How to get a buzz going about your garden

Written by Jennie Hagen January 22, 2013 07:29 am

A previous Garden Guide discussed the plight of the honey bee and its usefulness as a pollinator of at least one-third of all food crops we grow and consume.

A local reader then posed the question that if they were to grow ornamental flowers to encourage honey bee populations in their area, what would they be?

Annuals, plants that require being started each year, and perennials, those that return year after year, are both abundant with selections that thrive anywhere in our tri-county area of northeast Oregon.

A few recommendations for annuals are; sunflowers, lupine, sweet peas, Delosperma, or hardy ice plants, salvia, poppy, cosmos and meadowfoam, or limnanthes (also referred to as poached egg flowers).  Remember to do your research prior to selecting sunflower seeds, simply refuse to purchase pollen-free varieties.  Hopefully seed suppliers will acknowledge the pollen-free varieties are not selling.

Perennial types abound and selections include; all Echinacea, or coneflowers, perennial lupine, coreopsis, salvia, mints, penstemon and Monarda, or bee balm.  

Personal favorites are Aster laterifloris “Lady in Black”, a delightful and tremendously hardy perennial with deep burgundy stems, darkened leaves, and literally thousands of minute raspberry centered white blossoms that open at mostly the same time giving the plant a rich fullness in your garden that is hard to beat.

I have located and purchased plants locally.  The second plant I have not been able to locate locally but is widely available through Northwest nurseries online is Boltonia. It, like Aster laterifloris, is simply smothered in thousands of white or pink blossoms that open at the same time.

These lists are obviously not all inclusive, please do your research and enjoy helping out a little creature that is of such importance to us.  This list also did not include biennial varieties, although they are abundant and hardy as well. Biennials need two years to mature and won’t normally bloom until the second growing season. A typical and well known variety is our northwest native foxglove (digitalis) that usually reseeds itself thereby ensuring successive generations.

Progressive breeding programs have now developed perennial varieties as well.

It will be very rare that this column recommends to fellow gardeners not to purchase a particular plant but having received, quite painfully so, a firsthand account of the effects of its presence in my garden I must warn fellow gardeners of the beautiful, but caustic Monkshood (Aconitum). While most seed catalogs simply warn of the need to wash hands after handling it and to not get its juice in open wounds, more intensive measures must be taken if you already have this growing in your garden or if you are considering purchasing one. All parts of the plant are toxic if eaten. Simply brushing your hand along a stem will result in an almost instant burning sensation followed quickly by blisters.  Pets that touch them will carry it to you if you pet them after they have brushed against a plant. They will also be affected by the burning and blistering sensation while washing their fur after brushing against the plant.  Once Aconitum have established in your yard, they are hard to eradicate. Each piece of root remaining will sprout a new plant. It took two years of seriously digging to remove it from my garden in Prairie City.  The roots have this same caustic effect on your skin as well and heavy, disposable gloves must be worn. If you don’t have children, grandchildren or pets, it’s a fine selection placed in an out-of-the-way location. 

I wouldn’t bother.

The next Garden Guide will touch on fruit trees and why winter chill temperatures are so important. Until next time, enjoy planning your next garden!