Monrovia Plant Savvy
design, inspiration and practical ideas from the plant experts. April 2010
what we really need to fear about
  Dear Savvy Gardener,

No, it’s not the sting. Gardeners know that most bees are gentle creatures and, if not bothered, don’t tend to sting. The real fear is the loss of our bees…our essential pollinators. A few years ago, this story was big news, but while the media has moved on to other trendy topics, bee colony collapse continues and is getting worse. A new EPA study shows that pesticides are a huge part of the problem; this year, the extremely cold winter we had has made the situation dire.

What can we do to help the bees? First, eliminate or reduce use of pesticides. Then plant a garden with nectar-rich food that will bloom from spring through summer. As a bonus, you’ll be attracting butterflies – also important pollinators that are dwindling in numbers. Provide a shallow water source and a flat rock for butterflies to sun their wings.

  Merlot Coneflower
A Painted Lady Butterfly and a Bumble Bee share the bounty of nectar on a Merlot Coneflower.
 
  El Dorado California Lilac Walker's Low Catmint Goldsturm Black Eyed Susan Little Princess Spirea leafgif   they gotta live somewhere

Leave a small patch of bare ground where bees can establish their underground nests. If you find a hive where you don’t want it, find someone who will relocate it at no charge (search online for “bee rescue” and your city). Or attract mason bees, which don’t form hives. They live in holes, so you can purchase a cute mason bee house or simply drill holes in a block of wood.

Bees don’t see the red end of the color spectrum so good flower colors for bees and butterflies are white, yellow, blue, pink and purple. For spring blooming, plant Wild Lilac, Western and Eastern Redbud, Flowering Quince, Cranesbill , Lavender, Catmint, Rhododendron, Rose and Salvia.

To feed our winged friends all summer, plant Yarrow, Hyssop, Anemone, New York Aster, Bluebeard , Tickseed, Foxglove, Coneflower, Potentilla, Bee Balm , Russian Sage, Black Eyed Susan, Pincushion Flower, Stonecrop, Spirea and Verbena. Butterflies especially will flock to the aptly named Butterfly Bush, and Monarchs are attracted to Milkweed.

 
 
Bloodgood Japanese Maple Butterfly Japanese Maple Crimson Queen Japanese Maple Waterfall Japanese Maple Coral Bark Japanese Maple

leafgif
 
plant Japanese Maples for Arbor Day

If you don’t have any Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum) in your garden, you are missing out on an easy-to-grow gem in zones 5 - 8. Unlike the towering Sugar, Red, and Norway Maples of the northern climates, the Japanese are smaller – most just reach 10 to 15 feet high, with some larger varieties perhaps to 25 feet. They are ideal for smaller gardens, as a focal point in a Zen garden, or in a container on a patio.

They are prized for their exquisite foliage and delicate structure. The deciduous leaves come in many shades of green, orange, purple and red. The shape of the leaf is not unlike the fronds on a palm, hence the name Acer palmatum. The lobes on some leaves are broad and finger-like, while others are deeply dissected and sway elegantly in the slightest breeze. Some varieties dazzle us with brightly colored new growth in the spring, while others finish the season with a burst of fiery fall color.

Bloodgood is a larger upright-growing variety, to 20 feet, that retains the color of its burgundy-red, palmate shaped leaves well in the heat of summer. If you garden in an area known for late frosts, consider the very similar looking Emperor I® which breaks bud up to two weeks after Bloodgood, thus escaping damaging cold temperatures. Crimson Queen is a smaller, low-branching variety with extra-fine textured leaves of a deep crimson.

The cascading branches of Waterfall have lacy green leaves that turn golden in fall. Reaching just 10 feet high and to 12 feet wide, this looks fantastic as a small specimen tree or paired with an upright growing variety such as Oshio-Beni. Its deep red foliage provides a nice contrast.

Butterfly is another small tree with variegated green and white foliage that is tinged pink in the spring and turns magenta in the fall. The Coral Bark Maple is prized for its bright red-orange stems that glow in the winter landscape.