June 2013

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day: June 2013

'Hummelo' stachys, 'Elvira' red-hot poker, 'Lady Elsie May' rose and 'Purple Emporer' sedum. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

This is the time of year between spring and summer, when a few late spring perennials and shrubs are still lovely, but summer blooms are a few weeks away, the garden seems to quiet down. Soon, lilies will be blooming along with hosta, later blooming hydrangeas, coneflowers and more.

Everything seems a bit or early or late this year, but the cooler, more moist weather has prolonged the show for many plants.

I love happenstance plantings and celebrate ‘Hummelo’ (Stachys officinalis). ‘Lady Elsie May’ Rosa, ‘Purple Emperor’ Sedum and ‘Elvira’ red-hot poker (Kniphofia). ‘Elvira’ is new to the mix and blends nicely with the ‘Lady Elsie May’ rose.

Today, ‘Annabelle’ (Hydrangea arborescens) is loaded with pale green flowers, which will soon turn to white for their summer show. In a bit more sun is Invincibelle Spirit, the first pink-flowering H. arborescens on the market. The form of this plant has definitely improved as it has matured, but I’m still not 100 percent in love with the color, a sort of dusty pink.

White Dome, another H. arborescens, has a lace cap flower and is more like the straight species. Still, a lovely plant that is more restrained and subtle compared to its sister ‘Annabelle’.

White Dome hydrangea. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

All of the dwarf oakleaf hydrangeas (H. quercifolia) are blooming, even the three ‘Pee Wee’ planted last year. The first dwarf oakleaf I planted several years ago, ‘Sike’s Dwarf’, is now mature and really beautiful. I see it every day of the year, walking in and out my back door from the house to the garage and when I stand at the kitchen sink. Every day, for four seasons a year, I enjoy this plant.

'Sike's Dwarf' oakleaf hydrangea will have to be moved this summer. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

But, it’s grown too big for its space and in reaching maturity, hides all of the other smaller, but beautiful plants behind it. So soon, I will cut back the plant, dig it up and transplant it to its new spot. To do that, though, I will have to dig and transplant a bunch of big, wonderfully fragrant hostas, which bloom in late July and August.

So, I think what I’m going to do is enjoy the oakleaf for the next few weeks, cut it back, dig it up and pot it up in a good size nursery pot to hold until the hostas finish their show and I can move them.

A mix of Heuchera and Heucherella provide gorgeous foliage that is there year-round. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

I harvested my first blueberry…the only one blue, and the Carolina all-spice’s flowers have been quite lovely this year. New for me is Redventure Celery, from the Drunken Botanist collection. I’m growing it in a pot  and it’s bloomed and now I need to figure out when you harvest it.

I'm sorry this is a bit blurry. I took the photo then ate the blueberry before I looked at the picture. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Carolina all-spice. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Redventure celery flower. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Although Heuchera and Heucherella bloom, these plants are mostly appreciated for the foliage color. The foliage frequently changes colors as the leaves age or as the plant goes through the season. Here in Indianapolis, the foliage is evergreen persisting in some color through winter. In early spring, you just go out and snip off any winter-damaged leaves.

Last fall, I moved a bunch of Hellebores (Helleborus) from the shadier back yard to a spot in the front that gets good morning sun. These plants, which I’ve had for several years, have doubled in size. Their growth has been amazing and making me wonder if I should transplant more of these evergreen, winter-blooming perennials to sunnier locations.

A native bumble bee forages for pollen and nectar on a spirea. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Lastly, this coming week is National Pollinator Week. Last month at the Garden Writers Association’s Region III meeting in Wooster, we learned about pollinating insects, birds and animals (even humans). In the program, we learned about bees and floral fidelity.

Once you know this, you will recognize bees’ practice of floral fidelity in your own garden. The lesson: plant flowering plants in clumps or clusters. Learn more about how to celebrate National Pollinator Week.


Celebrate National Pollinator Week by planting in clusters

June 17 to 23 is National Pollinator Week when we celebrate insects and animals that help produce $29 billion worth of food, including apples, nuts and tomatoes. And then there are the flowers.

A native bumble bee forages for pollen and nectar on a spirea. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

The big worry in this natural cooperative are the bees, which are threatened  by mites, pesticides and loss of habitat. Indiana has at least 400 species of bees that work the Hoosier landscape. What can we do as gardeners? It helps to know a little bit about bee behavior.

Bees practice floral fidelity. That means that on any given foraging trip, they visit only one species of flower, said Denise Ellsworth, program director of Ohio State University’s Honey Bee and Native Pollinator Education at Secrest Arboretum in Wooster.

For instance, the bees leave their hive and collect pollen and nectar from a stand of salvia and only the salvia. The bees return to the hive, deposit their harvest, head out and visit coneflowers and only coneflowers.

By contrast, butterflies flit from cosmos to lily to milkweed, or species to species.

This practice of bee floral fidelity is a guide to how we should plant our gardens, Ellsworth told a group of garden writers last month at Secrest.

Don’t plant onesies, such as a coneflower in the backyard and one in the front. Instead, plant the same flowers in clumps or clusters so a bee doesn’t have to work too hard to collect the goodies.

Use native plants. Bees, birds and other pollinators are hard wired to seek out native plants. All plants don’t have to be native, but be sure to have a good number in the mix.

Avoid using pesticides. If you must, don’t use them when flowers are open or bees are present. Know what you have before you treat it and always read and follow the label directions.