Monday, July 18, 2016

Creating A Bee Friendly Garden



Bees love coneflowers

Without bees, we wouldn't have much to eat and we would have far fewer herbs 
and flowers to enjoy. 

In order for fruits and seeds to form, a flower has to be fertilized with pollen from another flower of the same species. Some plants are self-pollinating, but most require help getting that yellow powder from one flower to another - and that is where the bees come in. As they visit flowers in search of food, they carry pollen with them and leave some behind at every stop. 

Unfortunately, the bee population has been declining rapidly in recent years, and it isn't clear why their colonies have been collapsing. Some possibilities are: parasite infections, exposure to pesticides, and loss of habitat due to over-development and intensive agriculture. Home gardeners can help reverse this trend by adding plants that provide food and habitat for bees.  

Here are some suggestions for bee friendly gardening:
  • Choose flowers that are flat and have single rows of petals. These make it easy for bees to get to the nectar they are looking for.
  • Bees like blue, purple and yellow, so keep that in mind when you add flowering plants.
  • Different varieties of bees are active at different times of the year, so try to have something in flower in your garden from early spring into fall in order to provide food for all of them. 
  • Leave a bit of brush, dry grass or dead wood in a protected corner of the garden to provide a nesting area.
  • Don't use pesticides. 
Plants that bees love include:
  • Asters
  • Asclepias (butterfly weed)
  • Borage
  • Cistus (rockrose)
  • Echinacea (coneflower)
  • Fennel
  • Lavandula (lavender)
  • Mondara (bee balm)
  • Oregano
  • Penstemon
  • Rudbeckia (brown-eyed Susan)
  • Salvia
  • Sunflowers
  • Sweet alyssum 
Here's a bee foraging for artichoke nectar.



Sunday, June 26, 2016

Tillandsia

Tillandsias have become very popular house plants - and for good reasons. They are easy to care for, inexpensive and come in a variety of foliage and flower colors.

Tillandsias are air plants, members of the Bromeliad family. They are native to Central and South America, the southern US and the Caribbean. They do not require soil or special planters. You can display them in whatever bowl or container suits your imagination.

The three key requirements for these plants are:

  • Water - these plants draw what they need from moisture in the air and the water you give them. Give them a quick soak, 5 minutes or so, two or three times a week, depending on how dry or humid your home is. Once or twice a month, add a Bromeliad or other water soluble fertilizer to the water, following package directions. 
  • Light - tillandsias like bright light, so put them near a sunny window. They can take direct sunlight in winter months and filtered sunlight in summer. 
  • Air circulation - tillandsias need good air circulation. They need to be in a spot where they can dry out completely within four hours of being watered.