Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Gardening Tip of the Week: Pruning

Plan before you prune.

Proper planning before you prune your plants will help to ensure an attractive outcome. If you want to prune your live oak tree into the shape of a Tootsie Pop, be sure your equipment will reach the top of the tree or it may look like your Tootsie Pop has a little fuzz on top.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

National Pollinator Week 2013

June 17 - 23 is National Pollinator Week. A couple of weeks ago Marilyn Kircus of the Adventures of a Vagabond Volunteer blog suggested I post pictures of the pollinators that my garden supports during this week. I have posted pollinator pictures during previous Pollinator Weeks, but it was not on my radar for this year. Thanks to Marilyn for giving me some notice, so I would have time to get a variety of pictures. And be sure to check Marilyn's blog. She is a retired school teacher that lives and works at wildlife refuges. She shares great photos and information about places in this country that I may never see.

The majority of the pollinators attracted to my garden are of the insect variety. The variety of blooming wildflowers makes my garden something of a pollinator haven.

In the front yard, the prickly pear cactus, red yucca, mealycup sage, winecup, zexmenia, coreopsis and four nerve daisy are popular food sources for pollinators.

The red flower in the center is rock penstemon. The feathery looking green stalks around the yuccas are gayfeather and will provide additional nectar to the pollinators in the fall.

In the backyard, horsemint, blanket flower, chocolate daisy, and frogfruit are frequented by the pollinators when they are in bloom. Toothache tree, American beautyberry, elbow bush and yaupon holly were covered in pollinators when they were in bloom.

The white flowers of flowering tobacco (not a TX native) open in the evening and fill the air with their sweet fragrance. The long tubular flowers attract large hawk moths. Other pollinator plants in the background are elderberry, beebrush, Autumn sage, clammy weed, Gregg's mistflower, and redbud.

The following pictures are of some of the pollinators I found in my garden over the last couple of weeks. I can identify the flowers, but bees can be difficult to identify, so I will not even try to name them. For all I know, some of these "bees" may be wasps or flies.

Blanket Flower, Gaillardia pulchella 

Even the flowers with a few petals attract the bees.


Horsemint, Monarda citriodora

Notice how the bee fits into the flower. 

Even tiny bees like the horsemint.

Zexmenia, Wedelia texana

Mexican Hat, Ratibida columnaris

Four Nerve Daisy, Tetraneuris scaposa

Frogfruit, Phyla nodiflora

The clusters of flowers are smaller in diameter than a dime.

Spiders often take advantage of the high volume pollinator traffic to try to catch a meal.

Yes, even flies can be pollinators.

This is a European honeybee and clammy weed, Polanisia dodecandra. I believe the honeybees are the only non-native bee in this post.

These are future pollinators. Pipevine swallowtail caterpillars feast on woolly pipevine, Aristolochia tomentosa.

Just about everyone's favorite pollinators are the butterflies. This pipevine swallowtail was making its first flight around the garden after emerging from its chrysalis. It took a quick break on the beebrush,  Aloysia gratissima, which is always covered in bees when it is bloom. 

Common Buckeye resting on four nerve daisy.

Monarch feeding on the flowers of Giant Coneflower, Rudbeckia maxima. This plant is over six feet tall. Scroll up and check the top right corner of the third photo in this post for an overall view of the plant.

This checkered skipper is feeding on a the nectar of a Zexmenia flower.

A great American combination. An American Lady butterfly feeds on American Basket Flower, Centaurea americana.

Birds can also spread pollen from flower to flower. I took this picture of a hummingbird about two years ago. Notice the bright yellow pollen on her beak? The flowers are Autumn Sage, Salvia greggii.

Most wildflowers depend on pollinators to spread pollen and ensure future generations. Arguably, the most important service pollinators provide, particularly bees, is the pollination of our food crops. Many of our favorite fruits and vegetables require pollinators to set fruit. Squash plants, for example, have separate male and female flowers and need bees to 
spread pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers.

If you have ever grown squash and the plants produced little or no fruit, it is probably because the flowers did not get pollinated  You can resolve that problem by spreading the pollen from yourself or by attracting pollinators to your garden by planting a variety of blooming plants, especially plants that are native to your area. 

The link below provides a list of several crop plants that are pollinated by bees.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cactus Flowers

My "spineless" prickly pear cactus is in full bloom right now. 

The bright yellow flowers last just a day and are a good source of pollen for bees. 

This bee hovered over the flower like a helicopter. I could not tell that it ever touched the pollen, although the pollen sacs on its back legs are full.


When the flowers begin to close at dusk, they take on a peachy hue. 

The pollinated fruits of the cactus (tuna) will mature over the summer and change from green to purple.

A couple of tunas from last year are still clinging to the pads. They are visible in the lower left of this photo. They are edible and taste pretty good, but you have to be careful to remove the tiny spines. 

Well, this is not the post I intended for this week. I had planned a post about the pests (primarily insect) in my garden this year. I thought I had taken several photos, but it turns out that my memory card filled up much earlier than I realized and I did not get many shots. 

Note to self: Delete videos from the camera after they are downloaded to the computer.

Anyway, I "had" a great shot of a swamp milkweed leaf beetle laying eggs on my Mexican milkweed. After I took the picture, I squashed the bugs, so no retakes. Now that I think back, I did not remove the eggs. I guess it will not be long before I can have another photo opportunity with the destructive swamp milkweed leaf beetle.