Thursday, March 31, 2016
An interesting morning here on the mountain. Now up to 40.9° with a 3 mph breeze. The sky is clouded over but sunlight is just beginning to emerge. It is supposed to warm to 55°-60° by noon so I am trying to wind up inside chores and get outside. In another two days the temperatures will fall again and I won't be so eager to be outside.
There has been plenty of discussion in the past 2-3 years about the importance of pollinators. The absence of the monarch butterfly has stimulated the discussion in the east where pockets of butterflies have been obvious but not like their absence in places such as the flower farm a couple years ago. Last summer the total count was about 13 but nothing like 10 years ago. Back then I used orange colored flags to mark off 12 X 50 foot garden plots I was preparing to rototill for daylilies. The monarchs were in good numbers then and they appeared around the garden sitting by or on the flags as if orange flags were their favorite friend. Never since have there been so many.
So for my part in a personal "Bring Back The Pollinators" campaign I have begun to plant flowers, some annuals, some perennials, that are proven to me to be pollinator magnets. Yesterday I ordered in three flats of 50 plugs each of Vernonia noveboracensis, an ironweed sometimes commonly named New York Ironweed. I have never found it growing wild in Vermont but understand there are places in New England where it can be found. It caught my attention several years ago at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens where it was mass planted in groupings of 20-40 plants. It grows to be 6-7-8 feet tall and that height in a large planting is an impressive standout even for long distance eyes.
This ironweed works well with the equally tall Eupatorium maculatum 'Gateway', any of the 3-4 foot heleniums, the 6-7 foot tall Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' , 5-6 foot tall Veronicastrum, and the 6'-7' tall annual Tithonia commonly referred to as Mexican Sunflower. Grow some annual Verbena bonariensis in front of the entire mass and I guarantee you will be pleased with the color and will have plenty of butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds to look at. You do not have to do this all at once, as a plant here, a plant there will spread and get to the same grouping size over time. Just remember the mature sizes of these plants so they match your site.
If you stop by the flower farm this summer, ask me about pollinator plants. I'll point out what we might still have for sale and you can check out the garden plantings too.
Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where in the time I have written this the temperature has risen 6 degrees and the wind speed one mph. I better get going!
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
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And always here to help you grow your green thumb!!