News

Crop failures 2014

UPDATED April 17 -- We apologize for the crop failures that occur, but want you to know that fewer than 5 percent of the plants listed in the catalog were crop failures last year. 

Crop failures occur for several reasons:

  • Seeds fail to germinate or they germinate too late for our early sale
  • Cuttings used to grow plants don't arrive at our grower or they don't arrive in time
  • Plants don't over-winter well (usually applies to shrubs and trees)
  • Shipping problems

We will update the crop failure list here and on each individual plant listing as soon as we hear of any that occur through May 6. We can't guarantee that crop failures that occur once we've started setting up for the sale, between May 7 and May 11, will be announced on the website, but we'll do our best to update those as well.

At the sale, each crop failure is marked with a CROP FAILURE sticker on its sign.

Annuals

A087 Begoniam Bolivian -- Begonia boliviensis, Crackling Red
A135 Caribbean Copper Plant -- Euphorbia cotinifolia 'Burgundy Wine'
A326 Impatiens, Oliver's Touch-Me-Not -- Impatiens sodenii, Flash
A490 Pocketbook Flower -- Calceolaria, Kentish Hero
A553 Sun Daisy -- Osteospermum, Fire Burst
A483 Petunia -- Petunia, Sweetunia Hot Rod Red
A503 Salvia -- Salvia patens, Oceana
A538 Snapdragon, Trailing -- Antirrhinum, Luminaire Harvest Red

Climbing Plants

C004 Black-Eyed Susan Vine -- Thunbergia alata, Arizona Dark Red
C007 Bleeding Heart Vine -- Clerodendrum thomsoniae

Fruit

None reported

Grass

G014 St. Augustine Grass -- Stenotaphrum secundatum

Herbs

H030 Church Steeples -- Agrimonia euphoria
H044 Comphrey -- Symphytum, Hidcote Variegated

Native Wild Flowers

N151 Phlox, Woodland -- Phlox divaricata, Mary Helen

Perennials

P100 Catmint, Lesser -- Calamintha nepeta, Montrose White
P370 Iris, Siberian -- Iris siberica, Contrast in Styles
P526 Primula -- Primula, Noverna Deep Blue

Roses

None reported

Shrubs and Trees

None reported

Unusual

None reported

Vegetables

None reported

 

April 13, 2014 | Posted in | Add a comment

Learn How to Help Pollinators

When you first see the book, Pollinators for Native Plants, it draws you in quickly through its 1,200 color photos of flowers, insects, and their interactions.

Just as Doug Tallamy’s book Bringing Nature Home was an eye-opener for many folks in the understanding of the relationships of native plants and insects and how gardeners could have a positive role in the environment, Heather Holm’s new book carries the discussion to the role that pollinating insects play in the life of a plant and why that is important.

Holm, of Minnetonka, has done a fabulous job of organizing the complex and technical subject of pollination. This is a book that will be read and enjoyed for its illustrations, tidbits of information, and the larger view it presents. But, more importantly, it’s a book you will want to study. It’s small enough to fit the hand as a field guide, yet ambitious enough to cover the subject as portrayed through 65 perennial flowering native plants.

My recommendation is to spend a preliminary hour with the book to understand its organization. The vocabulary of the opening chapter will cause many readers to refer to the word glossary in the back of the book. You might even want to read the glossary first before starting page one. You’ll notice the color tabbed sections for a visual glossary and indexes, the suggested pollinator planting plans, and the common bee genera and conservation guides.

All of this is supporting the core of the book, which is devoted to the native plant/insect interactions in three communities—prairie, woodland edge, and wetland edge.

In a format that reminded me of Welby Smith’s technique in Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota, Holm has organized each of the featured plants into a left-hand page of plant information for culture, distribution, keying and additional notes. The right-hand page is for the insect interactions with that specific plant. Both pages are profusely illustrated.

For anyone who is interested in a better understanding of pollination and your role as a gardener, practitioner, small grower or farmer, this is a must-have book. It will add to your understanding of insects and wild plants and their role in the intricate web of life on earth.

—Kent Petterson, Terrace Horticultural Books

Pollinators of Native Plants will be for sale in the Terrace Horticultural Books booth Thursday (volunteer sale), Friday, and Saturday during the plant sale or by calling 651-222-5536.

 

April 3, 2014 | Posted in | Add a comment

Pity the Impatiens

For decades, impatiens (Impatiens x walleriana) have been reliable plants for shade gardeners. But now that a blight called downy mildew is moving into our area, you may want to rethink and expand your plant ­choices for shady gardens.

When downy mildew strikes, the plants die quickly. They might look fine on Friday, but when you check them on Monday, they’re dead.

As far as we know right now, there is nothing you can do to prevent or treat downy mildew: no sprays to purchase, and nothing you can put in the soil. It doesn’t matter how much you water or don’t water.

Downy mildew is airborne, which is how it has spread so readily, and it stays in the soil. If your plants were affected last year, they will probably die again this year.

The only bright note is that the disease won’t spread to other plants in your garden, and that impatiens from different species, such as New Guinea impatiens, SunPatiens, and Poor Man’s Orchid are resistant to the disease.

Alternative shade plants

Annuals:

Begonias, A083–103

Bush violet (Browallia), A113B

Caladium, A005

Coleus, A144–A185

Fuchsia, A245–A251

Impatiens:

New Guinea, A323–A325

Poor man’s orchid, A327

SunPatiens, A328–332

Jamaican forget-me-nots (Browallia), A334B

Lobelia, A366–A374

Shamrock, A521–A523

Wishbone flower (Torenia), A587–A592

Cheaper perennials may be good substitutes, too:

Astilbe, P012–P017

Serbian bellflower (Campanula), P051

Bleeding hearts (Dicentra), P071, P072

Bugleweed (Ajuga), P083–P085

Coral bells (Heuchera), P138–P147

Forget-me-nots (Myosotis), P237

Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium), P372, P373

Lamium (Lamium), P382–PP386

Periwinkle (Vinca), P486–P489

April 3, 2014 | Posted in | Add a comment

25 Years at the Plant Sale

The Friends School Plant Sale is 25 years old.

It all started in 1989–90, one year after Friends School of Minnesota was founded. The fundraiser began simply with a few kinds of vegetables, herbs, perennials, and annuals spread out on the ground. We chose to sell plants because the school’s leaders saw a connection between our school’s belief in community and the community-building nature of gardening.

Our catalog has grown from a single sheet of paper to 60 pages listing 2,300 kinds of plants. Now, if you Google “plant sale,” guess what comes up first?

Fifteen- to twenty-thousand people come through our doors, and most shoppers also graciously “round up” for the school. Altogether, the sale and round-ups raise more than $250,000 for scholarships.

The first sale was organized by Henry Fieldseth, a school parent, and he’s still one of the core volunteers who works to make it happen. Regular shoppers may recognize the many other dedicated volunteers who seem to live at the State Fair Grandstand, from set up to clean up, every Mother’s Day weekend.

It takes over a thousand volunteers to run the sale, including a committee whose members work year-round to select plants and make each sale more streamlined. Our middle school students learn about community service and hard work as they help set up the sale, manage plant sections, and assist shoppers. Plant lovers or people who just love the sale donate countless hours to make it a success. We hope you feel their enthusiasm as you shop!

Even with the growth of the last 25 years, the Friends School Plant Sale is still about community. The sale brings together novice gardeners, master gardeners, and everyone in between. It’s a community of volunteers working to make the sale high-quality, pleasant, and efficiently run. And it’s for a great cause: making Friends School of Minnesota accessible, regardless of financial need.

Thank you for your support of our 25th sale!

April 3, 2014 | Posted in | Add a comment

What’s in a Plant Name?

Plants have botanical names, often called “Latin names.” Until recently these names were fairly simple and agreed-upon worldwide.

A plant’s scientific name is its genus and species in italics, plus—if it’s a selected variety—its cultivar name. Example: Phlox paniculata ‘Bright Eyes’. A cultivar name should be enclosed in single quotes and there are international rules governing what can and cannot be a cultivar name.

Increasingly, though, cultivated plants are being given a third type of name: a trademarked name. Yes, just the way Tylenol and Kleenex are registered trademarks, now a plant’s name can be owned by a company or individual. These plants still have a cultivar name, but it is purposely designed to be a name you wouldn’t want to use, such as ‘Pas 553645’. This way, people who sell and write about plants are steered into using the trademarked names, such as, in this case, Zinnia Zahara Double Fire. Much prettier.

There are several problems with this practice, but for us at the Friends School Plant Sale, our difficulty is that we want to give you accurate information about each plant, including its correct name. It has become very hard, and often impossible, to distinguish between a plant’s trademarked and cultivar names or even to find out what the cultivar name is. Also, the internet is full of errors in naming plants. It already takes several people months of careful research to provide our customers with good information on our 350–400 new plants every year.

So, though it makes us sad to do it, we have reluctantly decided to adopt a new way to list plants in the catalog. We will still give the common name and the Latin name, but the “variety” name we list could be:

• a cultivar name without its single quotes,

• a trademarked name without its ™ or ®,

• part of its Latin name, common name, or just its color description.

Actually, unless you are as interested in plant names as we are, you will hardly notice any difference, except for the lack of single quotation marks. The name we list will be the name that, unless you exclusively use Latin names, it makes sense to call the plant.                                           

April 2, 2014 | Posted in | Add a comment

Fairy Gardens Allow Room for Play

But really by Carol

Whether it’s called Fairy Gardening or, if you’re a nonbeliever, Miniature Gardening, the landscaping in miniature that’s become popular in the last few years is a playful way to expand your gardening horizons. In the ground or in appropriate pots, a tiny version of a full-sized garden is achievable without years of hard work or multiple failures.

With miniature gardens, it’s all about scale: sweet little “trees,” small-leafed plants, and appropriate-sized hardscaping. Very small conifers would be suitable trees, or you could venture into mini-topiary, shaping a small upright rosemary or maybe a curry plant or lavender plant into the form you need. Small-leafed, low-growing annuals and perennials, as well as groundcovers, can be grown under the trees. A small scissors will help control heights and shapes as the plants grow.

For a woodland garden (planted in a hollow stump, perhaps), smaller ferns and various mosses with a few lichened/mossy rocks and twigs would be simple to put together. A beach-themed garden could feature sea shells as well as tropical plants. There are lots of possibilities—get creative and have fun!      

Plants we offer at the sale:

Curry plant, H049

Rosemary, Golden Rain, H121

Rosemary, creeping, H124

Thyme, English miniature, H150

Brass buttons, P080

Moss campion, P093

Cranesbill, Alpine, P160

Mini hen and chicks, P271

Moneywort, P456

Irish moss, P460

Golden oregano, P471

Pinks, P503–P505, P508A, P508B

Stonecrop—any of the shorter, small-leafed ones, page 21

Sea Thrift (Armeria) P543

Creeping thyme, P591–P597

Mini jade tree, A041

Stonecrop, Ogon, A050

Lavender cotton, Lemon Fizz A352

Alyssum, A053–A056

Spike moss, A545

Wire vine, A586

Arborvitae such as Cutie or Anna’s Magic Ball, and other young or small conifers, page 48

Boxwood, S014

Smaller ferns, page 54

Rue anemone, N171

Plants we don't have at the sale but are worth checking out:

Baby tears

Small-leafed pileas

Creeping fig

Native moss from your garden or lawn

Seedling pine trees

 

The photo is courtesy of miniaturegardenshoppe.com

April 2, 2014 | Posted in | Add a comment

North Star Nursery Seed List

North Star Seed and Nursery is selling vegetable and flower seeds at the Plant Sale this year. You can find the Northstar table inside the Grandstand, near the vegetable section. 

Seed packets are priced between $1.25 and $2.00.

Beans

Gold Grop

Kentucky Blue Pole

Romano Bush

Royal Purple

Top Crop

Beets

Chioggia

Cylindra

Detroit Dark Red

Ruby Queen

Broccoli

Calabrose

Brussel Sprouts

Long Island Improved

Cabbage

Golden Acre

Mammoth Red Rock

Cantaloupe

Hales Best

Iroquois

Carrots

Danvers Half Long

Nantes Coreless

Little Fingers

Royal Chantonay

Chard

Bright Lights

Corn

Ambrosia (bicolor)

Blue Hopi

Bodacious

How Sweet It Is (white)

Honey & Pearl (bicolor)

Incredible Hybrid

Serendipity (bicolor)

Strawberry Popcorn

Sugar Buns

Cucumber

Homemade Pickles

National Pickling

Spacemaster

Straight Eight

Kale

Dwarf Green Curled

Lettuce

Black Seeded Simpson

Grand Rapids

Ruby Red

Salad Bowl

Parsley

Moss Curled

Parsnip

Imperial Hollow Core

Peas

Oregon Sugar Pod

Sugar Star (snap)

Wando

Pepper

Jalapeño

Pumpkin

Jack-o-Lantern

Radish

Cherry Belle

Crimson Giant

German Giant

Sparkler

Rutabaga

American Purple Top

Squash

Buttercup

Early Prolific Straight­neck (summer)

Early Summer

Crookneck (summer)

Turnip

Purple Top White Globe

Watermelon

Sugar Baby

Herbs

Arugula

Basil, Sweet

Basil, Lemon

Chives

Dill

Fennel, Florence

Marjoram, Sweet

Oregano, Italian

Sage

Savory, Summer

Thyme, Garden

Flowers

Alyssum: Carpet of Snow

Bachelor's Button mix

Calendula: Fiesta mix

California Poppy

Cardinal Climber

Cosmos: Sensation mix

Marigold: Cracker Jack mix, Sparky mix

Morning Glory: Heavenly Blue, Scarlet O’Hara, Split Second

Nasturtium: Dwarf Jewel mix

Sunflower: Giant Mammoth

Sweet Pea mix

Zinnia: California Giant mix

 

April 2, 2014 | Posted in | Add a comment

No to Neonicotinoids at the Sale

Green sweat bee on an aster, photo by Heather HolmFriends School Plant Sale cares about the health of your garden. We want to see healthy plants in healthy soil visited by a healthy assortment of thriving pollinators. Last year we focused on the health of bees, one particular pollinator, and encouraged the wide use of bee-friendly plants. But we have come to believe that even the best plants grown in the best places with the best practices can do harm when those plants come to the garden infused with long-acting, invisible insecticides.

Neonicotinoid insecticides threaten bees and other species

Which brings us to neonicotinoid insecticides. This is a family of insecticides, with actions similar to nicotine, that was developed in the 1980–90s. These insecticides (see list below) have been very commercially successful, probably because they are supposed to be less toxic to mammals than previous insecticides. One of them, imidocloprid, is the most widely used insecticide in the world.

But the neonicotinoids have been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder, and in the decline of pollinators in general. What makes them particularly concerning is that they are systemic (treat one part of the plant or the soil around it and you have treated the whole plant including the pollen and the nectar) and they are persistent (after one treatment they may last years in soil, and up to six years in woody plants).

At lethal levels they kill, and at sub-lethal levels they may kill also, but indirectly, by disrupting the immune system and the navigational system, at least in bees. Responding to these concerns, in 2013 the European Union imposed a two-year moratorium on some uses of three of these neonicotinoids. In the U.S., they are “under study” with no action likely for at least another three or four years.

In addition to bees, songbirds and beneficial invertebrates may be negatively affected by neonics. There is data worldwide that neonic contamination of surface and groundwater is already above the level needed to kill aquatic invertebrates. The Plant Sale committee is particularly concerned because most neonic studies have looked at agricultural neonic usage; amounts used in horticulture may be up to 120 times higher, and in home use higher still.  

Our goal: no neonic plants at the Plant Sale.

In complex systems, we can argue forever about what level of certainty constitutes “proof.” But the Plant Sale committee has become quite sure that we don’t want neonics in our own gardens, and absolutely certain that we don’t want to sell neonic-treated plants to anyone else. So the Plant Sale had to become neonic-free.

Has it been easy? Essentially it has meant having conversations with each grower, asking growers to speak with all their suppliers, and in effect examining the history of every plant we sell. Often we have been the first to ask about neonics. Inevitably we have had to drop some plants, substitute others, and in a few cases raise some prices. Some things we have learned:

Seed-grown plants have the simplest history to trace.

Unlike agricultural seeds (almost all soy seeds, for example, are treated with neonics), horticultural seeds are available without insecticide treatment. Since they tend to be grown by a single grower, if that grower does not use neonicotinoids, we can be virtually certain that the plant is neonic-free. Many of the smaller plants at the sale are seed-grown: all 4-packs in annuals and vegetables, vegetables in 3.5” pots, most perennials in 2.5” pots, all our native flowering plants and grasses marked with a Minnesota symbol, and some others.

Cutting-grown plants have proved to be a much more complex problem.

Plants grown from cuttings tend to be the larger annuals and perennials. They begin their lives as a cutting from a mother plant somewhere in the world, often outside of the U.S., which makes treatment records difficult to access. These cuttings then get shipped to growers in the United States where they are rooted. They often pass through several growers on their way to becoming the plant that you see at the sale.

The Plant Sale committee has had to accept that we are unlikely to know about the early treatment of these cuttings (does early treatment matter? Or are the neonicotinoids diluted out by time and plant growth? We don’t know), but we have made every attempt to be sure that they have not been treated after rooting. This in itself has been difficult; some growers treat all the plants, but at different times; some treat none, and some treat selectively. And some consider the information private and won’t talk to us.

We have chosen to drop plants when it has been clear that they have been treated with neonics, or if there is, in our best estimation, inadequate information. Recognizing that we are working from second-hand data, unavailable data, and, for some plants, layers of information, we can’t absolutely guarantee that none of our plants has been touched by a neonic, but we come as close as is possible this year. Given what we are able to know, there is not a plant that we sell that we would hesitate to put in our gardens.   

Bulbs proved a problem.

Many of the bulbs at past sales came from the Netherlands, where there is a ban on neonics, so we assumed these bulbs would be neonic-free. Not so. The lily (Lilium) bulbs that we have ordered for years are exempt from the ban and in fact are required to be treated with neonics prior to export. This discovery necessitated a last-minute scramble to find some good replacements, which we have done, but you’ll notice that they are not quite as inexpensive as in previous years.

Some of the growers we have spoken to have plans to stop using neonics, either because of their own concerns or because of ours. A few didn’t even know they were using neonics (see the product list below for multiple names for the same chemical)! Simply bringing up the issue is beginning to effect change.

We have done everything in our power to be sure the plants we sell are neonicotinoid-free.

You can protect pollinators: talk to businesses, avoid neonic's

Let’s carry this forward. If this issue is important to you, and we think it should be, then the greater community needs to hear your concerns. When you go to another nursery, garden center, or plant sale, ask questions:

  • Do you use neonicotinoids?
  • Do you know which of your growers do?
  • What are you doing about it?

There are alternatives, both chemical and non-chemical: tell them. Be willing to work with responsive and responsible vendors and growers, big and small. One of the things that we hear from growers is that they treat because of the expectations of the customer (are a few aphids all that bad?). Maybe we have a part in this; maybe we need to let some of that need for “perfection” go. And while we are on that subject, if you have ever used an insecticide, check your shelves to make sure that it is not a neonicotinoid; labeling is often unclear.

We are happy to welcome you to our best effort at a neonic-free Friends School Plant Sale, the first of many. If you have questions about specific plants, feel free to e-mail us, or ask at the info desk during the sale. We look forward to talking with you about this.

To learn more

www.xerces.org, including www.xerces.org/wings-magazine/neonicotinoids-in-your-garden

www.beyondpesticides.org, including  www.beyondpesticides.org/pollinators/documents/pesticide_list_final.pdf

American Bird Conservancy, www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/toxins/Neonic_FINAL.pdf

TED Talk by Dr. Marla Spivak, www.ted.com/talks/marla_spivak_why_bees_are_disappearing

www.abcbirds.org

www.panna.org

www.pollinator.org

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

 

A partial list of products that contain neonics

If you care about pollinators, be alert for neonics. They can hide under a multitude of aliases in lawn treatments, Japanese beetle sprays, and pre-treatments for Emerald Ash Borer.

Treatment in your neighbor's yard can kill the bees in your yard, so the time to talk about this is now. Be a good neighbor yourself and properly dispose of any of your own neonics. And don't buy new ones.

Avoid products that contain:

  • Acetamiprid
  • Clothianidin
  • Dinotefuran
  • Imidacloprid
  • Thiamethoxam

Acetamiprid  

Foliar spray for garden fruits and vegetables, and ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs.   

Ortho Bug B Gon Garden Insect Killer

Ortho Bug B Gon for Lawns

Ortho Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer

Ortho Rose and Flower Insect Killer

Ortho Rose Pride Insect Killer

Clothianidin            

Granules for turf, and ornamental flowers, shrubs, or trees.

Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flower Care granules

Green Light Grub Control with Arena

Dinotefuran

Granules for turf and ornamental flowers, shrubs or trees; soil drench for ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs.

Green Light Tree & Shrub Insect Control with Safari 2 G

Safari

Ortho Tree & Shrub Insect Control Plus Miracle Gro Plant Food

Imidacloprid

Foliar spray for turf and ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs; soil drench for garden fruits and vegetables, ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs; trunk injection for trees; granules for turf and ornamental flowers, shrubs, or trees.         

Bayer Advanced 3-in-1 Insect, Disease, & Mite Control

Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Insect Control

Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed

Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control

Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flower Care concentrate

DIY Tree Care Products Multi-Insect Killer

Ferti-lome 2-N-1 Systemic

Hi-Yield Systemic Insect Spray

Knockout Ready-To-Use Grub Killer

Monterey Once a Year Insect Control II

Ortho Bug B Gon Year-Long Tree & Shrub Insect Control

Ortho MAX Tree & Shrub Insect Control

Surrender Brand GrubZ Out

Thiamethoxam

Foliar spray for turf and ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs; granules for turf and ornmanetal flowers, trees, and shrubs.       

Amdro Quick Kill Lawn & Landscape Insect Killer

Amdro Rose & Flower Care

Maxide Dual Action Insect Killer

 

Photo credit: A green sweat bee (Agapostemon) on a fall-blooming aster. Photo by Heather Holm from her book Pollinators of Native Plants. Reviewed in this year's catalog, which you can read here.

 

March 25, 2014 | Posted in | Add a comment

Gardening for Bees: Why and How

As you lean on your hoe in that lovingly tended, highly productive early August vegetable patch, do you ever think about who else is helping you to get those vegetables to the table? Sometimes unseen, often unheard, paid only in nectar and pollen, those assistants are absolutely essential to the process of turning flowers into fruit and seed. Pollinators, be they beetles, bees, flies, ants, butterflies, hummingbirds, or bats, are responsible for apples, beans, cranberries, squash, tomatoes, sunflowers and hundreds more. Globally, one out of every three mouthfuls of food depends on a pollinator. And pollinators are in trouble.

Bees are the most important pollinators in North America. Since there are no native North American honey bees, the European honey bee (social, lives in colonies, makes honey!) is the species of bee most often raised by North American beekeepers. Since the winter of 2006–2007, unusually large numbers of apparently healthy worker honey bees have abandoned their hives en masse, a phenomenon that has come to be called Colony Collapse Disorder. But focusing on Colony Collapse Disorder, which is real and dramatic and troubling (and imperfectly understood), has in many ways obscured the more powerful fact that honey bees have been in accelerating decline for the last seventy years. 

Wild bees are struggling as well, probably more than the honey bees. I suspect that most of us aren’t aware that there are bees other than honey bees and bumble bees, but in fact there are 20,000 species of bees worldwide, 4000 of them found in the United States, 500 native to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Most wild bees live in nests either in the ground or in holes in dead wood, stone walls, hollow stems, or other crevices in your garden. They are docile and hardly ever sting. Although they don’t make honey, they are terrific pollinators because they’ve evolved alongside the flowers that they pollinate. But wild bees’ numbers have been dropping, too. Some bumble bee species are on the verge of extinction.

What has gone wrong?

Over the last 50 years, almost every change we have made as a society to how we live and how we farm has been unfriendly to bees. We have more concrete, more lawns, more pesticides, and more giant farms growing corn and soybeans. We have fewer weeds and fewer flowers. As individuals who care about the health of bees, there are some things we can’t do much about (bee diseases, bee genetics) but as gardeners we have a powerful tool: that little piece of ground we call our own back yard. Make some simple changes, and then persuade your neighbor and their neighbor to do the same. It will make a difference.

What you can do

  • Minimize your pesticide use. Learn to accept imperfection. Hand pull unwanted plants. Think of the “weeds” in your lawn (clover, chickweed, violets) as “grass companions.” Read about integrated pest management.
  • Plant flowers that appeal to bees: flowers with landing platforms, single flowers, particularly in white, yellow, or blue. (Bees see in the ultraviolet range, which means they don’t see red.) Be slow to deadhead because fading blooms still have nectar. Plant in clumps.
  • Plant natives. This is an important one. Studies of bumble bees show that they prefer natives 4:1 over introduced plants. Dense stands of native flowers give “more bang for the buzz.”
  • Plant for succession (this is good for you as well as the bees). Try to have at least three things flowering in your garden at all times; critical times are early spring and late fall, think squill and crocuses, goldenrod and asters. Plan your yard vertically (canopy, understory, shrubs, ground layer) to fit in more plants. Reduce or get rid of your lawn.
  • Bee nest made from short bamboo sticks grouped. Photo by Joel Gardner.Include some nesting space for wild bees. Sixty to seventy percent are ground nesters; just leave an area of exposed, undisturbed soil. No mulch, sorry. Thirty to forty percent of native bees are cavity nesters; except for the carpenter bees, native bees can’t excavate their own holes, so they need ready-made tunnels. Consider a bee house made of either an untreated, drilled wood block or hollow sticks. Leave rotting dead wood in your yard.
  • Read. Educate yourself. Educate your neighbor (if your neighbor is using pesticides, they’re ending up in your yard).
  • Consider becoming a beekeeper. Really, why not? Find information at www.beesquad.umn.edu.
  • Support local research. As gardeners, we are lucky to have a world class bee lab on the Saint Paul campus of the University of Minnesota, where the goal is to “get bees back on their own six feet.” Run by Marla Spivak, a MacArthur fellow and professor of Entomology at the U, the bee lab runs classes, does research, works with beekeepers, and has big plans for the future.

Get involved!

______________

What About Wasps?

Wasps are different from bees. Most wasps are meat-eating ­predators that feed on insects, making them beneficial in the garden. They have little to do with pollination (one notable exception: the tiny fig wasp which is the sole pollinator of some kinds of figs).

Another note about wasps: Paper wasps, yellow jackets and hornets are types of wasps. If you have ever been stung at a picnic, it was probably by a wasp, not a bee. Bees rarely sting people when foraging on flowers, but yellow jackets in August—watch out!

______________

Resources

www.beelab.umn.edu—Researchers from the U of M will be on hand in the Garden Fair to answer questions about bees and plants for bee ­habitat. See page 4 of the catalog for schedule.

www.greatsunflower.org

www.pollinator.org

www.xerces.org

www.queenofthesun.com—a documentary film about bee colony collapse disorder

______________

Planting for Bees

Native Wild Flowers

Asters—Aster*
Beardtongue—Penstemon
Beebalm—Monarda
Bergamot—Monarda
Blazing Star—Liatris
Bluebells—Mertensia*
Boneset—Eupatorium
Butterfly Weed—Asclepias
Compass Plant—Silphium
Coneflower—Echinacea
Coneflower, Yellow—Ratibida
Culver’s Root—Veronicastrum
Cup Plant—Silphium
Goldenrod—Solidago*
Harebells—Campanula
Helen’s Flower—Helenium
Hyssop—Agastache
Indigo—Baptisia
Ironweed—Vernonia
Joe Pye Weed—Eupatorium
Lead Plant—Amorpha
Lupine, Wild—Lupinus
Marsh Marigold—Caltha
Milkweed—Asclepias
Mint, Mountain—Pycnanthemum
Phlox—Phlox
Prickly Pear—Opuntia
Purple Prairie Clover—Dalea
Saint John’s Wort—Hypericum
Solomon’s Seal—Polygonatum

Perennials

Angelica—Angelica
Aster—Aster*
Beardtongue—Penstemon
Beebalm—Monarda
Blanketflower—Gaillardia
Catmint—Nepeta
Columbine—Aquilegia (singles)
Coneflower—Echinacea (singles)
Coreopsis—Coreopsis (singles)
Cranesbill—Geranium
Foxglove—Digitalis
Globe Thistle—Echinops
Goatsbeard—Aruncus
Goldenrod—Solidago
Heather—Calluna
Hummingbird Mint—Agastache
Indigo—Baptisia
Lamium—Lamium
Lungwort—Pulmonaria*
Lupine—Lupinus
Monkshood—Aconitum*
Oregano, Flowering—Origanum
Peonies—Paeonia (singles)
Poppies—Papaver (not red)
Russian Sage—Perovskia
Sea Holly—Eryngium
Solomon’s Seal—Polygonatum
Squill—Scilla*
Stonecrop—Sedum
Thyme—Thymus

Fruit

Apples—Malus*
Apricots—Prunus*
Blackberries—Rubus
Blueberries—Vaccinium
Cherries—Prunus*
Currants—Ribes*
Goosberry—Ribes*
Hazel Nut—Corylus
Peaches—Prunus*
Pears—Pyrus*
Plums—Prunus*
Raspberries—Rubus
Strawberries—Fragaria

Herbs

Basil—Ocimum
Borage—Borago
Fennel—Foeniculum
Lavender—Lavandula
Hyssop—Hyssopus
Marjoram—Origanum
Mint—Mentha
Oregano—Origanum
Savory—Satureja
Thyme—Thymus

Annuals*

Once started, most annuals will contine blooming until frost.
Baby Blue Eyes—Nemophila
Bee’s Friend—Phacelia (Seed Savers)
Butterfly Bush—Buddleia
Butterfly Flower—Asclepias
Cosmos—Cosmos
Dahlia—Dahlia (singles)
Hummingbird Mint—Agastache
Nasturtium—Tropaeolum
Poppy, California—Eschscholzia
Snapdragons—Antirrhinum (singles)
Sunflower—Helianthus (Seed Savers)
Sunflower, Mexican—Tithonia
Verbena—Verbena

Vegetables

Sunchokes—Helianthus

Climbers

Honeysuckle—Lonicera
Trumpet Creeper—Campsis

Shrubs and Trees

Black Locust—Robinia
Cardinal Bush—Weigela
Dogwood—Cornus (Cornelian Cherry*, Pagoda and Red Twig)
Magnolia—Magnolia*
Redbud—Cercis*

Dandelions and crocus are also great early flowers for bees.


 

May 30, 2013 | Posted in | Add a comment

Where Do We Get the Strawberry Boxes?

Next weekend when you enter the Grandstand, a rosy-cheeked greeter will offer you a clipboard and a cardboard strawberry flat. Those flats seem innocent, but their journey to get into your hand is circuitous. They’re available to our customers only because of hard-working box-collecting volunteers and ace organizing.

Strawberry deliveries to groceries and co-ops ramp up in March, and that’s when our box collecting team mobilizes. John Levin heads the team of volunteers who visit produce departments, gather the saved boxes, haul them home, and store them in their garages as well as nooks and crannies. Think of all the help that’s needed to accumulate 8,000+ boxes in this fashion between March and the beginning of May! It’s a story of inch by inch, the job’s a cinch. 

Lisa Lamb coordinates the boxes on-site at the Grandstand, which is great because she and she and John are high-energy and terrific collaborators.

It used to be that box collectors would adopt a grocery, and that volunteer’s household would cover that grocery. Every day for weeks and weeks. Pretty soon, even massive garages would become jam-packed with boxes. Makes it tricky to fetch a rake and keep late winter snow off vehicles. It was also a tremendous time commitment. So this year, John and Lisa rebooted the collection system, and now several households cover a single grocery or co-op. The hope is that the edges of the box-collecting burden will be lifted.

This is a big deal because if no one collects boxes, groceries recycle them. So if we arrange with a produce manager to save boxes every day, it’s uncool to no-show for the pickup. Thank goodness our box collectors are dedicated. And I have it on good authority that our volunteers have nice camaraderie with produce staff members. This is what happens when people do nice things for people for weeks.

After boxes are procured and stowed, soon another volunteer crew loads them onto a rented 24-foot truck and unloads them into a storage hut near the Grandstand. One or two full Saturdays of hauling doesn’t always take care of them. Crews also work several evenings during Sale week to ferry more and more boxes from garages to the Grandstand door.

As of the end of April, box collecting is slightly behind, but there’s hope we’ll obtain at least 7,000 (a thousand fewer boxes than last year, and last year we ran out Sunday morning). A dear couple – diligent box collectors for untold years – had to retire this year (long overdue for a break), so our collection crew isn’t yet what it used to be. So if you come across a strawberry box this week, consider bringing it along. It’s a nice practice. You can haul it in your wagon.

Thank you John, Lisa and all the volunteers who take care of the boxes for our customers. You are an inspiration.

Update: We managed to collect about 10,500 boxes this year and it appears to have been exactly the right number. Wow -- thanks to John, Lisa, and all the families who collected and moved the boxes, and the volunteers who moved even more stacks during the sale week.

May 28, 2013 | Posted in | Add a comment
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