blooming perennials for the part shade to full shade garden, especially DRY shade. They are deer resistant, great for mixed beds and borders, hardy in zones 4-9, evergreen, and late-winter to early spring flowering. In my garden they usually start blooming Feb. and will hold the blooms for a good 3 months. The color of the blooms does fade over time, but how many perennials will have blooms for 3 months!?!? Continue reading “HELLEBORUS”