Power to the Pollinators!

Power to the Pollinators!

It’s POLLINATOR WEEK! It’s time to celebrate the myriad creatures that pollinate most of our food plants. They are in trouble, their numbers are declining, and we ALL need to step up to the plate and help. At Natureworks, we protect and teach about pollinators every single day. But this week, we are making a special effort to educate our customers, young and old.
Protecting our pollinators comes in many forms. First of all, you must stop using toxic poisons. This may be harder to do than you realize since they are not always easy to spot. Learn about what’s in your food, what the plants that

Allium flowers attract lots of different pollinators including bees and wasps.

you add to your landscape are treated with. Second, you must plant lots and lots of flowers. Lists abound, including on the Pollinator Page on our website (click here). But the main thing that pollinators need is a steady, month-by-month supply of pollen and nectar. That means you need to study the succession of bloom in your yard. Do you have flowers from late winter/early spring thru very late in the fall? If not, let us help you to add flowering plants into your gap periods. 

 
It is hard to plan for pollinator plants that will bloom later in the summer and into the fall right now as we are so overwhelmed with the June bloomers that dazzle us when visiting Natureworks. Yes, June is the month of roses and Delphiniums and foxgloves, perennial Salvias, Penstemons, Astilbes, and so much more. In order to have color later, you have to purchase and plant some perennials and shrubs that are NOT in flower yet! It takes a bit of planning and determination. We’ve got 

Perennial ageratum is in stock now and will fill your garden with cut flowers in September.

them and can certainly help you match the right plants to your site. Why not grab some Eupatoriums, asters, and Helianthus (perennial sunflowers) when you are here. We just got in Helianthus salicifolius ‘First Light’, the compact form of willowleaf sunflower that is covered in yellow daisies in October. We have Eupatorium coelestinum, also called perennial ageratum, with soft blue flowers ideal for cut bouquets in September. Asters? We just got in a shipment of the aromatic aster, A. oblongifolius ‘October Skies’ and we have many others to choose from!

This is not a bee, it is a hoverfly pollinating an October blooming aromatic aster in our gardens. Plant now for late season color and to feed the late pollinators.
Pollinators prefer a good sized grouping of one type of plant. In garden design lingo, we call that planting in drifts of groupings. Right now, a very 
This week, our native elderberries are in bloom. This is a wonderful shrub to plant to have a Happy Habitat.

important pollinator plant in my yard is my native elderberry shrub, Sambucus canadensis. The flowers are flat-topped white umbels, and they are literally buzzing with life. Elderberry flowers are edible and are used for flower waters, spritzers, liqueurs, tea, and wine. That are the ultimate habitat plant. Their stems are pithy and are used by tunnel nesting bees to live in over the winter. The fruit is beloved by birds and, if you can harvest some before they eat it all, you can make elderberry syrup to keep you healthy over the winter. Because elderberries spread by suckering, they form excellent hedgerows to shelter small animals. And let’s not forget how my neighbor’s chickens love to come over when the berries are ripe and feast.

Planting large drifts of a perennial make it really easy for the pollinators to find it. In our gardens, we have a big stand of Echinacea (coneflower) intermingling with Alliums. 

We just got in a brand new native shrub that is not only a good pollinator plant, it is also a great bird plant and a superfruit! Aronia melanocarpa ‘Ground Hog’ is a GROUNDCOVER black chokeberry. This is one of latest in a series of wonderful Aronias bred by Dr. Mark Brand at the University of CT. What makes this variety so special? It only grows 8-14″ tall yet spreads up to 3′ wide! This means it is a great native groundcover shrub for partial shade or sun. I can think of so many places I could use this plant to fill in the gaps in my borders. The black fruit is very tart, but can be made into juice, again, if you can get to it before the birds. 

New this week is a compact form of Monarda punctata called ‘Bee Bop’. 

Another new variety of an unusual native plant that just arrived is Monarda punctata  ‘Bee Bop’. This is called dotted or spotted horsemint, and is, of course, in the bee balm family. This variety only grows 18″ tall and blooms in late summer. It tolerates much drier soils that other bee balms and would marry beautifully with orange butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Sometimes, learning how to combine plants together is the secret to a low maintenance garden. 

This is a closeup of Monarda punctata flowers. 
 
This is a very exciting time to be in the gardening business simply because of the renewed interest in organics, the strong emphasis on pollinators, and the increased awareness of the interconnectedness of all that we do and how it effects the ecosystem. Plant breeders are working constantly to introduce new plants that have multiple ecological functions. I have done a few workshops on Plants with a Purpose. That is what we are all looking for these days. What does this plant DO besides just look pretty? Can you eat it? Does it help the birds, the bees, the hummingbirds, the sphinx moths? Does is support beneficial insects. Is it a healing herb? Does it provide shelter to animals? The choices we make for our own yards suddenly really matters. 
Asclepias tuberosa literally covered in pollinators in the organic garden of one of our employees.

You don’t need a big yard to help our precious pollinators. They also love annuals of all sorts, and you can feed them right from your deck or patio. This week we just got in a few more flats of our staff’s favorite new annual: Cosmos ‘Rubenza’. This is a RED annual cosmos that morphs to the most amazing shades of deep coral as it ages. 

Cosmos ‘Rubenza’
On left is a fresh flower in our front garden. On the right is what the flowers transform to (interspersed with Allium christophii and poppies) in Diane’s garden. We can help you put together pollinator pots filled with annual butterfly weed, Verbena bonariensis, zinnias, verbenas, lantanas, and a host of other plants that will bring in pollinators including butterflies and sphinx moths, up close to where you sit and relax. 
Sphinx moths are such amazing pollinators. They look like a cross between a giant bee and a hummingbird. I took this picture in my lower back yard. I sneak around the back of my elderberry bush where I have a big stand of bee balm growing. There are often 4 or 5 sphinx moths on those flowers!
Other things you can do to protect our pollinators involve managing your property a bit differently. Allow flowers like clover and violets into your lawn. Don’t cut down all the dead stems of your perennials. Instead, leave them up in the winter to house the tunnel nesting bees. Leave a lot of your leaves on the ground- so many insects overwinter in the leaves. Never, EVER blanket spray your garden. You will kill the bad bugs and the good bugs, pollinators and beneficials included. 
One way to encourage pollinators is to add tunnel nesting bee houses to your yard. In our insect hotel, we also harvested hollow plant stems.
Summer officially arrives this Friday, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The harvest of my early veggie crops is in full swing, and, as summer arrives, I will be eating the last of my broccoli, lettuce, and escarole and

To get broccoli this big and healthy, you must grow it under floating row covers like Diane and I do. Her son sat in the garden and ate the broccoli florets- now that’s how to get your kids to eat their veggies!

replanting those beds with cucumbers, carrots, beets, summer squash, and beans. I am harvesting tons of garlic scapes this week. The garlic will be dug up in the middle of July, when I will CONTINUE to plant more seeds for fall crops. Can you manage to squeeze in just a few more tomato or eggplant seedlings somewhere in your yard? I hope so. We are putting the balance of our organic veggie seedlings on sale at 30% off till they’re gone. We still have some great varieties left. Just keep planting!

 
This Thursday evening I will not

To assure pollination, I have surrounded my raised beds with a wide border of aromatic herbs such as Pycnanthemum muticum (mountain mint). It amazes me how many different pollinators are attracted to this easy to grow native.

be doing Facebook Live because I will be having dinner with Doug Tallamy, the author of Bringing Nature Home and my native plant guru. He is speaking at the CT Horticultural Society meeting in West Hartford and many of our Natureworks staff are going. Instead, I am going to record a video in my garden on Wednesday and post it on Facebook on Thursday. I will give you a personal tour of my new raised beds and show you how I plant now to get lots of great, organic food in late summer and fall. 

 
With summer arriving, we are making plans for lots of fun and educational events for both children and adults at Natureworks in July and August. We will be changing our hours starting July 1st. Be sure to make a note of this. The new hours are listed below. 
Heads up! Our beautiful planter heads are BACK and are asking you to scroll down to the bottom of this email and note that our hours will be changing starting July 1st. 
There are still spaces left in my Saturday morning workshop on Native Plants. Click here to register and reserve your spot. Remember, our pollinators LOVE native plants and I can teach you how to design your yard to offer native flowers in bloom from early spring until late fall. Ongoing all week we are offering some free kids events to help them learn about our pollinators. On Sunday, Diane is teaching a class on raising monarch butterflies. They are HERE now and we are actively raising them from eggs and tiny caterpillars that we are collecting in our organic gardens. You can too. Click Here to register. 
Calling all pollinators- Salvia ‘Bumbleberry’ is a feast of beautiful flowers awaiting you at Natureworks!
I hope you can make time to come in for a visit this week. Our gardens are lush and abundant, our benches are overflowing with tons of cool plants, and the inside of our shop is filled with many new gift items as well as organic gardening supplies that you probably really need right now. 
 
See you soon!
 
 
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Clematis ‘Sapphire Indigo’ is in stock this week.
P.S. If you are looking for beautiful flowering vines, this is the week you should come for a visit. We have a large selection of many different non-invasive honeysuckles and many gorgeous varieties of clematis.