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Garden No Mow Zones

Published by Jollean Smith in Pollinators · 28/7/2019 12:07:22
Tags: PollinatorsNoMowZonesGardenBeesButterflies.

A green freshly cut turf grass can sure look nice to North American standards, but it doesn’t provide much life to nature. Don’t get me wrong, we have turf grass areas in our yard and I like them but I also see the insanity in them too. By insanity I mean that North Americans can spend a lot of money and time to maintain turf grass. Lawn chemicals, aerating, gas for your mower, mowing tools are all costs that many people put towards their turf. Sometimes acres and acres of turf. Then when you consider the time it takes to mow each week it can really add up to my theory that it is somewhat an insane North American standard to maintain. One I am guilty of too.

But grass lovers before you run off, I don’t judge you for your love of turf. I know many people like the look of it and we all have one life to live and should live it in a way that makes us happy (as long as it does not harm others). What I would like to ask of the turf lovers is to consider saving some space for letting go, to create No Mow Zones for nature.

There are two ways of doing this:

  • Find an area that is naturally very active for pollinators. A patch of wildflowers or an area of tall grass that birds seem to enjoy the seeds. Mow an appealing shape around your No Mow Space and then let it thrive. Benefit: Nature will chose what flowers and plants are needed and they will naturally show up. Nature knows best.

  • Find a place in your turf that you would be willing to turn into a No Mow Zone. Cut out the grass and plant some native wildflower seeds that you like and let it grow. Benefit: You can select flowers and plants that you find appealing which will help you maintain your love for your yard.

Even the smallest of spaces can help our pollinators when we create No Mow Zones. Bees need a nectar source every 3 to 5 miles. Most big box store plants, your annuals, will not provide the nourishment they need. Pollinators really need native plants which are designed to feed them what they need to battle illness and reproduce.

Consider creating No Mow Zones in your garden today. And if you must mow (again no shame in some lawn) then check out our tips on how to be a kinder mower.

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Medicinal plants for Bees

Published by Jollean Smith in Bees · 4/6/2019 14:13:30
Tags: BeesSaveMedicinalPlantsFlowers

Just like humans, bees need nutritious plants. That tropical plant from Asia may look stunning on your patio and may even be visited by a bee, but it may not be providing the bees the nutrition they need to fight off disease.

First, it’s important to understand that there are many things making life for bees very difficult.

Pesticides - Makes them weak and/or kills them.
Disease - Makes them weak and/or kills them.
Loss of native habitat - The bees need proper food and nutrition to be strong enough to fight off 1 and 2, loss of habitat means less natural plants.

For example, a honey bee colony does not usually get wiped out in one fell swoop. In fact, it is slowly killed off by a process of slow weakening.

Let's take a look at the slow weakening:
1. A healthy bee colony can become more weakened from chemicals, poor nutrition, cold snaps and parasites.
2. When a be becomes sick it will fly off away from the hive to protect the hive.
3. If a large number of bee’s are sick and fly away, natural hive maintenance behaviours cannot continue.
4. When a hive loses bees, it becomes a vicious cycle. There are less bees to complete the tasks that keep the remaining bees healthy, such as cool the hive or provide food for young bees.

Eventually, the colony will die.

This is even harder on native bees. These bese don’t always operate in large colonies. They may just have one bee or a few bees and not 50,000 bees like the honey bee. They will face all the same impacts, but with significantly less bees to sacrifice per se. There is much less of a chance for recovery which is why native bees are endangered.

How can you help?
1. Add more native plants to your garden. Let those native flowers that show up in your yard, grow! Or research native plants from a reputable source
2. For love of bees stop using pesticides. Fight against your community associations who do mass spraying of pesticides for things like mosquitoes. These are weakening your bees. Back away from the Round Up or whatever new fancy name they come up with for weed killers.
3. Plant medicinal flowers. Bees need flowers that help them fight disease. If they are weakened by a parasite research shows that bees will go to certain plants that help them fight it. See a list of a few below.
4. Be super careful with your big box store plants. Although there is increasing pressure on greenhouses and retailers to provide plants free of chemicals, it is still out there. So many of those pretty plants are grown with chemicals such as neonics which impact a bees immune system. I am still trying to get a straight answer from Proven Winners on if their seeds are neonics free. They keep skirting around a direct yes or no. Ideally, get your plants from a native plant store who specializes in chemical free flowers. You can also grow your own from chemical free seed (check your seed supplier carefully) or practice cultivating flowers that grow naturally. If the greenhouse cannot assure you that their plants did not originate from chemical free seeds, walk away.

Here are a couple of plants that offer medicinal benefits to bees:

Home: Native to North America.
Plant needs: Full sun and moist soil.
Medicinal value: Offers bees iridoid glycosides which is important in helping bumblees fight off parasites.
Buy seeds: Prairie Moon Nursery, Joyful Butterfly and Swallowtail Seeds.


Home: Native to North America.
Plant needs: Likes full sun and tolerates many different soils.
Medicinal value: Offers bumble bees help with reducing pathogens.
Buy seeds: Seed Needs, Swallowtail Seeds and Bakers Creek Seeds.

Purple Giant Hyssop
Home: Native to North America.
Plant needs: Likes full sun and tolerates many different soils. I find it drought tolerant.
Medicinal value: Relief from parasitic infections.
Buy seeds: Prairie Moon Nursery, Select Seeds and Everwilde Farms.

Common Yarrow
Home: Native to North America.
Plant needs: Likes full sun and tolerates many different soils.
Medicinal value: Relief from parasitic infections.
Buy seeds: Bakers Creek Seeds, Swallowtail Seeds and American Meadows.

For a longer list of flowers and further information please read an excellent article written by Becca Redomski-Bush. Some information in my blog today was learned from her facinating page.

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Learn how some flowers are harming bees.

Published by Jollean Smith in Flowers · 14/11/2018 18:02:48
Tags: BeesFlowersSaveBees

I see so many wonderful posts about people planting flowers with the intention of savings bees. With certain bees hitting the endangered species list, we do need to plant more flowers along with keeping natural areas to help save our bee populations. In reality though, you may actually be hurting bees with the types of flowers you are planting. Many plants and flowers developed by growers and sold in big box stores may contain high-levels of neonicotinoids.

What is neonicotinoids?

In the simplest of words, it is a pesticide. It is designed to develop stronger plants and prevent pests. Its intent was good, but its impact devastating to pollinators. Neonicotinoids are often used on commercial farms or with large scale ornamental plant companies to make more resilient plants. The problem is that neonicotinoids do not discriminate and harms pollinators and their intended targets. The pesticide travels through the plants tissue, getting in the nectar and pollen. All of which can be ingested by pollinators and us.

What can happen when a bee goes to a flower with neonicotinoids?

It can impact their immune system. Weakening the bee and making it susceptible to more diseases. Along with mites, a major cause of decline with bees has been due to fungal diseases and viruses. When you consider that bees work and live in large groups, the spread of these diseases can happen rather easily. Especially if they have a poor immune system after returning from a neonics laced flower. It's no different than humans. You take the common cold to an old folks home and probably everyone is going to come down with it. Take that same cold to the gym and likely only a small portion are going to get it. Neonics is creating weakened bee colonies and turning all colonies into old folks homes.

Is the only way a bee can get neonicotinoids from a plant is through the pollen or nectar?

No, during the coating process for seeds, the chemicals can get airborne and impact hives (and any other bugs) nearby. Some plants treated with neonics secrete pesticide laden water (dew) that many different bug species rely on.

Do neonicotinoids spread?

Yes, if a plant has heavy levels of neonics, it can be spread to other plants through the pollen and soil. It can take many years to rid a yard of these chemicals.

You are seeing plenty of bees, so is it really an issue?

It’s important to understand that bee decline is not being experienced at equal levels in each area. For me I have had a first hand experience with this moving from Alberta,Canada to Mississippi, USA. In my town in Alberta I saw maybe 3 - 5 bees a day if lucky. Some days none at all. I had to self pollinate squash plants or I would never grow any. Each year I saw less and less.

Here in rural Mississippi it is an incredibly different story, and I have a theory as to why.

I grew a huge number of squash plants this year in Mississippi. Far more than I ever had planted in Alberta. Even if I had wanted to self pollinate my flowers in Mississippi I would have had to be up before the bees. By 7:00 am I would go out to the squash plants and every one of my squash plant flowers were cleaned of any pollen. It was amazing. At any given time my Salvia plant would have an upwards of 10 - 15 bees on it. Meanwhile many more hung around the garden, the bird bath and the other flowers. You can sit and just listen to the bee activity. So it’s understandable why some folks don’t see the problem.

The difference and my theory, is simple, vegetation. One thing you will see in a lot of Mississippi is an insane amount of vegetation. Often people here own many acres of land and only manicure a portion of it. The rest grows so fast that it is left to create a jungle of vegetation. In that vegetation are mass amounts of native plants and flowers. This jungle also leaves enough untouched space for native bees to nest and lots of pollen to collect. Odds are, some of that pollen will be chemical free as there is so much jungle and space between a farm or manicured area.

However, this does not mean that Mississippi is not being impacted by bee declines, it is just as likely to happen here. They may just feel the impact later than other areas.

How are things changing?

Due to consumer pressure a lot more big box stores are starting to label if the plants contains neonicotinoids. When I first learned about neonics a few years ago, I emailed a lot of retailers and flower suppliers to ask if their plants were free from neonics. The usual response was “there is no way to know for sure” or “no”. A few seed places were able to state they were neonics free.  Now it seems through public pressure and the very apparent decline of bees due to some new research, that this is changing. More big box stores are declaring they will phase out neonicotinoids. Many big box stores are requiring growers to label if the plants are neonicotinoid free.

So what can you do?

Check for Neonic plant labels - If plants are not labelled ask the store why not. Use social media to be loud about it and educate others to help drive the demand for change.
Don’t buy any plants without labels or that are labelled that they have neonicotinoids. - Big box stores need to have mass amounts of those plants not selling to be able to go back to the grower to tell them to change their ways.
Put up with plant imperfections. - It's time to view plant imperfections and weed speckled yards as a badge of honour. If you yard is perfect then chances are you killed something to get it that way. Harsh, but a likely reality.
Add native plants and flowers to your landscape and leave spaces for native areas to grow wild. - Native plants often turn up as the weeds in your garden. As long as they are not an introduced invasive plant, then the flowers that naturally appear when you don’t mow an area or pop up in your corners is designed for the native bees and pollinators in your area. They will withstand your weather better and will bloom at the right time to ensure pollen and nectar supplies are available at all times of the season. Ask for native plants at your local greenhouse and if they don’t supply them search for seeds online.

So please do not underestimate these things:
Your buying power.
Your social media voice.
The impact of small changes.

Now get back to gardening and planting an abundance of neonic free flowers!

Thanks for being here with us, want to read more? Read about Create a Nature Station or Fast facts on seeds.

Reference materials: - University of Vermont

Mother Nature Network- Tom Order

Salvia plant

Published by Jollean Smith in Flowers · 18/9/2018 10:18:57
Tags: SalviaFlowersDroughtBeesGarden

The Salvia plant is one of my favourite plants from this summer. It's pretty flower stems attract a constant flow of bees and small butterflies. At any given time of the day there are at least 10 bees on the plant, going from flower to flower.

The Salvia plant is part of the of the mint family. I have it growing in pots and in the ground. I don't find it invasive like regular mint.

For those living in active wildlife areas, this is one plant that is not favoured by deer. So plant and enjoy all summer long knowing that it won't get munched on.

Here are some fast facts on Salvia:

  • - There are many different varieties of Salvia and it's often it is referred to as Sage. In the ground this plant is drought tolerant. In a pot, I find it to be a heavy drinker and to require more watering. The plant will tell you when it is thirsty, with droopy leaves.

  • - The plant prefers full sun to part sun.

  • - You can grow this plant from seed. Certain varieties require different planting steps. For mine I had to place the seed on the top of the soil as it required light to germinate. Even then it was sometimes tricky to achieve germination.

  • - You should divide a Salvia plant once every couple of years in the spring.

  • - Salvia's will benefit from a top layer of compost.

  • - These are long bloomers and will provide you with a summer and fall season of flowers.

  • - Once the flowers are spent you can remove them to encourage more blooms, but honestly I am a lazy gardener and I don't cut back the spent blooms and I have had nothing but a constant supply of flowers.

You can get seeds from one of my top rated seed companies:
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

To visit my other top rated garden & seed companies from this summer check out my Top 3 Online Garden Company picks from 2018.

Your local garden centres will often carry these plants as well.

Give your garden a no fuss, bee loving plant that you can enjoy all summer long with Salvia.

So happy you joined us here, thanks for reading.

My top 3 favourite native plants.

Published by Jollean Smith in Flowers · 19/3/2018 00:05:47
Tags: NativePlantsFlowersGarderShootingStarsColumbineYarrowBees

Native plants are both beautiful and functional.

Note: This site uses paid referral links.

Native plants are designed to thrive in their natural habitat without any help from you, the gardener.

This means you don't have to water them as they will be designed to live with the moisture naturally available in your area. They won't require special soils or fertilizing and they will provide for the bugs and birds native to your region.

At the same time native plants are beautiful and unique, bringing all the same joy to your garden as exotic plants, just with a lot less fuss.

Here are my top 3 favourite native plants:

1. Yarrow - Yarrow is said to have herbal uses in the home. This plant attracts butterflies and makes a great dried flower. It can be cut back and mulched into your soil to help improve the soil quality. It is very drought tolerant.
2. Columbine (Shown above) - These are also drought tolerant. They will attract bees and hummingbirds. Their flower is very ornate, looking more like an exotic flower but it is really a hardy native. It is said you can eat the flowers but that is not tested by me. I just can't bring myself to eat my flowers! It is a great seeder. So collect the seeds and expand your collection throughout your garden.
3. Shooting Stars (Shown below) - These flowers are so unique and have a special place in my heart. When I was a young Girl Guide our leader would take us on hikes in the forests of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. On those hikes one of the first flowers I learned about was Shooting Stars. There these unique little gems were growing below the canopies of the giant trees. They do best in a moist spot within your yard. In the first year planted they will likely die back making you think you killed the plant but then pop the next year in full force. Perhaps most liked by me for the nostalgia, but their unique look is something you can enjoy as not everyone will have these in their yard.

The Shooting Stars uniqueness is what makes it stand out in any garden

When I get to the South my new mission will be to learn what new and exciting native plants exist for that region.

That is your Garden Gossip, don't forget to wet your plants!

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