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

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Pollinator Friendly Shrub

Hypericum frondosum June 1, 2011
Hypericum frondosum is blooming and the bumbles couldn't be happier. They have been on a feeding frenzy since the first golden flowers opened. I'm pretty thrilled, too. I love these blooms, love the blue-green foliage and the plant's leggy presence in the woodland gardens. They warm up the shady green when the last of the spring flowers quiet.

The one H frondosum "Sunburst' I bought way back when I first stumbled upon native plants has grown into dozens. (It's quite a prolific plant!) All of them sporting golden, fuzzy pollen rich flowers like the cultivar, but, not with its compact, mounded shape. That's okay with me~I almost always prefer the straight species and the flower visitors are not complaining either.

I've moved 'Sunburst's' offspring all over the garden. They make their biggest impact in the Central Basin Woodland Garden. It's a large oblong shaped bed behind the Waiting Bench. It's planted with perennials and shrubs that might be found in the woodlands adjacent to a cedar glade. On the edge are plants that need more sun, like Juniperus virginiana 'Gray Owl', Panicums and the native ex-asters. The interior of the bed is chock full of Golden St Johnswort, Chasmanthium latifolium, shade tolerant native ex-asters, Phlox pilosa, Penstemon calycosus, Christmas Ferns and more.

Gray Owl Juniper, H frondosum, River Oats, penstemon, and S oblongifolius

A Central Basin Woodland is green a good deal of the summer and brown all winter! It took me a long time to be comfortable with that look. I love it now~especially the leggy hypericum dotted with spent seed capsules, browning grasses standing tall and seed heads swaying in the wind all winter long. Right now, it's beginning to glow as the hypericum flowers open a few at a time.
Critter heading toward that giant fuzzy pollen only producer!
Flowers of hypericum only produce pollen. Not one bit of nectar. The stamens are little pollen wands that dance in the breeze. They are perfect attractors for pollen eaters, pollen collectors and pollinators! I love to sit on the bench and watch the Bumbles move from flower to flower to flower...gathering pollen to feed their offspring. A little of the pollen of one flower sticks to them and is carried to the next flower or perhaps to the next shrub, where it cross pollinates the flowers. I think Clay and Limestone is going to have a big crop of seeds this year!

It's a great little shrub for this garden:
  • The species is a loose limbed beauty with golden flowers, bluish green foliage, stunning fall color and exfoliating bark for year round good looks.
  • It attracts Bumbles, Syrphid flies and Halictid bees~all seeking pollen.
  • It's endemic to forests/woodland that are adjacent to cedar glades.
  • It tolerates the extremes that this garden throws at plants~wet winters and dry summers.
  • It never fails to open the first week in June~rain or shine.
  • Zones 5 to 8; a Southeastern native.
  • Grows quite nicely from seed.
Any ideas what creature this might be?
It's a pretty fine shrub, but, it's not perfect:
  • The flowers open a few at a time.
  • Some years the buds fail.
  • The leggy good looks can be off putting as a foundation planting.
  • It seeds madly and if you have a cultivar expect them to revert to species.
  • It's short lived.
Bud failure
All in all it's a pretty fantastic shrub that feeds pollen collecting bees, makes a great statement in a garden and brings a smile to my face. I even think the failed bud is good looking!


PS Trust me when I say "If you want pollinators to visit your garden, you must, never, ever, ever, ever, use pesticides and, if possible, buy pesticide free plants for your garden."

This post is also part of a series on native pollinators in the garden~ Earlier posts and their links are listed below for your convenience.

    Part I~Now Is The Time To Bee-gin Thinking About Bees ( here)
    This Is The Place To Bee ( here)
    If You Could Plant Only One Plant In Your Garden~Don't (here)

    Must Bee The Season of The Witch (here)
    Go Bare In Your Garden (here)
    We can't All Be Pretty Pollinators (here)
    Eye, Eye Skipper, Big Eyed Pollinators (here)
    What's In Your Garden (here)
    Carpenter Bees (here)
    Got Wildflowers?(here)
    It's Spring and A Gardener's Thoughts Are On Pollinators (here)
    The Wildflower and The Bee (here)
    A Few Good Reasons To Plant Milkweek (here)
    Got Shade? You Can Have Pollinators (here)
    Royalty In The Garden (here)

    Other bee posts you might want to read~
    Count Yourself Lucky To Have Hoverflies (here)
    Bumblebee Hotel (here)
    Still Taking Care Of Bzzness (here)
    My Sweet Embraceable You (here)

    Bee clip art (here)
    This post was written by Gail Eichelberger for my blog Clay and Limestone Copyright 2011.This work protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


    1. I did not know that about hypericum. The bees have it all to themselves I guess. I planted St. John's Wort at a client's and it became invasive. Is that a normal trait of the plant? I never used it again, although it is a wonderful addition to any garden to attract the bess.

    2. This is not a plant that I see around here. It is a beauty as you have presented it. Those bees love it. Your photos are fab.

    3. GWGT, NO, not invasive, but, it does seed itself near the base of the plant quite nicely. It might not make sense in some gardens but, in mine that quality is greatly appreciated. gail

    4. I have lusted after St. John's Wort, 'Albury Purple' (?) I think is the name. Glad to hear it isn't invasive.....may give it a try on my bank to the lake...room to spread out.

    5. janet, Hypericum androsaemum ‘Albury Purple’ is not a native plant. So, I cannot say whether it is invasive or not~But do a search and see what you can discover. it's really a fantastic looking plant for sure. gail

    6. This is one I'd like to try, especially if it can be started from seed. Beautiful photos!

    7. Such a beauty, dear Gail, and lovely photos of those fuzzy flowers, too. I always learn something new here, thank you. I have a Sunburst, and keep moving it, trying to find the right spot for it to shine brightly. Buds but no blooms. Yet.

    8. Definitely a genus to be aware of, and careful of. Here I'm not sure about frondosum, but some of the popular garden varieties of Hypericum here are wildly invasive, smothering and suffocating native plants. That said though, we have our native species here too. Equally as lovely, and popular with the bees. Certainly a good genus to take the time to get to know, and plant the right species for where you live. I'm off to the wholesale nursery this morning, so I'll have to see if they have any of our native forms available at the moment. They do have such cheery yellow blooms.

    9. I think I like the glaucous foliage even better than the blooms. I've never grown it, but have admired it in others' gardens.

    10. Lovely views of Hypericum in your garden.

      We have the native St. Peter's Wort here, H. stans, or H. crux-andreae found primarily in sandy soil of coastal plain. It self-planted into an azalea bed and I leave it, cutting them to the ground on occasion when they gets too unruly and pulling up seedlings.

    11. Great shots of your flowers and bees!

    12. Your pollinator posts have really inspired me. Do you have any beauty berry Callicarpa americana)? Mine just finished blooming, and I have never seen (heard) so much buzzing!

    13. ValH, Shame on me I don't! Not sure why and I think that must be remedied this fall when I plant again! Thanks for the reminder. gail

    14. Thanks for sending a little Tennessee sunshine to the gloomiest Spring ever in CA!

    15. I have a large hypericum (think it is 'Sunpat' but not sure). The Bees are in a frenzy every morning! My husband is sure they're getting high on that pollen!

      I've only found about 3 seedlings from my shrub and I've had it for 5 years. I tried transplanting this spring, but they kids not too happy in the 90 degree heat. I should try the next brood in a bit more shade.

    16. I love Hypericum. It deserves to be planted more than it is.

    17. I've seen this shrub so often in the garden centers this past year, but passed over it every time because I really didn't know much about it. I couldn't have asked for a more informative post than this, Gail! Now I'll definitely have to make a place for it in my garden--the bumbles have finally arrived here and would surely appreciate this pollen feast.

    18. Just caught up with your last post, too, Gail--gorgeous, gorgeous photos of the Monarch! Lucky you to have these visitors already. My Asclepias is almost ready to bloom, so I hope a few of my favorite butterflies find it, too.

    19. A new to me shrub..thanks Gail, one of the benefits of blogging, don't you agree? Your photos are outstanding..I have bee frenzy going on here too..around the liatris, guara and the mexican bush sage..sounds like tiny sewing machines, :)

    20. I am not familiar with this pretty native Gail. I think you could have a job selling native plants to gardeners ~ you do it so well, I'm sure you're making converts out of some of us. :-)
      Your photos are outstanding too ~ the first one just makes you inhale sharply! I also like the ambiance of the third from last (taken in the shade with the sweet curves of the bird feeder as a backdrop).

    21. Gail - that is fabulous photo of fuzzywuzziness. I want to pet both the bee and the hypericum blossom. I really enjoy the seedheads too - looks very pretty in the winter garden.

    22. Had to come back and tell you -- this morning as my husband and I were walking through the garden, he stopped to watch the bee frenzy (he does everyday). I told him that they were collecting pollen and he was totally astounded! If not for your post, I would never have thought to explain this to him.

    23. Freda, Thank you for sharing~that's the nicest compliment to get. xxoogail

    24. A stunning post, Gail. Your header image couldn't be lovelier!

    25. The bees have been in a frenzy over the St. John's Wort here too. I have one that is the straight species. Maybe because it gets sun from 11am on the flowers do open a lot at a time. It's flowered for a long time this year. No volunteer seedlings yet but I must try to sprout the seed ~ I need more! It's a great plant.

    26. A very wonderful shrub. Mine are blooming too and I adore them. They get large! I did not know half this information about them so I appreciate it so much.

      Thanks for your kind words about my BJ. We are so sad and it means a lot to hear from my blogging friends since BJ has been with me since day one.

    27. Ours isn't in bloom yet (we're a bit behind you) but that's okay because I'm positively salivating over your photographs!

    28. Wonderful photos. Did you see honey bees on it? I have to careful about putting anything that might be invasive. Our place is a clearing in the Appalachian woods and I already have periwinkle that escaped into the woods.

    29. Appalachian Lady, H frondosum is a Southeast native and might or might not be native to your part of the world~It's not invasive, but, it does seed about. I haven't noticed honeybees on it~But, then I haven't sen many of them lately. gail

    30. I enjoyed finding your blog. I am a Tucson AZ based bronze sculptor and writer and in celebration of National Pollination Week (June 18-25, 2012) I very recently released a new small bronze vessel titled: Nature's Bounty. It features the white clover plant with a single honeybee pollinating....you may view it at www.allemanstudios.com. It is wonderful to witness a blog as this - truly recognizing and appreciating the vital nature and miraculous attributes of our beautiful honeybees. Thank you!

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    "Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson