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Archive for bee friendly plants

How A Garden Helps Your Family By Helping Bees

Portland Residential Landscape Designer How A Garden Helps Your Portland Family By Helping Bees

As a parent, you work hard to help your family. That means you have to look out for their welfare. And believe it or not, that includes helping bees.

These insects do a lot for your family, but they are disappearing at an alarming rate. Thankfully, your family can support bees by creating a garden. Not only will this help them thrive, it’s fun for you and your children. But first, you need to understand why a dwindling bee population is a problem.

Bees Are Vital To Your Food Supply

The secret to why bees are so important is one word: cross-pollination. This is when pollen from one plant gets to a new plant. Pollination is what creates seeds to grow a new generation.

This is where bees come in. As they fly from flower to flower, they cross-pollinate plants. National Honey Bee Day tells us that 50%-80% of the food supply depends directly or indirectly on pollination by bees. Some of the crops that depend on bees for new seeds each year are apples, watermelons, coffee, strawberries, and even plants used by cattle as food.

That’s why this is a big problem for your family. Without bees and pollination, many foods your family enjoys will either get very expensive or disappear altogether.

Creating A Bee-Friendly Garden

Affordable Landscaping Portland

Lavandula stoeches ‘Winter Bee’

Thankfully, your family can do something to keep those foods on the table. It starts with a garden.

Bees need flowers for food. The more flowers they can find, the healthier they can become. This leads to more bees, helping their numbers get back to where they used to be. That’s why your family can help by creating a garden at home that bees will love.

Beverly Bees has several tips for helping your garden work for this.

  • You can pick flowering herbs (basil, mint, sage), flowering vegetables (broccoli, cucumbers, strawberries), or just flowers.
  • Group the same plants together in the bed to make them more attractive to bees.
  • Pick plants that bloom at different times of the season so bees have a constant food supply.
  • Late winter and early spring plants are harder for most people to plan for.  Here is Carol’s blog about flowers for winter bees.

When you visit your local garden supply store, it might help to know some terms about gardens and landscaping in general. HomeAdvisor.com has a great glossary of these terms so you know what you’re talking about.

Health Benefits Of Gardening

Garden Design Portland Designing a garden will help bees stay healthier, but your family will benefit from it as well. Organic Life explains five surprising ways gardening can help your family’s health:

  1. Reducing stress and anxiety.
  2. Decreasing risks of heart disease and diabetes.
  3. It improves happiness.
  4. It cuts the risk of Alzheimer’s by half.
  5. It improves sleep.

Gardening can also improve everyone’s self-esteem. This activity reduces cortisol in the body, which helps you feel better about yourself. In fact, just seeing your garden growing can help people feel like they did something helpful.

A Garden For Bees And Your Family

If too many bees disappear, a lot of food your family enjoys will get more expensive or even vanish. That’s why building a garden to feed bees can help. Plus, just making a garden can do wonderful things for your family. Who’s ready to get dirty? Make an appointment to start designing your Portland garden.

Coreopsis colorful easy low-water plantings

Tickseed - Coreopsis Bengal Tiger Photo Terra Nova Nurseries

Tickseed – Coreopsis ‘Bengal Tiger’  Photo Terra Nova Nurseries

Coreopsis colorful easy low-water plantings

As a Portland landscape designer I use Coreopsis verticillata and its’ cultivars because it’s a perfect colorful, low maintenance plant for modern landscape designs, bee friendly gardens, cottage gardens, container gardens and low-water plantings.

Clients love it because it flowers for such a long time from summer into fall.  Coreopsis is beloved.

I wrote this blog to help clients understand which Coreopsis will live for years and which ones will not.   Coreopsis verticillata is one of about five species of Coreopsis that are native to the United States.   Many people feel  that Coreopsis verticillata will grow too wide after about five years and will need to be divided.  A lot of my younger clients are so focused on low-maintenance plants that I typically don’t include any plants that need to be divided in their plans.  I still have this old-fashioned idea that I can provide a planting plan where all the plants will last 20 years and the trees forever.   However, if I really stick to that I’m shorting my busy young clients of some plants that are going to do very well for a long enough period of time. Digging up a plant every five years chopping it in half, tossing half of it or giving it away, and then re-planting half of it is less work than having  to buy a new plant.

So if you are still interested in a low maintenance easy plant that has to be divided read on. Read More →

Summer Heather – Perfect for year round color

Calluna vulgaris - Summer heather is 4" inches tall with summer flowers in Woodland Park Landscape DesignSummer Heather – Perfect for year round color

Summer flowering heather can be easy care

I used heather at my vacation house because it’s so easy.  I’m there once a month, have no irrigation system and I have hungry deer.  It’s got to be a tough plant to make it!  Lots of people buy heather, plant them and they die quickly.  Without knowledge specific to heathers, success is tenuous, but with a little knowledge this is a very tough drought tolerant winner of a plant in my book.  It has year-round beauty, is great food for bees and it can be the evergreen plant that holds a summer garden together visually through the winter.

Calluna-vulgaris 'Firefly' Photo from Great Plant Picks

Calluna Vulgaris ‘Firefly’ Photo from Great Plant Picks

Planting Tips:

Honey bee on spring heather in Sellwood Moreland garden designHeathers need good drainage but if you have clay soil don’t despair.  Heathers planted on a burmed planting bed or  on a low mound do well.  Heathers are perfect for  sunny slopes.

A designer pal plants her heathers in pure barkdust.  I’ve done this and had excellent results as long as it was on a slope or berm.  Don’t try this crazy bark dust idea in a flat landscape with heavy clay unless you berm up.

Watering well the first year is critical.  If heather plants dry out to the point of  wilting, even just a little bit, they will die.  There is no rescuing it with water and having it “perk up” as many other plants will do.   When the tiny fine foliage wilts or dries the plant stops taking in water with its roots.  Avoid this first year problem and take advantage of the benefits of a fall planting.  You still have to water carefully the first summer after a fall planting but it is not so edgy.

Pruning Tips:

Pruning is important and easy.  The most important year for pruning is the second spring after you have planted the plant.  Prune before new growth starts.  You must trim to just above the previous years wood; trim too much and you will have ugly holes in your plants that may never fill in.  Avoid pruning late in fall or winter.

Calluna -Summer Flowering Heather

Calluna Vulgaris at Heaths and Heathers nursery in Shelton Washington

Trim too little or not at all and  in a few years you will have an ugly plant with bare wood stems in the center of the plant.  When this happens we can’t simply cut it back severely which we can do with many plants to fix the problem.  Trimming every year before new growth starts (February or March for Pacific Northwest) will keep your plants attractive long term.  Who knew low maintenance was so much work right?  Once you know what to do, you have a plant that will work beautifully for decades with a once a year trim.  That is low maintenance.

 

Heather at Harstine

Calluna Vulgaris ‘White Lawn’ w Sedum ‘Xenox’ and Sedum ‘Voo Doo’

 

Summer heather/Calluna Vulgaris is a great plant for hot sun situations.  This summer for the first time ever, I actually had foliage burn.  They got no water for 45 days in record breaking heat, but since these plants have been there for five years there was not permanent damage or loss.  New plants would not tolerate that amount of drought but mature plants took my neglect in stride.  6 months later there was no sign of any damage.  My kind of plant!

 

How to Prune Your Lavender Plants – Best Practice

How to Prune Your Lavender Plants – Best Practice

How to Make Your Lavender Last for Ten Years-Prune Twice A Year

In late winter, (January and February) pruning lavender is an optimistic and happy task.  If you are in on the secret this is when lavender gets the biggest cut.  (See video below for the how to.) For decades people were taught to prune only in late winter.  This outdated practice does not give you a long lasting plant.

In the fall no one wants to prune their blooming (still colorful if faded) lavender plants.  (NOOOOO! I don’t want to prune them, they are soooo pretty right now!)  I agree gentle gardener, but please let me persuade you to try this new technique and prune them the second time.

Trimming lavender back by half (late summer/early fall) and trim again in late winter/early spring.  This gets you ten years instead of  three in  your garden! Learning how to do this in a garden coaching appointment is a confidence builder. Once you learn how, you can have fabulous low care lavender the rest of your gardening life.

Another bonus to pruning twice; lavender can look tidy for winter if we prune them correctly in the fall.  How to properly prune lavender. The video was created by our own Stonegate Lavender grower from West Linn (who sadly closed up shop in 2015). I agree with her technique and her video is still live, teaching people the right technique.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to use a lavender saw, you can use your trusty Felco pruners or other clippers – the lavender saw Sarah is using is pretty cool and is old school as in 1500’s.

Lavender is an excellent plant for feeding our native bees and endangered bumble bees.  Not any old plant will do for natural bees. Contact me for a landscape design that includes easy care colorful plants that are good for our pollinators.