Bee Friendly

I have been seeing a variety of bees in the garden lately, including honey bees, carpenter bees and others. Carpenter bees are especially attracted to several fall-flowering plants next to our patio. Every day I see them buzzing around the Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha), Red Dragon Persicaria, and Caryopteris 'Jason'.Mexican Sage
Mexican sage attracts hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. It blooms summer through fall and is hardy to about 15 degrees F.

Here is a view of the front garden, looking over the Mexican sage by the patio. The Japanese maple behind the arch is the one attacked by Ambrosia Beetles. I have treated it and removed much of the affected areas. I will wait till spring to see if it survives. Despite the extensive surgery, it is still a beautiful tree. A close-up of Mexican Sage; it feels like velvet!

Here is another view of Mexican Sage.

The Mexican Sage coordinates well with this birdhouse. The orange flowers are Firebush, another great plant that attracts hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

The pollinators also love Red Dragon Persicaria.

Fall-blooming Caryopteris is also called Blue Mist Shrub or Bluebeard. Be aware there is a spirea called Blue Mist Shrub, which is a different plant!

Carpenter bees look much like bumblebees in size and appearance, but the top of their abdomens are hairless and shiny black, while bumblebees are fully clothed with hairs, many of them yellow.

Carpenter bees are important pollinators and they don't sting you, but they are noted for drilling holes into wooden structures, which they use for nesting and overwintering. They also use trees or telephone poles.

Although we have a healthy carpenter bee population around our home, I have never seen any evidence of damage from them. (We do have problems with woodpeckers, who mistake the stucco on the front of our house for dead trees!) Carpenter bees prefer unpainted or old, weathered wood, so the best way to prevent damage to your home is to paint or varnish any wooden structures. Simply staining the wood does not usually work. There also are both chemical and organic products available to get rid of carpenter bees.

Before you decide to kill them, remember that, unlike honey bees, carpenter bees are native to America and they pollinate many types of blooms. A lot of bee species are on the decline due to disease and insecticide use. Without our pollinators, we won't have beautiful gardens or food!


Getting Through October

I plan to get up early tomorrow and spend the day cleaning the garden and getting rid of the dead stuff. I will feel better if I don't have to look at the brittle corpses of plants that once were healthy and full of blooms. We have had no rain since the bit we got two weeks ago, and the weatherman is saying the current drought will extend at least until November.

We just need to get through October. Many leaves are shriveling on the trees and shrubs, then falling in gray heaps. The grass is crispy tan. But I am fortunate to have a lot of evergreens that adapt to whatever the climate delivers; so at a glance the garden doesn't look too bad.

This is a view overlooking the woodland garden. The 'Saybrook Gold' junipers have proved durable through all seasons.

A little farther up the drive from the 'Saybrook Gold' junipers is my beloved 'Feelin' Blue' Deodar Cedar. Behind it is a Trident Maple, a Forsythia, and a huge Southern Magnolia.

This Anise 'Florida Sunshine' has prospered in the woodland garden with minimal care. The leaves have a wonderful fragrance.

Mahonia 'Soft Caress' is another woodland garden plant that has done well though our drought. It took a couple of years to become established and needed babying at first, but now it has begun to thrive.

Here are a few additional shots I took as I walked around this afternoon:My Fuyu Persimmon tree is still growing in a pot, though I plan to transplant it someday. The fruit is almost ready to pick.

Our sweet bell peppers did poorly through the summer, and I was getting ready to pull them up when I noticed new growth in September. I began a fresh regimen of watering and fertilizing with fish emulsion, and look at them now! One of them is turning red. For maximum flavor I like to leave them on the vine until they have fully ripened.

Assorted ornamental kale adds a pretty accent to the fall vegetable garden. It's edible but not particularly tasty.

Look close. Do you see the ants? I did not see them until I enlarged the photo on my computer. Now I need to see if this Asclepias has aphids!

These common asters are blooming despite almost total neglect. A pure golden green sweat bee ( Augochlora pura) appreciates the nectar.