The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

New Plantations Teach New Duties: Time Makes Ancient Good Uncouth.
They Must Upward Still and Onward, Who Would Keep Abreast of Truth

Bee on buckwheat - pollinators will be our theme today.

New plantations teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

Apologies to James Russell Lowell

Lowell's poem was written to protest the Mexican-American War and the expansion of slavery to the West, but only part of it became a hymn, often questioned as a hymnal selection - because of ambiguous messages.

So I changed one word to "plantations," because I was thinking about how new plant interests get us studying that particular group of plants.

Plantation is often used today for a place where people are slaves, but it is also used for large swaths of agricultural land where one crop is grown. Plantation makes my yard seem rather grand, no?

The goal is to have roses growing faster than the weeds.

Various Gardens - Front and Back
Now that I have worked the front and back gardens for several years, specific areas are well defined.

The front yard is almost all roses, but I am breaking up some of the rose growth to include a variety of plants that invite pollinators. More on that will be posted in a minute.

The north side of the house, once crawling with weeds, is now 100% Blackberry, with some of it making the 90 degree turn to be in front and behind the house. 

The entire Western half of the backyard is Wild Garden (shade) and will be more completely covered in cardboard and autumn leaves this year.

The former Three Sisters Garden (corn, beans, pumpkins) with too much shade is the Hosta Garden, covered with cardboard already and boasting a few Hostas, which fill in the empty spaces. The sunniest row is for Blueberries. Yes, I am still feeding birds and squirrels with my plants

The other garden area behind the house has Butterfly Bushes and some new favorites - Chaste Tree, 
Bee Balm, Clethra, Gooseberry, and Helianthus. 

The fence roses will be the farm team to fill in the front rose garden when spots open up. Reason? It is difficult to have roses in two places at once.


Pollinators - Butterflies, Bees, and Other Wee Creatures - Plus Hummingbirds
The sunniest place on the property is appropriated called the Sunny Garden, where tomatoes are currently roasting in the heat and sun they love so much.

One neighbor asked, "Tomatoes like sun?" Sigh. 

Tomatoes will still get a row, but that area will be the Butterfly Garden, now being taken over by Raspberries I planted. Raspberries soon multiply like Blackberries. I will dig up the Raspberries and put them in the back where they can compete with the others in the Wild Garden.

I agree with those who oppose the monoculture of grass, which supports a limited number of creatures but is easy to keep going. Mowing is enough, because grass likes mowing and weeds shrink to almost nothing with regular cutting. Regular care drops mulched grass into the soil, where the nitrogen compounds built up the sod and squeeze out the weeds. Infrequent cutting favors the weeds, especially the broad field weeds that occupy a lot of turf.

Plantations for butterflies will also attract the other pollinating creatures, so I am studying how to build up this area, keep it under control, and gather butterflies, bees, and beneficial insects.

Yesterday I passed some time in the bookstore reading about gardening for pollinators. The idea is that a class of plants will attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and beneficial insects for several reasons. One is the pollen, and the other is the nectar. Magnets to insects will also attract hummingbirds.

Catmint is easier to grow than Lavender.
Let us hope it is not too easy!

Mints - My Three Kinds
Some plants come up often in this category. One example is - mints. But I also remember them as winner-take-all plants that are impossible to control. Catnip was a plant that I moved away from...gladly. Our helper has a mint that is so aggressive that he threatens to give me some. I reply, "I warned you, that will spread."

My three well-behaved mints are:

  1. Mountain Mint - attracting swarms of insects.
  2. Horse Mint - aka Bee Balm, attractive hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.
  3. Catmint - a $2 pollinator plant, on order.
Once I got involved in Bee Balm, I learned to distinguish various types. I like the purple one, Monarda, but will ban the red one from the main gardens - too mintily aggressive.

I am getting to know Mountain Mint, which produces the tiny flowers loved by pollinators. I now have three Mountain Mints and one Bee Balm (purple) in the main rose garden. Diversity in planting helps deter insect pests by attracting and feeding the adult stage of beneficial insects.

Catmints looks promising in adding variety, color, and pollination power in the front.

I will write more about butterfly specific plants later, as I learn more.

Norma Boeckler's butterfly greeting card.