The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Time To Plant a Stump and More Rudbeckia.
Beneficial Creatures Obey Creation

Black Eyed Susan

One reader asked me late in the day, "Planted anything new today?"

I responded, "The day isn't over yet."

I found a third stump to place and put it in the Bird Spa last night. This is the heaviest of the three and has some large branches starting to jut out. To make it look right and remain stable, I am digging a shallow hole to keep it steady for the birds and squirrels.

When I go to Walmart for various items, the gardening center is conveniently near the pharmacy area, which creates an inevitable pull, like a tractor beam from the mother ship. I check out 20 cent seed packets, bird food, and plants identified as beneficial insect friendly.

Yellow Cone Flower


The plants change frequently, so I buy one or two each time. Once they had plenty of Bee Balm, so I bought extra. Now they are gone. Tomatoes were looking bedraggled, and they were all gone the next day. Dill and parsley were especially beat up in the sunny displays, so I got a few.

I knew Cone Flowers were good for beneficial insects but I never grew them before. Planted in the corner of the corn patch and given rainwater, they looked great almost immediately. Next I bought Blackeyed Susan and thought about Rudbeckia, which sounded familiar. Next I learned both are in the Rudbeckia genus and all are related to sunflowers.



Rudbeckia species 
black-eyed Susan, many species-specific common names FAMILY Asteraceae (aster) • annual, biennial, or perennial in USDA zones 3–9, depending on species • North American natives • blooms summer through fall • 1–10 feet (0.3–3 m) high, depending on species Rudbeckias are some of the most robust and attractive plants around. They are no-fuss plants that require little more than average soil and full sun. The pollen and nectar of these plants support syrphid flies, tachinid flies, soldier beetles, and certain parasitic wasps. North America hosts many native species of rudbeckia, with a large number of them being region-specific. 

Walliser, Jessica (2014-02-26). Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Kindle Locations 2610-2621). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 

Almost Eden warned me about chasing the beneficial insect plants, "It's a slippery slope." However, by looking through Walliser's Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden, I am learning a lot more about plants, insects, and beneficial creatures in general.

We had some maintenance problems, so the gentleman in charge of routine repairs came by the house yesterday. He was struck by all the roses growing and asked about my luck with hummingbirds. He met me at the house when we were moving in and have a common link with one university. So he has seen the front and backyards changing, especially this year. He finished his part and went home with a vase of fragrant roses, perhaps for his mother, who lives in the area and gardens.

He admired the crepe myrtle bush, which led me to study that plant. First we pruned wheelbarrows off the bush. Next we kept mulching the base, which was energized with earthworms. The mulch kept disappearing, so I mounded up more. Over the winter a large mound flattened to nothing again, and more mulch was placed there. Now we have the ultimate specimen, glowing with a mass of color, easily seen a block away, with Sweetheart calladiums growing below. Our helper did a lot of the work on the crepe myrtle, so he is very proud of his plant.

Steady crepe myrtle blooming provides
nectar and pollen for many insects, seed for birds in the winter.
They have a second bloom late in the season, if pruned.
How many prune for that around here? - one.

I provided some transportation for our helper, with his wife having the car at work. He was very appreciative, so I said, "The gardens would not be 25% of what they are today, without your help." Besides that, we have a lot of laughs when carrying out projects.

Crepe myrtles are properly trimmed on one street nearby and neglected on another, so readers can imagine the difference in blooms. The bush can have intense large blooms in deep pink, raspberry, or purple. If left unpruned, a few blooms poke out, rather thin and unimpressive. The pruned parts are cut into small pieces and added to the mulch below.

Two Changes Trigger Chemical Action in Bushes
Pruning bushes--whether roses, crepe myrtles, or other varieties--will always trigger growth in bushes, above and below ground. Bushes are either trying to flower or go to seed. If left alone, they flower and go to seed and become relatively dormant. When pruned steadily or suddenly, they burst into growth, provided they have water and good soil below - both helped by a thick layer of mulch.

Pest attacks also trigger a chemical reaction in bushes. Parasitizing insects detect a chemical change in the plants and will not trust their babies to them unless they do. Why lay eggs where no food can be found when the little uglies hatch? Zooming in on the scent, the beneficial insects lay eggs on or near pests, and the hungry children hatch and eat the pests in short order. The delicious food, served rare, prompts the adult stage in time and another generation of helpers.

Essential ingredients for a beneficial creature population are:

  • Leaf and garden trash cover for over-wintering.
  • A variety of plants to provide nectar and pollen all season for the adults.
  • Wild areas for beetles, left undisturbed, from which they stage nightly attacks on pests.
Lady Beetles fly in while many ground beetles
occupy the ground and devour pests at night.

Build Beetle Banks and They Will Bank on You


ORGANIC FARMERS ARE mandated by the rules of the USDA’s National Organic Program to work to conserve biodiversity on their farms. Gwendolyn Ellen’s job is to work with both organic and conventional farmers and with researchers to find ways to make this happen. In the early 2000s, Ellen and other scientists at Oregon State University began to develop a program to establish and study beetle banks. A regular practice of farmers in Great Britain and Australia, beetle banking involves creating elongated, semi-permanent raised berms throughout crop fields and planting them with grasses. Beetle banks are a great example of how habitat creation and companion planting can encourage populations of a very important predator. 

Ellen explains that the predaceous ground beetles these banks are meant to encourage instinctively climb upward to stay high and dry, away from moisture. To encourage this natural behavior, beetle banks are raised a foot higher than ground level. The native bunch grasses planted on the banks provide a drier, warmer habitat for these insects during the winter. The beetles especially like the organic matter that naturally accumulates around the base of these grasses. In the spring and summer, the beetles move out into the fields to forage for prey. 

“You have to think like an insect,” Ellen says. “Create a refuge from soil and pesticide disturbance. Our research shows that providing an undisturbed area, no matter what the size, increases the diversity of predaceous ground beetles on farms.” Ellen’s team encourages farmers to put in banks sized to fit with their farm’s production practices and suggests incorporating a minimum of three different species of native bunch grasses (grass species that grow into a clump or tuft rather than spreading horizontally to form a sodlike mat) into a given beetle bank. 

Why encourage ground beetles? Ellen calls them “a very important insect to have on a farm or garden” because they can hit pest insects as soil-dwelling pupae or larvae—a vulnerable stage. She explains that some species of ground beetles are specialized to reach up into snail shells to get out the goods or find and follow slug trails. Crawling around on the ground, they also eat slug and snail eggs.

Walliser, Jessica (2014-02-26). Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Kindle Locations 3395-3412). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 


Beetles like dry ground while butterflies and birds appreciate mud.