Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Wildflower Wednesday: Hamamelis vernalis and the WW Challenge

 


Welcome to Clay and Limestone and the first Wildflower Wednesday post of 2023. Our star is vernal witchhazel and she's a beauty! I say her because the one in my garden is named Bernice...No, not a cultivar, but that story is for another time. 

 


I've decided to continue the WW Challenge into 2023 and beyond. It's a call for doing at least one thing a month to support nature/garden critters/etc. I will include an idea list each month. Long time readers know that I've been an advocate of gardening with native plants and the critters that visit and live in our gardens since my early blogging days. Back then I fell in love with the bumbles that were visiting my garden and wrote many posts about pollinators of all kinds. I also loved sharing posts about the native wildflowers that supported those critters and began Wildflower Wednesday. It's been at least a dozen years since  that first Wildflower Wednesday meme post. I invited others to share their wildflower star of the month and many did. I continue to use the Wildflower Wednesday posts to call attention to our native plants that have co-evolved with critters in a mutually dependent manner. Co-adaptation is easiest to see with insects/pollinators and flowering plants in our gardens. Researchers have found at least three traits that flowering plants have evolved to attract pollinators: (source)

  • Distinct visual cues: flowering plants have evolved bright colors, stripes, patterns, size  and colors specific to the pollinator. For example, flowering plants seeking to attract insect pollinators are typically blue an ultraviolet, whereas red and orange are designed to attract birds.     
  • Scent: flowering plants use scents as a means of instructing insects as to their location. Since scents become stronger closer to the plant, the insect is able to hone-in and land on that plant to extract its nectar.     
  • Some flowers use chemical and tactile means to mimic female insect species to attract the male species.

 


Let's consider our January star with co-evolution in mind.

Hamamelis vernalis is a lovely native shrub/small tree that blooms when you have just about given up hope that winter will end and warmth will return to the world. In my Middle Tennessee garden it began blooming the first week in January. It's not unusual for it to continue blooming into February and sometimes March.

 


Ozark witch hazel's flowers are an unusual reddish color with four yellow/orange crepe paper streaming petals that unfurl as the day warms and furl back up when the temperature drops. This is a marvelous adaptive behavior that insures that the spidery blooms will survive the fluctuating winter weather and be in bloom for almost two months. This is super important in ensuring that any pollinating critters that are out and about on warmer days will find their way to the lovely flowers.
  


They perfume the garden with their sweet clove vanilla scent on warm days. It's no accident that most winter blooming plants have some fragrance...Nature had to insure that insect pollinators could easily find their way to a plant that blooms when most of the garden is fast asleep. I've seen honeybees in the garden on days where the temperatures are above 50˚, but, have only seen small gnats and flies visiting the beautiful fragrant flowers of vernal witchhazel.



Witch hazels are indeed insect pollinated flowers, just check these clues out: They have long, bright-yellow petals, sweet smelling nectar and their stamens (pollen-bearing male bits) are right next to the nectar source. But, how you wonder is insect pollination possible in mid winter? Bernd Heinrich discovered that winter moths are responsible for pollinating witch hazels. These owlet moths have a remarkable ability to heat themselves by using energy to shiver, raising their body temperatures by as much as 50 degrees in order to fly in search of food.  (source).

Nature and its critters are amazing!

The flowers are deep to bright red, rarely all yellow, with four ribbon-shaped petals 7–10 mm (0.28–0.39 in) long and four short stamens, and grow in clusters

I do have garden guidelines that I strive to follow. Simply stated I like to plant a mixture of Central Basin natives that have good to excellent wildlife value and that provide bloom as close to year round as is possible in a middle south garden. I have occasionally pushed the envelope and planted perennials and shrubs that are native to adjacent states or that grow in conditions similar to Clay and Limestone*.  I pushed that envelope when I decided to plant Hamamelis vernalis/Ozark witch-hazel. It's found growing in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri.  I planted them for the earliest visiting pollinators and for its delightful perfume. It's happy in the garden, it gets pollinated by visiting critters and that makes me happy.

That's my story and I am sticking to it! Although, there is another reason I planted Bernice! I planted her as a memorial to my mother, who bloomed in the winter of her life, too. xoxo

 If you want to grow this Central South/Southern native shrub just give it a partially shady location with good morning sun, moist acid soil. It tolerates Clay and Limestone's more neutral soil, so, I am pretty sure you can have success with it, too. It has great fall leaf color, attracts pollinators, and blooms for two months.

 The Particulars

Hamamelis vernalis
Common Name: Ozark witch hazel
Family: Hamamelidaceae
Type: Deciduous shrub or small tree
Native Range: Southern and central United States in rocky stream banks, in moist open woodlands. Although not listed as a Tennessee native I found this quote on the Illinois Extension Center site "A near native species, the vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) is native to streambanks and wet woodland of the southern US, from parts of Texas and Florida north to Missouri, as well as most of the eastern US."
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: January to April if weather remains cool.                                                                      Bloom Description: Yellow with red inner calyx
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium, consistently moist. NOT drought tolerant
Maintenance: Low, does not need to be pruned
Suggested Use: Rain Garden, along creek banks,
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Good Fall color
Usage: Please plant them where you will be sure to appreciate them during the winter months. They can colonize and would make an effective screen along property boundary.  Use in mixed border or as a specimen.

Wildlife value: Habitat value for insects and for birds that come to nest in their branches. The seeds and flowers are eaten by turkey and ruffed grouse.

Comments: An important medicinal plant for many native American tribes. Twigs, leaves and bark are the basis of witch hazel extract.
Tolerates: Deer, Erosion, Clay Soil 

I love that not only does Hamamelis vernalis flower for months, it has a lovely fragrance. How clever of Mother Nature to give winter bloomers that something special to insure that moths, a little fly, gnat or bee will follow the scent and pollinate the flower.
 

xoxogail

 ...and now for something really special!

 

Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. On the fourth Wednesday of each month I share information about wildflowers and other native plants. Please join in if you like. You can write a blog post or share your favorite wildflower on social media. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom or not, and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers.

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Wildflower Wednesday 2022 : December Roundup




I love gardening in the Middle South, but, this has been an especially challenging growing year. Droughts are a regular occurrence in Tennessee’s climate, but, the one we experienced throughout the late summer and all fall was devastating. I feared for shrubs and trees. Then came the cold weather in the form of an Arctic air mass that had us rushing to cover plants and making sure our pipes wouldn't freeze. As I look out the window snow is falling. It's lovely. I wish that we had had two inches or more to blanket the garden before the temperature bottomed out at 0˚. Climate scientists said, "Expect extreme weather patterns.". and they were right. It's a good thing we gardeners are flexible and every plant that didn't make it presents us with an opportunity to find another wonderful native wildflower to plant in its place.

Hypericum frondosum in December color

 None the less, we are fortunate to have four seasons in the middle south; a mercifully short winter and a delightful spring and autumn which make up for the steamy hot and often too dry summer weather. The days are starting to lengthen and before long the earliest spring ephemerals will break dormancy and the gloriously long bloom of wildflowers will begin.

Here's the Wildflower Wednesday Roundup. This year I've expanded my wildflower star posts to include a challenge. I hope that you have enjoyed the posts and accepted the challenge. Please follow the links to read about glorious wildflower stars. xoxogail


January 2022 Wildflower Wednesday: A Challenge For 2022

 I've been posting Wildflower Wednesdays for 13 years. To quote a post from May 2009~

Wildflower Wednesday started out as a regular post to celebrate the wildflowers in my garden. It's been a fun way to introduce you to my soul mates! I treasure them and love sharing them. They grow with ease if planted in the right spot and they draw native fauna, like bees, birds and butterflies to the garden. There are articles all over the internet extolling their virtues. You've read many, I'm sure! Here's how I sum it up~Native wildflowers are good for the earth and good for its inhabitants. (Here for the post)

Of course I still love wildflowers and of course I plan to continue sharing them on the Fourth Wednesday of every month, but, it's time to shake it up with a challenge. 

A two part challenge!

The first part of this challenge is to do something every month during 2022 that supports native wildflowers, pollinators, and the critters that visit and rely on our gardens. Activities that increase our knowledge of the natural world are equally as valuable. Below you'll find a list of possible activities you could do...If you choose to participate! But, don't limit yourself to my list, make your own list or check out the internet for ideas.

The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even your neighborhood listserve. 

Why post it?  Because positive publicity is needed to educate our friends, neighbors and communities about how important even the smallest changes we make as gardeners can be for pollinators, birds, insects and mammals that live all around us. 

Why now?  My neighborhood is changing. Yours might be, too. Every day a 1950s ranch along with many of the mature oak, hickory and hackberry trees that have been there for over 75 years are bulldozed down. In place of the "bee lawns" composed of Salvia lyrata, Ruellia humilis, fleabane, Western Daisy, violets, self-heal, clovers, Dandelions that grew so well in the shallow soil that sits on top of limestone bedrock are sodded non-native lawns that get daily watering, whether it rains or not. Gone are the lightening bugs. Gone are the ground dwelling/nesting native bees. Gone is the habitat for insects, spiders and other critters. Gone is plant diversity. Gone are trees that provided for hundreds of moths, butterflies and other insects. Gone are the nesting sites for woodpeckers, hummingbirds, Chickadees and other birds. It breaks my heart. We can't stop the multi-million dollar houses from going up, but, maybe we can make a lot of educational noise and help our new neighbors see the value in providing for critters.

A gardener can hope!

 

February 2022 Wildflower Wednesday: Harbinger-of-Spring

I'd like to think spring has arrived at Clay and Limestone.  When I open the door on the 50˚ mornings, it smells like spring. You've smelled it! It's the fresh dirt smell that wafts on the breeze on warm spring days. Scientist call the chemical that makes dirt smell fresh geosmin,  I call it delicious. We can thank the plant munching bacteria that live in our soil for making it.


It's not just the smells, although late winter blooming Hamamelis vernalis' clovey scent is wafting about the garden on warm days. When it's a bit chilly I have to get up close and sniff the flowers, but, it makes me long and hope for more blooms and spring. And, have you heard the birds? They sing louder and more melodious in the spring. It's not my imagination, they're singing louder!

A few of the spring ephemerals have poked up from under the leaf liter demonstrating once again that leaves on the garden don't kill our native beauties and that spring is just about to bust open. My garden is just beginning to undergo the marvelous transformation from brown to green. Over head the elms are budding, in near by yards the maples have begun to bloom and many shrubs are starting to push out leaves.

 

the diminutive woodland beauty and WW star, Erigenia bulbosa

Freezing nights and pounding rain can't dim my hopes for an early spring. But, let's not rush headlong into a big spring crescendo before it's time, after all we do need to admire our wildflower of the month,  Harbinger-of-Spring/Erigenia bulbosa.

 

March 2022 Wildflower Wednesday: Green and Gold

If you're looking for a charming native groundcover then look no further than Chrysogonum virginianum. The common name Green and Gold is a nod to its fuzzy foliage and golden flower.

The early bloom provides nectar for visiting bees and butterflies.
 It's been in my garden for more than a decade and is very much at home between the large stepping stones on the path to the front door and in the adjacent bed. I'm a fan of repetition planting; especially plants that are easy peasy. Green and Gold is easy to divide and transplant so, I've moved it all around the garden. It's happy in full shade and even in full sun. It flowers every spring and doesn't seem to mind a bit of foot traffic every now and then.

 

April 2022 Wildflower Wednesday: Nothoscordum bivalve


 Like a few of my favorite wildflowers, this one was first spotted in my way back backyard many moons ago! It was growing in full sun (before the trees leafed out) where the soil is wet in the winters and dry in the summers. I knew immediately that it was something special with its fresh white flowers. It looked like a wild Allium, but the scent was not at all like an onion or garlic; it was sweet and worth crawling on my hands and knees to get a good sniff. Of course, I looked it up in my wildflower guide. Turns out this wild garlic looking plant is Nothoscordum bivalve a native member of the Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis or Narcissus family). Once upon a time it was in the Lily family.

The word Nothoscordum is derived from the Greek word Nothos meaning “false” and Scordum, meaning garlic. Individual plants are about a foot high with a single smooth hollow stem/scape that emerges from an underground bulb. Each plant also has several long, grass-like leaves that emerge from the base of the plant. Mature clumps can reach up to 16" tall and spread to fill an 8" area. The scapes can reach up to 16" tall and are topped with an umbel of 4-8 small, upward-facing flowers in spring. The 0.5" wide flowers are made up of six white tepals with yellow tinged bases. MOBOT

 


May 2022 Wildflower Wednesday: Amorpha fruticosa, Another Fabulous Fabaceae

I purchased bare rooted False Indigo on a whim last fall. I bought three because three is the number that is stuck in my head when buying plants! I had no idea where in the garden I would plant them, so I soaked the roots and planted them in quart sized containers and let them over winter.

I completely forgot them until the classic pinnately compounded leaflets that screamed "I am a member of the Pea family" emerged. Then I began imagining all the different fab Fabaceaes I might be growing.

It wasn't too long after the plants had fully leafed out before the narrow racemes developed. A few weeks later the blooms began opening from the bottom up (acropetal development). I knew by then that it was Amorpha fruticosa and I was thrilled.


 

June 2022 Wildflower Wednesday: June Blooms and Their Pollinator Visitors


  I appreciate all the pollinators at Clay and Limestone, but, my favorite has always been Bumbles.

We moved into this house in early fall 3 dozen years ago. The yard was a mess and there were no real garden beds, but the Summer Phlox and blue wood aster were still blooming. I was captivated by the Bumbles who were actively working the flowers as much as I was by the flowers. Those bumbles stole my heart. Over the years I noticed how hard they worked in the garden. They were the first pollinators up and about each morning and the last to leave each night. I found them sleeping on flowers on cool mornings and watched them nectaring and gathering pollen on the last of the latest blooming ex-asters in November. They were a joy to watch and I wanted to learn all about them. (from earlier post) 

Many years later and Bumbles still make me smile, but, so do a dozen other pollinators. To celebrate June Wildflower Wednesday and Pollinator Week here are more wildflowers and their pollinator visitors.

 

July 2022 Wildflower Wednesday: Clematis viorna


I love Clematis and when I discovered that there were native Clemmies I had to have one or two or more. So far I've planted three in my garden: Clematis virginiana, C pitcheri and C viorna. I wasn't surprised to find out that like other Clematis they can be placed in groups that determine how and when to prune. Clematis viorna is our star and it fits in group 3, which means it blooms on new growth and you need to give it a hard pruning in late winter. Be sure you've harvested seeds or enjoyed their frothy fall look before pruning.

But, I digress, let's start with getting you acquainted with this delightful herbacious vine native to rich wooded banks and thickets throughout the north, central and eastern United States. 

August 2922 Wildflower Wednesday: Rudbeckia triloba



The Susans are summer sizzling beauties and if you've heard me say this once, you've probably heard me say it a dozen times: I cannot imagine gardening without them.  In fact, I can't imagine gardening without the Rudbeckia family of beauties. When you garden in the middle south you learn to plant and appreciate these rough and tumble golden yellow beauties. Especially in our hot and dry summers. The yellow composites keep this garden floriferous when the Phloxes are beginning to look puny, the Joes have faded and the ex-asters haven't broken into song. All with their golden yellow flowers are must haves in the middle to deep south in our blazing sun. They don't fade or melt in the intense sunlight.**

 

September 2022 Wildflower Wednesday: Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana is a wildly beautiful flowering shrub.


Even with the gorgeous berries/drupes stripped from the plant by hungry birds, the leaves are a lovely chartreuse and still glow in the garden. The arching stems with the yellowing leaves looks especially lovely as fall continues. 

In case you're wondering,  this is not the first time a native shrub or tree has been a Wildflower Wednesday star. But, it is the first time I've shared one when the garden is still full of blooming wildflowers. It's important that we who garden for wildlife make sure we have energy foods beyond pollen and nectar. Critters who visit and or live in our gardens need them, but they also need seeds, nuts and berries that are fat and protein rich. Trees and shrubs are essential plants in a biodiverse garden. They are host plants for moths and butterflies, provide nesting sites for birds and small mammals and have nuts, berries and seeds that a variety of critters rely upon. Here's something to consider, Doug Tallamy suggests we plant trees and shrubs before we plant flowers and grasses!

 

October 2022 Wildflower Wednesday: Trees and Shrubs in a Native Habitat

 It's October and Nashville is in a moderate to severe drought. The blue wood and white frost asters are still blooming and the shrubs and trees are showing color deeper and sooner than usual. I've been watering to insure that the impossible to replace 50, 60 and 70 year old trees have a chance to survive until rain returns. They've been soldiering on and they all deserve to be Wildflower Wednesday stars and so they are.

Hydrangeas, Hamamelis and Hickories above the wildflowers

 

November 2022 Wildflower Wednesday: Wildlife and Wildflower Friendly Garden Guidelines

Verbesina virginica's frost flower


This month I'm sharing my personal guidelines for wildlife and wildflower gardening. I hope you find them helpful, especially if you're thinking of gardening for wildlife. 

I started sharing these posts more than a dozen years ago and I still love introducing wildflowers to you. Our native wildflowers are treasures. Many are underappreciated and underplanted beauties and that's a shame. Most grow with ease if planted in the right conditions and right spot. They are even happy in containers. The bonus is that they attract crawling, flying, nesting, digging and feeding critters to our gardens. With a little research you can find just the right ones for your garden conditions.       

First, let me tell you a little about my garden, Clay and Limestone. I garden in middle Tennessee in what's known as the Central Basin. The garden soil is shallow clay that is wet in the winter and dry in the summer. The native plants I've chosen are adapted to the environment and conditions here and provide food, nesting and/or shelter for mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. Humans seem to appreciate it, too.

The sunniest bed is along the driveway where the soil is especially shallow! One visitor commented on all the containers with a kind of "What the heck!" tone. Yes, there are a lot, but it's the only way I can plant my wildflower beauties that need either deeper soil or winter drainage. There would be no Agastaches and Salvias in my garden without containers, nor could I grow native Iris. The rough and tumble native plants like the ex-asters, goldenrod, Verbesinas, Fleabanes, River Oats, Bottle brush grass and cup plant battle it out for garden dominance among the containers.

 

The guidelines I use are simple and there's no shaming. Guidelines encourage me to plant for critters not just plant pretty flower faces.  My guidelines can be applied (with appropriate modifications) no matter where you garden for wildlife.

Thanks for stopping by. I love when you visit and leave comments, especially when you share somethings about your garden. See you in 2023 and may your garden give you the joy that mine has given me. xoxogail

Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. On the fourth Wednesday of each month I share information about wildflowers and other native plants. Please join in if you like. You can write a blog post or share your favorite wildflower on social media. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom or not, and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers.

 

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Wildflower Wednesday: Wildlife and Wildflower Friendly Garden Guidelines

Verbesina virginica's frost flower


Winter is here for middle Tennessee is a big, cold way! As I write this it's 21F and this November is quite different than it has been in past years. At this time of year it would not be unusual to see a fleabane and wood aster or two hidden under the leaves. Also, the Hamamelis virginiana would be in bloom and trees would still have colorful leaves. In this kind of cold it could be tempting to say that nothing is going on in the garden but, we gardeners know that even a winter garden is teeming with life and activity. Birds are visiting the feeders especially on the coldest days when the ground is frozen and its hard to find a hidden insect or fallen fruit and seed. They also appreciate water, however you decide to provide it! A few years ago my birdbath cracked from the cold and I used a handy turkey roaster with rocks for easy access to the water.

There were no complaints and lots of visitors!

 


Welcome to Wildflower Wednesday and Clay and Limestone garden. I'm sharing my personal guidelines for wildlife and wildflower gardening. I hope you find them helpful, especially if you're thinking of gardening for wildlife. 

I started sharing these posts more than a dozen years ago and I still love introducing wildflowers to you. Our native wildflowers are treasures. Many are underappreciated and underplanted beauties and that's a shame. Most grow with ease if planted in the right conditions and right spot. They are even happy in containers. The bonus is that they attract crawling, flying, nesting, digging and feeding critters to our gardens. With a little research you can find just the right ones for your garden conditions.

 

There's beauty in a winter garden
 

Let me tell you a little about my garden. I garden in middle Tennessee in what's known as the Central Basin. The garden soil is shallow clay that is wet in the winter and dry in the summer. The native plants I've chosen are adapted to the environment and conditions at here and provide food, nesting and/or shelter for mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. Humans seem to appreciate it, too.

Hypericum frondosum in early winter color

The sunniest bed is along the driveway where the soil is especially shallow! One visitor commented on all the containers with a kind of "What the heck!" tone. Yes, there are a lot, but it's the only way I can plant my wildflower beauties that need either deeper soil or winter drainage. There would be no Agastaches and Salvias in my garden without containers, nor could I grow native Iris. The rough and tumble native plants like the ex-asters, goldenrod, Verbesinas, Fleabanes, River Oats, Bottle brush grass and cup plant battle it out for garden dominance among the containers.

There are even more containers than this!

The guidelines I use are simple. There's no shaming. Guidelines encourage me to plant for critters not just plant pretty flower faces.  My guidelines can be applied (with appropriate modifications) no matter where you garden for wildlife.
 

Cardamine diphylla autumn and winter groundcover

1. Plan and plant for a year round garden by wisely choosing the plants.


 It's taken me a very long time, but, I finally feel as if I have found the right combination and balance of perennials, annuals, biennials, small trees and shrubs that can thrive in the shallow clay soil that is too dry during the summer and too wet during the winter. Nearly every plant at Clay and Limestone has been chosen with birds, insects and other critters in mind.

Simply said: Choose plants that have good wildlife value.

 These are the questions I ask myself when plant shopping-at nurseries or online.

  • Does it make sense for my garden conditions?
  • Is it a source of nectar or pollen or a host plant for pollinators? 
  • Is it a food source for birds, insects or mammals?
  • Will it add to plant diversity in my critter friendly garden?
  • Is it native or garden friendly (a non invasive plant)? 
  • Have I included plants that bloom in the early spring and some that bloom until late fall to help critters getting ready for winter?
  • Have I included shrubs and evergreens? (They provide structure to the garden and cover and food.)
  • What worked this past year? Should I plant more?

2. Wait until spring to clean the garden

Gardening friends it's time for us to help our neighbors understand that there's no need to clean up their gardens in late fall. Birds, bees, beetles, butterfly, beneficial insects and small mammals need our "messy gardens". They overwinter under leaves, tuck themselves in the peeling bark of trees, nestle at the base of plants and even nest/overwinter in the stalks of many wildflowers. Clearing the garden kills the insects and that means our resident birds won't have as many insects to feed their young come spring. Not only do the critters miss out, but, we don't get to see how beautiful our gardens can look when/if it snows.
 

 

When you let native wildflowers like Echinaceas, Rudbeckias, cup plant and the Symphyotrichum  stand all winter the seeds are consumed by Goldfinches and other seed eating critters. The stems of many wildflowers, like cup plant are perfect nest sites for overwintering insects~especially small bees.

Native grasses left standing are beautiful, but, also provide shelter and protection for small mammals and birds. Goldenrods support a curious little Goldenrod Gall Fly that makes it's winter home on the stem of the plant. If they aren't eaten by Chickadees during the winter the fly emerges in the spring to start this process all over.

Decaying stems play a roll in the winter garden. The older foliage of a Christmas Fern collapses into the leaf litter as the year progresses toward winter. This accumulated detritus of decaying fronds helps to stabilize the soil and prevent or lessen erosion. The built up mass is also a protective habitat for ground feeding and ground nesting birds.

 3. Leave some leaves! 

 I can't leave all the leaves that fall in my garden, we wouldn't be able to get up the driveway,  but, I leave a lot. Over the years the decomposed leaf litter has improved the soil while providing a nice layer of mulch for some winter protection. I do relocate leaves from the stone paths and driveway by gently raking to wooded areas in the garden where they decompose and provide a habitat for beetles and caterpillars. Bees over winter in leaf litter so I try to minimize leaf raking.


 4. Create a brush pile, leave a snag or allow a fallen tree to remain in the garden

 Living trees provide food, shelter, nesting, resting places, perches for hunters and a "reproductive site" for hundreds of different kinds of insects.

When a tree dies, good things continue to happen. 


Dead trees have an enormously important role in forests. Trees fall for a variety of reasons: disease, lightning, fire, animal damage, too much shade, drought, root competition, as well as old age. A big oak in my garden was struck by lightening a dozen years ago and limb by limb it's been falling down.

The snag that remains still provides shelter and nesting for a number of critters; while the limbs on the ground are a perfect shelter for small animals such as rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels and a habitat for beetles, termites and other insects.

If you haven't space for a fallen tree, you can create a brush pile for the wild critters that live in your garden. Insects, spiders, bees, reptiles, and small mammals love brush piles and birds will visit in search of insects.

 5. Always provide water, it's as important in the winter as it is in the summer


Birds need water every day and if you live where there's no snow cover (yes, birds can eat snow), then, birds need your help even more. I have two heated birdbaths and I always have visitors at them. If you haven't access to an electrical outlet, you can look for a solar bird bath heater. Get frost proof bird baths. Concrete baths crack if they are not heated. Keep the baths clean and if possible place them in a sunny spot.

The birds will thank you for it and so will all the critters that visit or live in your garden year round. 

6. Take time to sit in your garden and enjoy what you have created

  • Revel in the beauty
  • Appreciate your hard work
  • Enjoy the critters
  • Celebrate your successes, don't focus on defeats
  • There's always a list and there's always a project, just be in the now


xoxogail

 

PS 7. NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER USE PESTICIDES. I MEAN NEVER!

 



I invite you to join WW and share your wildflowers and other native plants no matter where you garden~the UK, tropical Florida, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, India or the coldest reaches of Canada. It doesn't matter if your WW star of the month is blooming or not. It doesn't matter if we sometimes share the same plants; how they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most.



Don't forget our Wildflower Wednesday monthly challenge!  The first part of this challenge is to do something every month during 2022 that supports native wildflowers, pollinators, and the critters that visit and rely on our gardens. The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even your neighborhood listserve. 

Why post it?  Because positive publicity is needed to educate our friends, neighbors and communities about how important even the smallest changes we make as gardeners can be for pollinators, birds, insects and mammals that live all around us. 

An incomplete list of things you might consider doing or changing in your garden

Shrink your lawn and make your planting beds larger.

Plant your favorite native perennials and shrubs. Leave them standing after they've gone to seed to continue to provide for wildlife. What you plant in your yard makes a difference to wildlife. I garden for wildlife so every tree, shrub and plant is chosen with wildlife in mind.

Plant more natives and then consider planting even more. "A typical suburban landscape contains only 20-30% native plant species. Try reversing that trend in your own landscape by using 70-80% native species." (source

Commit to never, ever, ever, ever using pesticides in the garden.

Stay away from native plant hybrids and cultivars that are double flowered. They are sterile and have no pollen or nectar for insects and no seeds for the birds. If possible plant “true open-pollinated native wildflowers”

If you want to garden for wildlife and pollinators, don't let lack of space stop you! Plant your favorite wildflowers in large containers. You just might have the prairie or woodland garden you've always wanted...in a pot!
 
Create a water feature. Provide water year round that is accessible to birds, bees and other critters.

Show some soil! Our native ground nesting bees nest in bare soil, so don't mulch every square inch of your garden. 

Invite bugs into your garden. Plant annuals that attract beneficial bugs.

Learn to tolerate damaged plants. Imperfection is the new perfect.

Don't be in a rush to clean up the fall garden. Leave plant stalks and seed heads standing all winter. Leave those fallen leaves or as many as you can tolerate! Insects over winter in the fallen and decaying leaves.

Leave a layer of leaves as a soft landing material under trees for moths and butterflies to over winter. Many caterpillars drop to the ground from the trees in the fall.

Make a brush pile. Stack fallen brush, cut tree limbs, broken pots for ground beetles. Ground beetles are excellent at eating "bad bugs'. They're also good bird, toad and small critter food. 

Rethink what you consider a pest. Lots of good bugs eat aphids. Spiders are important predators and bird food!

Add nesting boxes for birds.

Plant shrubs and small trees that provide berries and nuts.

Keep a nature journal: Observe visitors to the water feature, make note of when they visit. Notice which flowers attract the most pollinators and which ones are just pretty faces. 

Volunteer to remove invasives in a local part or natural area.

Join your state native plant society.

Join WildOnes even if there's no local group.

Take an online course on tree, fungi and wildflower id.

Take a walk in your neighborhood and observe nature. To quote Joanna Brichetto in Sidewalk Nature "Look Around. Nature is here, is us, our driveways, our baseboards, parks, and parking lots."

Buy the best wildflower, butterfly and bird id books for your state.

Read nature books to your children and grandchildren. 

Read! There are hundreds of books on gardening for wildlife, the environment, and rewilding our world. There are delightful blogs with wonderful and informative articles.

Turn off your porch lights, eave lights and uplights to help mammals,  birds, critters that live in the dark survive.

If you live in Nashville join the Facebook ReWild Nashville Group and the Middle Tennessee WildOnes

 

 

 

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.