What am I doing planting in the snow? After a robust season of gardening for others, I’m still catching up with my own home gardening by getting inkberry in the ground before the earth freezes up for good.
Inkberry (Ilex glabra) is a New England native plant that supports pollinators and other wildlife. In the holly family, these particular female Ilex glabra shrubs have nice dark berries that birds love. The red berries? This is a female winterberry, another native shrub in the holly family (Ilex verticillata), especially important to birds migrating in the spring.
Since I’m planting so late here in North Easton, I’ll apply about two gallons of water, delivered in small gulps, then cover the planting area with a thick but fluffy layer of leaves for insulation for the winter. Until the ground freezes, they’ll need about an inch of water every week, so I’ll continue watering as needed.
European honey bee harvests nectar from Helenium flower in Cambridge, MA garden, while perhaps unwittingly captures pollen and moves it to other flowers for pollination. Image copyright 2017 Carol Lundeen. All rights reserved.
What a delight to be gardening in Cambridge and have hardworking European honey bees show up in their pollinator hats. Who keeps the bees, what’s the history of the queens, and who most enjoys the honey? I want to meet these people and the hives and learn their story. Ah, I’m so lucky to have clients who appreciate these little wonders of the world.
A native bee harvests nectar from native bee balm, or Monarda, in a Sharon, MA perennial and pollinator garden.
My general idea of a successful organic garden is to plant the right native plant in the right place in the right plant and soil community and let nature have its way. Native plants thrive in our native soils, support the local ecosystem by helping our birds and bees thrive.
Just today in my backyard I observed a wren arriving at its birdhouse with a caterpillar and heard the choir of baby wrens competing with open mouths for that nutritious meal.
Think about it. Everything we eat was once a plant, and without insects such as caterpillars and bees, we’d have no plants and no food. So plant a native next time, and you’ll be doing yourself and your neighboring ecosystem a big favor.
Plant These For Bees, a display at the Sharon Garden Club by guest speaker and beekeeper Barbara MacPhee. Suggested flowers for pollinators include anise hyssop, rosemary, poppy, bee balm, catmint, coneflower, borage, and thyme. [Photo by Dixie Buckland]
Sharon Garden Club presenter and beekeeper Barbara MacPhee.
Fun honey bee facts from Sharon Garden Club presenter and beekeeper Barbara MacPhee, at our February meeting:
Among honey bees, it’s the worker bees (who are all females) that you see (and hear) collecting nectar and pollen. The males, called drones, maintain the hives.
It takes 1,152 honey bees flying a distance of 112,000 miles, harvesting from 4.5 million flowers, to produce one pound of honey. Now that is impressive, ladies!
In early spring, bees need early-flowering plants like snowdrops, Claytonia and dandelions to support their hives. Forsythia, while a traditional feel-good sign of spring for humans, has zero pollen and zero nectar. Consider replacing one with a pollinator-friendly native shrub like redbud or viburnum.
Later in the season, agastache, clover (yes, in your lawn!) and borage, plus winterberry and American holly, are some of the other plants that honey bees favor.
And my two cents: Think about it: just about everything you and I eat was once a plant, most likely a flowering plant. No pollinators, no food. Are you hungry to support pollinators now?
I love winter. I love how snow scrunches under my boots, the hint of wood smoke, going out my backdoor directly into the Easton woods, making fresh snowshoe tracks. I love how the trees and shrubs and perennials and annuals know what to do: looking dead but being very much alive, including the seeds, and how they all know what to do in the spring as the cold recedes.
Please join me in celebrating this season of rest and renewal!