Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rethinking future flowering plant purchases

Several years ago I decided to limit my annual plant purchases and try to invest in perennials that come back every year.  We have been happy with that arrangement and our perennials are increasing in size and ready to divide.  But then we got the bees and we decided to make even more changes.

There is a lot of info out right now about what is causing colony collapse and the death of the honey bees.  It is really hard to discern what info is correct or if there is disinformation being put out by the large corporations to point the finger away from them.  I don't know what is true and what isn't so my only recourse until it is definitively figured out is to limit my plant purchases to heirloom varieties or trading old plants with friends that are pesticide free.

When we purchased our home there were a lot of old flowers growing here and there.  I've dug and dug and replanted and replanted as many as I could find space for in the yard.  This spring after our very very hard winter here in Michigan, I realized that the flowers and trees that survived were the true zone 4 plants and trees.  Our winters had been getting milder and milder and on some maps we were even re classified as zone 5a.  Well that is all well and good until you have a winter like last year and the prediction is for another cold winter this year.  Unhappy about that.

So I've decided that we will concentrate on bee and butterfly friendly plants and only plant indigenous trees. Most of my deciduous tree damage was done to non indigenous trees like dogwoods and red buds. My black walnuts, tulip tree, sycamore, catalpas, maples, and oaks were unfaved.

The vacant lot next to our property has a hickory tree growing on it.  So I have been on the lookout for hickory saplings and have found three so this fall we will attempt to transplant.

My common lilacs (syringa vulgaris) were unfaved by the hard winter but my fancy lilacs not so much. Many died back and have started regrowing at the base.   I guess I should be happy that they were not a total loss but those lilacs were the expensive ones so I was expecting to have large full bushes by now.

My cone flowers and phlox are performing wonderfully so they are on my keep list.  My day lilies are staying too. Many of my day lilies are from my first house and my mother in law's yard.  I also have a great red day lily from my blog friend, Annette, in CA.

The irises all seemed to fare well and are staying.  R said he found another one of his mother's old irises at her house which we are in the process of getting ready to sell.  She had a lot of irises at one time but she had very sandy soil and as she got older they were not watered as much and some completely dried out and died.

What plants will I be adding?  I have some black eyed Susans that I know are at least 25 years old that are growing at our other house.  Some of those will come to The Gear and I will divide a dark pink Monarda (bee balm) that I currently have growing in my yard.  I am also going to try and save all the milk weed that is currently growing over by the apple trees.  Milk weed is necessary for the Monarch population.  Next year I will plant dill weed for the swallow tail butterflies. I am hoping to can some dill pickles next year so a little dill for the butterflies and a little dill for me.

I have a lot of Autumn Joy sedum growing in my yard.  I know these are at least 20 years old because I planted them at my other house and from 2 plants I now have two houses that have a lot of Autumn Joy.  I know of three small offshoots that will get transplanted this fall.  The bees love the fall flowers on the Autumn Joy and I love that they are hardy and bloom late into the fall.

Of course my hostas made it through the winter flawlessly.  I will also keep all my shrub roses but I need to be more vigilant on keeping them trimmed back so I don't have to have another marathon rose trimming session.  I still need to cut back a row of purple rug roses but their stems look like bottle brushes because they have so many thorns.

And lastly, in our apiary we will transplant a lot of the pink and purple phlox, some pink cone flowers, and I'll try and buy some lavender that can be guaranteed to be pesticide free.  This should make for a beautiful and bee friendly home for the new hives.