Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We Have Hundreds of Thousands - We're Rich!

Last weekend the weather was just perfect. There were sunny, blue skies and none of that nasty humidity that so often plagues the Mid-Atlantic in summer. We were drinking our morning coffee and talking about our chores for the day when the birdhouse by our backdoor caught our attention. The chickadees were raising another batch of chicks, the third or fourth, we’ve lost count. In the time it takes to drink one cup of coffee, the parents had flown back and forth at least 10 times with insects for the young. I was wishing I had that much energy.

Last night I started reading the new book from Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy called The Living Landscape. It’s a beautiful book by the way, and there was a story about my little heroes the chickadees. I knew that almost all terrestrial birds rear their young on insects (96% to be exact) and that no insects equals no baby birds. But, I had no idea just how many insects they ate!

Check this out – Chickadees bring somewhere between 390 and 570 caterpillars to their nest each day depending on how many chicks they have. It takes 16 to 18 days for the young to fledge and the parents feed them for a few days after that too. That brings the total number of caterpillars needed to fledge just one clutch of chickadees up to 6,240 to 10,260!!!

So, between our multiple clutches of chickadees, all the other birdhouses and all the nests in the trees and shrubs we must have hundreds of thousands of caterpillars and other insects to feed them.

Yeah for Bugs - We’re Rich!

Bringing Life to Your Garden!
Have Fun Out There,
Peggy Anne

Shameless Family Promotion - My brother-in-law Peter Benarcik made that birdhouse for us several years ago. They're for sale at Five Ply Design

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A New Environmental Film - Hometown Habitat!

They Need Your Help to Produce This Film
Bee Part of the Action - Make Your Donation Today!

Catherine Zimmerman (The MeadowProject) has teamed up with Doug Tallamy and the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council to produce a new film on native plants called Hometown Habitat! This 90-minute documentary focuses on how and why native plants are critical to the survival and vitality of local ecosystems.  Entomologist Doug Tallamy provides the narrative and sounds the alarm about habitat and species loss. The message: “We can change the notion that humans are here and nature is some place else.  It doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t be that way.” Each individual has the power to conserve resources, restore habitat for wildlife and bring beauty to their patch of earth.  
I'm so proud of American Beauties Native Plants for being the very first organization to sponsor a minute of this important film!

  Would your company like to sponsor a minute? Make a tax deductible donation today!

“Donating funds to make this documentary film possible was the right thing to do. It’s important work, and what better way to convey the message about native plants, pollinators and larval foods than by seeing the relationship first hand.Surely, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a movie is worth a million.”- Steve Castorani Co-owner of American Beauties Native Plants
“By sponsoring a minute of production, American Beauties becomes the first organization to support the making of Hometown Habitat. We are thrilled!  We can not travel to tell these inspiring habitat hero stories without the financial backing from organizations and individuals, who are dedicated to promoting native plants. Thanks American Beauties for helping us kick this off!”
 - Catherine Zimmerman

About The Author
Catherine Zimmerman, an award-winning director of photography, has over 30 years of experience in documentary filmmaking with an emphasis on education and environmental issues. Environmental videos of hers include global warming documentaries for CNN Presents and New York Times Television; Save Rainforests/Save Lives, Freshfarm Markets, Wildlife Without Borders: Connecting People and Nature in the Americas, and America’s Sustainable Garden: United States Botanic Garden.

Bringing Life to Your Garden!
Have fun out there!
Peggy Anne

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

There’s No Place Like Home!

I was sitting at my desk this morning wondering what to write about. I looked through a pile of papers I keep in the ‘Please Read Me’ file and checked my notes online. I thought of writing about Greenhouse Growers June issue that’s dedicated to Protecting Pollinators. The spokes woman from the Xerces Society took issue with some of the facts put forward by Joe Bischoff in his article entitled ‘What’s All the Buzz About’. That could have been a good he said/she piece but then I looked out the window…

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and there is a light breeze with spring azures racing about. It’s an all around perfect day but not for debate. Days like this are meant for enjoying our gardens. Time to smell the roses or whatever is flowering. This is what we do it for, the weeding and watering and planting and pruning.  My inspiration was right here all the time. Take a walk with me…

The Quaker Ladies are just going to seed after a spectacularly long season of color. The Eastern Red Columbine was covered with orange-red flowers attracting our season’s first hummingbirds.

Viola ‘Silver Gem’ is finding her way into the cracks and crevasses of the natural stone we have in our back yard.

The Coneflowers are all just beginning to bloom. It didn’t take long for the bees and butterflies to find them. I have some in a vase beside on my desk. They last forever.

'Moerheim Beauty' Sneezeweed attracts butterflies and other pollinators and is surprisingly rabbit resistant and I have proof. Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Peter and their whole damn family live in our garden.

The fire pit area had a tremendous show of Columbine all spring and the Black-eyed Susans will take over in just a week or two along with ‘Major Wheeler' Trumpet Honeysuckle. Threadleaf Bluestar’s golden foliage will be on fire in the autumn sun.

‘Tiger Eyes’ staghorn sumac has been a favorite plant of mine since a co-worker and friend selected it at Bailey Nurseries.  Look at that color!

Blueberries with an under planting of Green and Gold – the ultimate ground cover for shady areas.

Short Toothed Mountain Mint is under used and under loved! It blooms for weeks on end and is an extraordinarily good source of nectar for smaller types of butterflies and a host of other insects. I use the silvery foliage in bunches of flowers I pick for the house.

The Fort is a work in progress. We thought of it last summer while we were trying to eat dinner outside and were being eaten alive by mosquitos. Now we can have our dinner and watch the fireflies too. Forts are never not fun!

Bringing life to your garden!

Have fun out there, Peggy Anne

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Magnificent Meadow

Last Thursday I was fortunate enough to be invited to the opening celebration for Longwood Gardens’ new 86-acre Meadow Garden in Kennett Square, PA. It’s Longwood so; even in the rain it was fantastic! Route 52 had long divided the meadow, but it is now whole again, providing habitat for native flora and fauna. Excited volunteers told me they have documented over 95 different bird species in the meadow. They’ve planted 1,100 native trees and shrubs and over 100,000 native wildflower and native grass plugs. The majority of the plugs were grown locally at our very own North Creek Nurseries.

It’s so exciting to see such prestigious institutions like this one bringing holistic design practices to the main stream. I think Claudia West, MLA, Ecological Sales Manager North Creek Nurseries, summed it up best when she said “Longwood Gardens shows us what it means to be stewards and validates the role of native plants play in built landscapes of a post-wild world. The Meadow Garden hybridizes design principles of the natural world with horticultural strategy – an intentionally designed and managed plant community where population dynamics are encouraged within an aesthetic framework.”

The paths, bridges and pavilions in the meadow were thoughtfully built from trees that had come down and been milled on the 1,077-acre property. Over 3-miles of walking trails wind their way through the bucolic landscape. From the forest’s edge to the wide-open fields and to lush wetlands they demonstrate the complex relationships between plants and animals. “I admire Longwood for their foresight with this project and predict that this revitalized meadow will become a favorite destination for those seeking the peace and hope that comes from connecting with the natural world.” -Douglas W. Tallamy, University of Delaware and author of Bringing Nature Home.

Bringing Life to Your Garden!

Have fun out there – I’m going for a walk!
Peggy Anne

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Are We So Different from Our Cuban Neighbors?

Last April, I had the great good fortune to visit Cuba with the Delaware Center for Horticulture. Our trip was a cultural exchange with an emphasis on horticulture. We visited a number of beautiful, botanical gardens, reforestation and organic gardening projects around the island. Each time we received a warm welcome by highly educated staff that accommodated us by speaking English. I could sit here all day and write about all the reasons I fell in love with Cuba. But, for now, I will just highlight our visit to the Jardín Botánico Nacional, Universidad de La Habana - The Cuban National Botanic Garden in Havana. It was during that visit, early on in tour trip, that I realized no matter what our governments might say, we are not so very different from each other.

The garden is an educational, scientific and recreational institution that displays Cuban flora as well as plants from other tropical places around the world. They have a special program called Planta! It’s a conservation initiative focusing on preserving and appreciating native Cuban flora. It warmed my heart to think that native plants were just as important to our Cuban neighbors as it is to us at American Beauties. No matter where you live, preserving our ecosystems is vital. Alejandro Palmarola, a student working on his PhD at the botanic garden gave us a marvelous lecture and tour. Much of his work is centered on native Cuban magnolias.

They say there are 6 degrees of separation between people but in horticulture I think it’s really only three (just one or two in the Brandywine Valley). One of my friends and fellow travelers was Andrew Bunting, Curator of the Scott Arboretum, President of the Board for The DCH and President of the International Magnolia Society. As it turns out, the International Magnolia Society has been funding some of Alejandro’s work and he and Andrew were able to meet for the first time in person. I love to think that horticulture is building bridges over blockades.

Alejandro and Andrew
Many of us pushed our baggage weight limits to bring hand tools and art supplies to show our support of the arboretum. We recently got a thank you note from Alejandro with pictures of the Cuban National Botanic Garden's "Festival del Monte 2014". I think I see some crayons we got at Target and even some of the suckers I couldn’t resist buying. I also see the light in the children’s eyes as they learn about the wonders of nature and the flora of their island. It’s the exact same look our children have when we take the time to teach them.

Muchas gracias DCH y te quiero Cuba!
Trayendo vida a tu jardín!
¡Que te diviertas!

Peggy Anne

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

North South East and West – Native Plants are Always Best!

I’ve been following the work of the Pollinator Partnership for some time now. They offer an incredible amount of information, over 1000pages but, it’s the quality of their work that blows my mind. If I had to recommend just one thing from this vast resource it would be their Planting Guides – Selecting Plants for Pollinators. They contain everything you need to know about attracting pollinators. Since climate, geography, etc. don’t follow state lines; they’ve taken a more thoughtful and accurate approach and divided the country into ecoregions.  Click on this link to find out what your ecoregion is and to download your FREE guide. The following is a note to welcome you to the Pollinator Partnership from their Executive Director, Laurie Davies Adams. According to her "Planting American Beauties Native Plants is a great way to start helping pollinators!"

Ecoregion Guide
 "Welcome to Pollinator Week!  Bees, butterflies, bats, birds, beetles – all the wonderful pollinating animals that do so much to support our health and well-being through agriculture and ecosystem services are in need of your immediate attention!  Please take a moment to consider all the wonderful benefits we get from this unseen army of workers who bring us the most nutrient rich foods humans need to thrive! 

What can you do?  Plant habitat for pollinators in your garden, farm, school, place of worship, golf course, place of business, Local Park – in fact, every outdoor space can contribute its SHARE to the pollinator cause.  Please visit the nearly 1000 pages of information at the Pollinator Partnership web site to find all the support materials you need.  And if you can, support our work by telling your friends, making a donation or working with youth with our free online curricula or BeeSmart™ School Garden Kit – all will make a “pollinator difference” on the American landscape.  Get out there and plant (both ideas and seedlings) for pollinators. "Planting American Beauties Native Plants is a great way to start!"
Laurie Davies Adams, Executive Director, Pollinator Partnership

Get involved

Supporting Pollinator Week is simple since they have created all the materials you need.

Bringing Life to Your Garden!
Have fun out there, Peggy Anne

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Who Are You?

I was at the garden center the other day for a fix, when a woman nearby started to scream. I ran over to her only to find out she’d been frightened by a bumblebee. I told her it was highly unlikely the creature would sting her but she was inconsolable. It seems like any insect dressed in yellow and black gets a bad wrap. The truth is bees, wasps and hornets all play a part in the circle of life so, let’s take a look at who’s who.

There are over 25,000 species of bees. The most common bees we see are honeybees and bumblebees. Both species produce wax that makes the finest candles but only honeybees make honey. Honeybees live in large colonies with thousands of members. Bumblebees tend to build their nests underground in groups of just a few hundred. Both are busy and play an important roll in pollination. These two are very easy to tell apart. I wouldn’t say that bumblebees were fat but compared to honeybees they are well, rubenesque.
Wasps are predators and can be aggressive especially late in the summer when their food supply becomes low and they come looking for yours. It’s also been noted that they can become a bit tipsy on fermented rotten fruit that time of year. I would not tangle with a drunken wasp. Wasps are easy to distinguish from bees because they have little or no hair on their bodies and because of that, they don’t play a big role in pollination. And unlike the plump bumblebee they have a tiny waistline. All that being said, wasps prey on many other “pest” insects and have actually been used by the agricultural industry as an effective means to control crop pests.
Hornets are actually one of the 30,000 plus species of wasps. They are often confused with yellow jackets, which are generally smaller. Hornets have the strongest venom of these three groups and a few stings to the head have put me in the hospital. I carry an epipen these days but I still think that getting a sting from anyone of these insects is about as likely as winning the lottery. I’ve worked outside with these guy’s favorite food sources for many, many years and have rarely been bothered. Lucky me!

If you have a honeybee hive that you are uncomfortable with call a local beekeeper. They may be able to help you move it for a small fee. Stopping wasps and hornets can be a little trickier. If you use chemical insecticides to kill a wasps nest for example, the birds and other wildlife that eat the dead wasps may be ingesting enough of the pesticide to kill them so, please try some other options first.

Wasps are very territorial and sometimes hanging up a fake wasps nest is enough to discourage them. You can buy them on line for just a few dollars. The glass wasp and hornet traps are rather pretty and can really help, especially later in the year when these guys are bing-drinking on rotten fruit. There are also sprays that rely on organic plant oils that kill bugs without harmful chemicals. Wasp & Hornet Killer from EcoSMART is one such product.

I hope you never win the stinging insect lottery but if you do, milk it! Get ice cream. Make someone go get you ice cream!

Bringing Life to Your Garden

Have fun out there,
Peggy Anne