Entries in plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds (2)


Gardener Gone Wild: My New Pollinator Garden

Thread Waisted Wasp on Variegated Joe Pye Weed.I have been eyeing the large untamed space beyond the arbor garden for years, thinking I may eventually get around to landscaping the area. In a moment of madness and inspired by an unusual cool summer day, I began the project about a month ago. Undaunted by the resumption of high temps and humidity, I purchased a few plants to inspire me. Variegated Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium fortune 'Pink Frost', was one of the first plants I bought for the new pollinator garden.

Then I began working like a wild woman. I sprayed glyphosate over the thick layer of vines and other weeds that covered the soil. When most of them were dead, I spread pine straw to define planting beds and winding paths. One entrance to the pollinator garden is through the arbor garden seen here in the background. That's another 'Pink Frost' Joe Pye Weed on the left.By night, I studied garden books, magazines and websites for guidance. By day, I dug and and planted. I was pleasantly surprised by the nice loamy soil that hid under the weeds. I remembered that over half a century ago, this was a working farm. Perhaps cattle roamed the area, or maybe vegetables grew here.

OK. I worked that out of me. I am not finished yet; I still have to mulch the paths and put in more plantings, especially those that bloom in spring and early summer. But I have accomplished enough that you can get an idea of what it will look like - if you have an imagination! I am calling this my pollinator garden, because many of the plants are friendly to butterflies and bees.Little Sulfur butterfly on a perennial lantana.

This bumble bee has pollen baskets tightly packed with pollen it has gathered from Giant Ironweed, Veronia gigantea.

I am limited somewhat, because trees that surround the area prevent plants from receiving full sun. Most plants I am using will do well in sun to partial shade. Sometimes plants that need full sun farther north will grow and bloom here with some shade because of our intense summer heat.

The place is in the "little dot" stage now. I am drawn to plants that have the word "weed" or "wild" attached to their common names: Joe Pye Weed, Iron Weed, Wild Ageratum. I hope they are tough and that they will fill out and spread like their names suggest! 

Here are some more images taken in my new pollinator garden. The paths will be better defined when I add mulch, which will also help suppress weeds.

Some flowers in the pollinator garden that are currently blooming, clockwise from top left: Iron Weed; Solidago 'Sweety', a dwarf goldenrod; Salvia 'Black and Blue'; Sedum 'Autumn Joy.'

Other plants, not previously mentioned in this post, in the pollinator garden:




Cranesbill (perennial geranium)




Pink Muhly Grass


Purple Oxalis


Creeping Fig, as a ground cover along one side of the pollinator garden

Lorepetalum 'Emerald Snow', a semi-dwarf with white blooms, planted on back edge for structure

Spirea 'Candy Corn', noted for its colorful foliage as well as spring blooms, also on back edge for structure

That's it for now, but much more to come! I am excited that some things are already blooming, but the real test will be how things look in year three. Always hopeful!    Deb




Got Humid Heat? Want Pollinators? Try Firebush!

Some like it hot. While many flowers shrink from the Deep South's summertime heat and humidity, there are many tropical plants that may not survive the winter but will thrive through the hottest summer to provide shots of color in the garden. This year I discovered Firebush, Hamelia patens. In this public domain photo a Zebra longwing butterfly is sipping nectar from a Firebush.It is also called Firecracker Shrub, Scarlet Bush, and Hummingbird Bush. This striking plant will bloom for months, from late spring until frost, and its tubular flowers attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. It provides both larval food and nectar for butterflies. Its also produces berries in the fall that are a treat for songbirds.

This woody perennial shrub is hardy in USDA zones 8b-11. It will grow as an annual in more northern regions of the South, with leaves that turn scarlet red as the temperatures cool. There are actually two forms of Firebush. Hamelia patens is native to Florida, as well as Mexico, the West Indies, and Central and South America. It has red blooms and will grow up to 15 feet tall in southern Florida, though it may be kept to 5 to 8 feet through pruning. A dwarf form, Hamelia patens var. glabra grows only to 4 to 8 feet. It may be planted in a 3 gallon or larger pot. Its blooms are lighter, orange with gold tips, rather than red. This dwarf form is native only to those areas south of the US, though introduced specimens may sometimes reseed themselves in southern Florida. It is just as attractive to wildlife as the taller native.Dwarf Firebush

Loving both heat and humidity, Firebush is a tough, easy-care plant. It will grow in full sun to light shade, in any well-drained soil. It is quite drought tolerant, though it should be watered regularly until it is established. 

My own plant is the dwarf, and I have it in a pot. I plan to move it indoors for winter, since the plant is unlikely to survive our lowest winter temps. Potted plants brought indoors should be protected from both freezing drafts and low humidity. I am really loving this plant. Every day I see bees, butterflies and hummingbirds visiting its blooms.Here is my dwarf firebush in the landscape. It is in a pot adjacent to my patio.