George O. White Nursery Tree Delivery

Shipping label from my George O. White State Nursery order. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Shipping label from my George O. White State Nursery order. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

George O. White Nursery Tree Delivery

It’s been almost six months since I placed this order for trees for bees. The George O. White State Nursery in Licking, Missouri is a great source for native trees and shrubs, a place I order from every year knowing full well I may not get what I ordered.

This is how it works. You place an order online beginning September 1. You are given a short window to pay for the order. If you don’t, the order is cancelled and the next person who ordered is contacted, and so forth. So I was thrilled to be reminded that, among my Missouri native tree and shrub order were elderberries.

The Missouri native trees and shrubs can either be picked up at Licking or shipped free to Missouri residents. I had initially planned to go pick them up but changed my mind once they notified me the seedlings were available.

They arrived safely packed in paper that keeps the bare roots moist and protected.

How seedlings were shipped from George O. White State Nursery. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

How seedlings were shipped from George O. White State Nursery. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I should have left the bundle wrapped until tomorrow but of course I couldn’t wait to be reminded of what I ordered.

The reason I gave myself to open the package was to check that the shipped Missouri native trees and shrub bare roots were still hydrated.

Shipped seedlings are bare root but moist. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Shipped seedlings are bare root but moist. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The Missouri native trees and shrubs are sold in bundles of 10 for $8.95, with the price going down the larger the bundles.

This year I indulged in one of my favorite Missouri native trees, dogwoods, and added a bundle of another spring-blooming plant, serviceberries. Serviceberries got their name for blooming when the winter frozen ground was thawed out enough to bury the dead.

Flowering dogwood and serviceberry are among the shipped seedlings. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Flowering dogwood and serviceberry are among the shipped seedlings. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

In addition to flowering dogwoods, serviceberries and elderberries, I ordered American beauty berry shrubs, button bush and white Rose Mallow, all except the beauty berries excellent bee food plants. Tree pollen is baby food and flower nectar is flight fuel, both important sources of energy for bees, which move the pollen around trees to help trees survive. The flower nectar gets dehydrated into honey.

The American beauty berry are lovely native shrubs that I have wanted to add to my garden for years but found them usually sold out. This past year, I ordered within days of the ordering window opening up for the season so when ordering, do so quickly or the inventory you want may be sold out.

These bee plants will now get planted in pots and allowed to spend a growing season getting their roots established before I move them permanently into the garden.

Charlotte

New England Asters

New England Asters are a favorite source of fall pollen for honeybees.

New England Asters are a favorite source of fall pollen for honeybees.

New England Asters

There are several flower families that provide honeybees their food and asters are one of them. Some of my favorite fall blooming plants belong to this family group: White Boneset, White Heath Asters and one of my all-time top favorites, New England Asters.

According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, "Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, commonly called New England aster, is a Missouri native perennial which occurs in moist prairies, meadows, thickets, low valleys and stream banks (Steyermark) throughout the State. It is a stout, leafy plant typically growing 3-6' tall with a robust, upright habit.

New England Asters feature a profuse bloom of daisy-like asters (to 1.5" diameter) with purple rays and yellow centers from late summer to early fall. Rough, hairy, lance-shaped leaves (to 4" long) clasp stiff, hairy stems. Flowers are attractive to butterflies" and I will add bees, too.

How to Grow New England Asters

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun, prefers moist, rich soils. Good air circulation helps reduce incidence of foliar diseases. Pinching back stems several times before mid-July will help control plant height, promote bushiness and perhaps obviate the need for staking. Pinching back will also delay flowering.

Most New England Asters are sold early fall when they are in bloom. I buy the plants after bloom, remove the spent flower heads and make sure they are well watered and mulched when I plant them. Any dead branches get left on to help protect the new growth that will start at the plant base. I also give them some water for a couple of months to make sure their roots get established.

A closeup of a New England Aster flower shows the generous source of pollen.

A closeup of a New England Aster flower shows the generous source of pollen.

New England Asters also add color to fall cut flower arrangements. I don't cut many, though, I prefer to leave the flowers for the bees.

Charlotte

Four Fall Bee Plants

White Heath Asters are a wonderful source of fall pollen for bees, even in drought.

White Heath Asters are a wonderful source of fall pollen for bees, even in drought.

If weather conditions cooperate, there is a smaller nectar flow in fall in Missouri. No such luck this year, we ended up with a drought stressing plants and shutting down most of my bees pre-winter pollen sources except for these four, easy to grow native perennials wildflowers.

There were a few other plants in bloom but these all had one thing in common, they all belong to the same plant family.

White Heath Asters

Missouri's native white heath asters Aster pilosus continued to bloom through the dry days of September and October. According to Don Kurz, Ozark Wildflowers, these wildflowers provide food for deer, turkey and songbirds in the fall. Native American tribes also thought the smoke from burning these plants was helpful in reviving someone who had fainted so not sure you want to add this to a smoker.

They do transplant if you have access to plant starts. If they are in bloom, the flowers will almost automatically go to seed so if you leave the area undisturbed, they should seed themselves.

Another traditional fall flowering wildflower is yellow, Goldenrod.

Early Goldenrod is one of 22 Goldenrod species blooming in Missouri June-November.

Early Goldenrod is one of 22 Goldenrod species blooming in Missouri June-November.

Goldenrod

Often blamed for fall allergies caused by ragweed, Goldenrod is another plant in the aster family. Missouri has 22 different varieties that bloom from June through November including Early Goldenrod Solidago juncea, Woodland Goldenrod Solidago petiolaris and Old-Field Goldenrod Solidago nemoralis.

Whether bees collect Goldenrod pollen or not is often determined by fall honey developing a wet sock smell, not necessarily the most appealing of attributes. Some of my beekeeping friends also don't see bees on Goldenrod so contend they are not a favorite fall pollen plant but I think that's because there may be other, better pollen sources around.

Regardless, I try to harvest my honey before I see the yellow of Goldenrod popping up around my garden, I prefer my wet sock smell to be limited to my dryer.

Purple woodland asters are a hardy perennial wildflower that provides bees fall pollen.

Purple woodland asters are a hardy perennial wildflower that provides bees fall pollen.

Purple Woodland Asters

The one wildflower I am currently trying to encourage in my one-acre hillside garden are the fall purple asters Aster anomalus. I cut some of them back early spring to make them bushier, then anxiously waited to see if they would bloom this fall and they did. The year before, I cut them back too late in the season and lost a whole blooming cycle. Not sure why it bothered me so much, deer like to eat the leaves and naturally prune the bushes back, and wild turkey are fond of the flowers and fruit. 

There are several other lavender-colored asters including Stiff-Leaved Aster Aster linariifolius, Silky Aster Aster seriseus and New England Asters Aster novae-angliae. 

The more domestic New England Asters are perennials in USDA zone 5b but tend to sell out quickly so I end up finding the more pink varieties on sale. Doesn't mean I won't keep looking!

Another fall-blooming white perennial wildlfower that provides pollen is Common boneset.

Another fall-blooming white perennial wildlfower that provides pollen is Common boneset.

Common boneset

This last Missouri wildflower is also a member of the - surprise- aster family. Common boneset Eupatorium perfoliatum will grow nicely if you can keep it moist. It's common throughout the Ozarks particularly along streams.

I had a little patch growing naturally in a garden corner and have nurtured it over the years by not disturbing the area. I did say I like to keep things simple and easy, didn't I. So now I have a corner of my property that turns white in the fall, almost as if it's snowed. Very pretty.

The Native American Indians called Common boneset  "Indian sage" and used it to treat a variety of ailments including a flu that caused several body aches. I wonder if it has the same use in a bee hive, surely by fall some of those worker bees are a little sore from all of that summer hauling!

Charlotte

Flowering Crab Apples for Spring Bee Food

Crab apple trees provide bees pollen in spring.

Crab apple trees provide bees pollen in spring.

Flowering Crab  Apples for Spring Bee Food

Flowering crab apple trees are one of the popular spring bee trees in mid-Missouri. My bee buddy David has a beautiful specimen in his front yard and I love to visit it to see how many varieties of bees I can find among the lovely white blooms.

Whether it's honeybees from his nearby apiary or native bees from the neighborhood, this flowering crab apple tree is abuzz with a variety of winged insects from bees to wasps, all important pollinators.

A variety of bees visit this crab apple tree in spring including native bees.

A variety of bees visit this crab apple tree in spring including native bees.

One of my favorite things to do is to stand under the tree and just listen. It takes a few seconds for my focus to sharpen but once I get quiet, it is amazing the sounds I pick up from all of the insects flying around in the tree.

A honeybee takes off after visiting the flowering crab apple tree.

A honeybee takes off after visiting the flowering crab apple tree.

See the little yellow pollen this honeybee is packing on its leg?

Flowering crab apples are a great source of spring pollen for bees at a time when they are quickly growing the bee nursery. Crab apple trees also provide wildlife pretty fall color and winter fruit for wildlife. What's not to love?

Charlotte

First Spring Bee Pollen Source

This year, I found my first dandelion blooming mid-January 2017, a new early record.

This year, I found my first dandelion blooming mid-January 2017, a new early record.

First Spring Bee Pollen Source

Seed and plant catalogs are piling up on my coffee table, some extolling yet again the virtues of their new plant offerings as bee and pollinator food sources. 

People want to help pollinators. It's a very romantic concept to some, the idea of "saving" a species by planting flowers. I certainly rank among them. I have contended all along that we need more flowers and less grass, although my brothers will tell you I haven't met a flower I didn't like. When they were growing up in southern Illinois and had grass-mowing duty, it was a challenge for them to trim the green plants and yet not mow down all of the blooming weeds I loved. We compromised and had a neatly-trimmed green center with paths along the edges lined with "weed patches." I preferred to call them the more dignified cottage gardens. Consider it one of the few - well, ok, one of the many - big sister privileges.

One of the flowers I loved finding even then was the first dandelion. The sunny color, especially when the flower was growing tall and reaching for the sun, was the epitome of a sunny spring day. When the flower turned to the puffy seed ball, even better, I loved nothing more than to carefully pick the stem and gently blow the seeds into the wind. 

I suspect I just gave someone a heart attack. That is what comes from not growing up in North America and being taught dandelions are evil weeds. As a matter of fact, dandelions are a perennial herb, once highly prized for their medicinal qualities. Even today in some cultures they are still appreciated, not just for their varied health benefits but in cooking, especially the young spring greens for specialty salads. 

For beekeepers, dandelions are also a great harbinger of spring. They are usually among the first spring sources of pollen for bee colonies raising young. A beekeeping friend and I even joke about the various seasons with spring being BD, before dandelions and AD, after dandelions.

This year, I am not sure what the USDA zone 5b growing season will be. It's been a record mild winter so it's anyone's guess about what the new growing season will bring. So far, we are two months ahead of schedule, with my bees raiding my bird feeders for the cracked corn dust for a pollen substitute for baby food.

A couple of days ago, the raiding stopped but the honeybees were still packing in pollen. I suspect they found real pollen from flowering oak trees and dandelions. Although it's early, I made a note. I didn't have to buy any plants or seeds; the dandelions must once again be blooming somewhere, taking care of themselves quite nicely, and now taking care of my bees.

They are still my kind of plant.

Charlotte

 

 

 

Monkey Grass August Favorite

Monkey grass makes defining flower borders and paths easy.

Monkey grass makes defining flower borders and paths easy.

Monkey Grass August Bee Favorite

Before I had bee hives, I knew this was a favorite bee plant. When little else was blooming, this low maintenance border plant entertained pollinator visits from bees to butterflies

Liriope muscari is a charming perennial that requires little and gives back a lot. It is easy to care for, heat and drought resistant, crowds out weeds and tolerates a variety of soils and light conditions. 

I use monkey grass as a border plant to mark off my flower borders and adjoining paths. Most of the year, they are bunches of long green leaves until late July, when they start to bloom.

My bees are starting to discover that monkey grass flowers are starting to bloom.

My bees are starting to discover that monkey grass flowers are starting to bloom.

The plants start to bloom about the same time as surprise lilies. The little buds form on the spikes for a couple of weeks. Then they start to open into teeny tiny purple flowers with yellow centers.

The teeny tiny monkey grass flowers starting to bloom at Bluebird Gardens.

The teeny tiny monkey grass flowers starting to bloom at Bluebird Gardens.

Sometimes I find my bees riding the flower spikes like a carnival ride, their little legs packed full of yellow pollen.

At other times, they may ignore the plants in favor of a better available pollen source.

Nevertheless, I would want to add monkey grass to any flower garden as insurance that if nothing else is blooming during Missouri's August dearth, at least these plants are available.

Do you have monkey grass in your garden?

Charlotte

Welcome Coreopsis!

Honeybees and small native bees visit variegated coreopsis in my bee buddy David's garden.

Honeybees and small native bees visit variegated coreopsis in my bee buddy David's garden.

Cool Coreopsis

Delighted to see honeybees attracted to this pretty perennial, a variegated coreopsis. This hardy perennial is pretty in its original all yellow form but I also like the tinged with burn red variety. Both have easy to access pollen for bees and both grow well all summer, including Missouri's infamous August derth.

Good Plant for Hot August

August is traditionally so hot in Missouri plants shut down producing nectar and pollen when temperatures are over 95F for more than a week or so. Gardeners know not to plant much in August because the soil is so dry anything that gets water dries out quickly.

My established coreopsis make it through this hot period, even when I sometimes forget to water them.

Several Coreopsis Choices

There are now a number of coreopsis varieties, from dwarf mounding plants perfect to line borders to plants that grow 4-feet tall, perfect for the back of the flower borders. Remember to plant several plants together so bees can easily see them.

Charlotte