This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
Any gardener that is worth his salt is aware of the importance of bees in the garden. They are our chief pollinators along with wasps and flies, some moths and butterflies and even hummingbirds and bats.
In the early season one can observe our native mason bees and bumble bees working over early blooming shrubs and bulbs and perennials. This time of year it seems like the honey bee is the dominate species in the garden.
One of the most important things home gardeners can do to help bees is to plant lots of varieties of blooming plants so there is always something in the garden for the bees to feed on.
Here are two “can’t lose” varieties of late blooming perennials that will draw honey bees into your garden by the droves:
Sedum Autumn Joy (and its many variations): this is an upright sedum that grows about 18 inches tall and is topped with what looks like a head of broccoli until it turns a bright pink this time of year and a nice rust color as it matures.
I have seen Autumn Joy so covered with bees that you can’t even see the flowers. You can grow all sedums in full sun and drought conditions with very little care all season long.
Caryopteris (aka blue beard): is a small woody shrub that also thrives on neglect and blooms in August and September in the northwest with masses of tiny blue flowers. Bees love this plant and will spend all day extracting nectar from the flowers.
Plant it in a sunny spot with well-drained soil and cut it back hard every spring. It will grow to 2-3 feet tall and wide in one season.
There is even a golden-leafed variety which makes a delightful backdrop for the blue flowers.
Remember that bees are our friends (unless of course you are allergic to them in which case be very careful). For the most part they will not bother us while they are busy working over flowers on a sunny day so there is little to worry about.
Terrariums are making a comeback: It’s just a miniature garden in a bottle but it contains all the elements of an outside garden in a tidy little package and is an excellent learning tool for young gardeners.
It seems like today’s terrariums are more sophisticated with layers of different colored sand and rocks and unusually shaped glass globes that can be hung from the ceiling and even totally weird plants like Tillandsias that look artificial.
I remember having terrariums in my youth and the style I always preferred contained ferns and mosses but you can also make a terrarium with cactus and succulents and sand and throw in a lizard for a little wild life and feed the lizard a cricket now and then for some cheap entertainment.
Creating a terrarium is not a difficult task. All it takes is a little charcoal in the bottom (to compensate for no drainage), a good potting soil, a few plants that are compatible with each other and an accent like a special rock or piece of wood.
It’s an easy step (or should I say a slippery slope) to morph a terrarium into a miniature garden simply by adding some miniature furniture or birdbath or even miniature people. The possibilities are endless.
For more in-depth information on creating terrariums come to our free class this Saturday the 27th at 10am here at the nursery. RSVP is appreciated.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org.