Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hunters in the Garden

Toads are one of my favorite allies in the garden. They can eat up to three times their weight in insects and slugs each day! Some of their favorite treats include cucumber beetles, grasshoppers, earwigs, cut worms and Japanese beetles. So, it is no wonder the toads love our garden for it is besieged with Japanese beetles. They are all over the rose bushes and are enormous.

Recently this large toad decided to make a rabbits foot fern on our back deck home. It is shaded, moist and he doesn't seem to mind the foot traffic in and out the back door. I suspect he thinks it is a particularly good spot since it is a straight shot to the roses and dinner!

Another predator frequently seen crawling and jumping around in the garden is the praying mantis. They will eat beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, spiders, moths and butterflies. I like to think they eat more of the beetles, grasshoppers and crickets than the butterflies.

This past winter I found an egg sack in our garden which I now know was from a praying mantis (see Can you guess what this is post). This weekend while pruning some hedges we found not one, 

not two,

but eight ootheca! 

What was once an unusual find is now common place in our garden and I couldn't be more excited!

If you happen to find one of these egg sacks during spring pruning (or summer which is the case in my garden since it is one of my least favorite chores) or fall cleanup just tie it to a shrub or protected place in the garden. Then when the weather warms the eggs will hatch and you will have insect hunters to patrol your garden. Well, if they don't eat each other first...Happy Hunting!

Friday, June 24, 2011

It is All About the Pollinators (photo tribute)

80% of all plants rely upon pollination for survival!

Bumblebee in hibiscus bloom

What is a pollinator?

Bee on Black & Blue Salvia

A pollinator is an animal that causes a plant to make fruit or seed by moving pollen from one part of the flower to another. 

Bee on Hosta bloom


Bee on Thyme

Bee on Zinnia


Ruby-throated Hummingbird

and butterflies make the best pollinators.

Gulf Fritillary on Coneflower

Morning Cloak Butterfly

But other insects such as beetles, wasps, spiders and flies can also be pollinators.

flies on Queen Anne's Lace

beetle on Magnolia bloom

There are nocturnal pollinators as well such as moths and bats.

Cercropia Moth

And insects, lizards, beetles and ants accomplish pollination inadvertently.

One out of every three bites of food that we take is made possible by pollination!

Help conserve and support pollinators...plant a pollinator friendly garden, don't use pesticides, incorporate native plants in your landscape and leave your garden a little untidy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

**Under Construction**

It is summer and it has been hot, humid and steamy. My time has been spent with my kids enjoying summer fun activities...floating down the Chattahoochee River in the North Georgia Mountains, playing in the Shoals and at the pool & water is the only way to beat the heat! But, it hasn't been all fun and games...there has been some serious work going on in the garden.

C O N S T R U C T I O N   Z O N E 

My husband and daughter (who is a Horticulture major at Clemson University) have been busy laying the bones for three new garden beds.  

We had 3 pallets of these thick stack rocks delivered last week. These will serve as the framework for the new beds.

This stack of flagstone will be placed randomly throughout the walking paths to add interest and help hold the mulch in place.

Two of the new beds are located on the west side of the back driveway and in front of the woodland garden. The photo below shows the largest path into the woodland garden which is divided by a central bed. The right path leads down to the compost area and wood pile and the left path leads to a fire pit and the childrens' garden.


Bed #1 is approximately 500 sq. ft. and sits to the front right of the above view.

It gets some morning and afternoon sun in the top half of the bed and filtered shade in the bottom half. I am undecided as to what I will be planting in this bed.

To the left of Bed #1 is Bed #2 (for lack of a better term). We will be naming these beds, as we do all our beds since it just makes it easier to communicate about the garden. Bed #2 is approximately 700 sq. feet. Between the two beds is a new path that leads into the woodland garden.

Bed #2 is mostly shade but some parts get some filtered, morning sun. My plan is to create a Blue and White garden. I have already transplanted two upright rosemary that were pretty root bound in pots from the back deck to this bed.

This is another view of Bed #2 looking North.

You can see we have very poor soil to work with. The red clay is very acidic, which is wonderful for some plants but generally bakes like clay in the summer heat and isn't a good soil for either drainage or happy plants. It is difficult to see in the photo but we had some of the soil dug out to give the beds a little more depth. We had to be very careful not to disturb the root structure of the existing trees. Our plan is to fill the beds with leaf mulch, compost and soil. Since summer is not a good time to plant in the Southeast (we would have to water constantly) our project for the remainder of the summer is to get these beds prepped for Fall planting. And, it will give me time to decide which plants I want to fill these beds. I welcome any suggestions you have!

Finally, the third new bed, which is about 300 sq. ft., is at the back end of the woodland garden next to the fire pit. The bed gets filtered morning sun. We planted a Cherokee Princess Dogwood in this part of the woodland garden this past spring and we designed this bed around the tree and three other existing trees.

The kitchen garden is also getting an overhaul. This 30 x 30 area was leveled a few weeks ago to make space for some new raised beds. This is the future home of six 12 x 5 raised beds and one 24 x 5 bed.

The two year old blueberry shrubs are in the foreground. Behind this area is the newly installed retaining wall, which steps up to six fruit trees. The wall was a surprise Mother's Day gift to me from my "boys". It is not perfectly level but I love it! I think it adds character and is a great place to put some extra pots.

Here is a little taste of some of our morning harvest. We have been enjoying picking our breakfast straight from the garden.

I can't leave this post without a few blooms for Father's Day and a very special thank you to my wonderful husband who is an amazing father to four great kids and who is so supportive of all my gardening endeavors and crazy ideas!

Rudbeckia 'Indian Summer'

Bee Balm 'Petite Delight'

Shasta Daisy 'Becky'

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mimosas Anyone?

Well, a glass of champagne with a splash of orange juice does sound very inviting for Sunday brunch but since this is a gardening blog I will stick to the Mimosa Tree (Albizia julibrissin).

Mimosa trees are in full bloom in the southeast filling the air with its fragrance and beautifying the roadsides.

This exotic looking tree, sometimes referred to as a silk tree, usually has a single trunk habit but can have multiple trunks that grow quickly and upwards of 20 to 40 ft. tall.

It has wispy, fern-like leaves with pink pom pom flowers

which bloom May through July.

The bipinnate compound leaves fold in and hang down at night giving the illusion that the tree is sleeping.

The fluffy blooms are a magnet for bees and butterflies. And who can resist the intoxicating smell?

It was introduced to the United States in the 18th century as an ornamental tree by French botanist André Michaux in his garden in Charleston, South Carolina. Once a symbol in southern gardens like Crepe Myrtles and Magnolia trees, the Mimosa has fallen out of favor in recent years and is now considered a weed by many.

Mimosa trees are considered invasive. They reproduce easily. One tree can produce over 200,000 seeds a year! This is a threat to native plants in our area. If trees are located near wet areas seed pods will float downstream allowing them to spread quickly. Birds and other wildlife also help to spread the seeds. The roots can spread as much as 100 feet in ideal conditions and are known for sending up shooters.

Many people have magical childhood memories of climbing these trees (its low branching, forking limbs make for a great climbing tree!) while others think of it as a "weed" tree and take desperate measures to eradicate their gardens of this tree. I have mixed feelings...I enjoy the beauty of this tree growing on the side of the road; however, I would never plant one in my garden. And whereas they are beneficial to pollinators, I am an advocate of creating an environment where native plants can flourish. There is concern about how invasive these trees are and the crowding out of native species.

What is your opinion of this illustrious tree?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Is the Coast Clear?

A little someone has been raiding the birds' sunflowers seeds; actually two little someones.

We have a family of chipmunks living under our back deck. They have been tag teaming the feeder.

They climb up the railings and then scurry along the ledge to get up to the feeder. They are quite acrobatic.

Is anyone watching? ...Time to check out the goods.

I'll just dive right in, head first

Maybe I can reach some more from this side

Oh what the heck I'll just get right in. Peak-a-Boo

Uh oh did I hear one of those pesky puppies coming?

Well, no worries, this makes for a pretty good lookout.

O.K. back to work

Hey babe, you gotta come check this out. There is an entire buffet of sunflower seeds up here. I really don't think the birds will mind at all if we take a few.

I think I can fit a few more sunflower seeds in my mouth before I head home. I know the kids are starving.

I definitely hear someone coming this time,

time to skedaddle

I'm out of here...until next time.