Mar 282012
 
Honey bee in borage


Honey bee in borage

Borage blooms early and long - the bees love it (click to enlarge)

by Avis Licht

Often, when I design a garden people ask me if it will bring bees.  Usually, it’s because they are afraid of having bees in the garden. Bees, who are gentle creatures, are more interested in finding nectar and pollen than stinging you. Often people mistake yellow jackets, who come in late summer to eat your sweet fruit or meat at the outdoor barbeque, for bees.  They are not the same at all.

Bees are absolutely necessary to the health and productivity of your garden. We need them to pollinate our fruits and vegetables.  35%  of our food worldwide is pollinated by bees. Imagine a world without honey. Well, please don’t do that.

Recently there has been a disappearance of bees called Colony Collapse Disorder. Entire hives die without apparent cause.  By planting bee friendly plants you can personally aid in their resurgence.

The best plants are ones that are native to your locale or grow well in your climate. Herbs, flowers, and flowering trees all contribute to their food source.

Using only organic controls in the garden is another way of protecting your bees.

 

Don’t forget to buy my ebook on The Spring Garden Made Easy 

Spring Garden Made Easy

 

There are many wonderful bee plants.  These are a few of my favorites.

Lavender and violas

Lavender can be planted in the ground or in containers. Beautiful everywhere.

1. Lavender: For millenium lavender has been used in soaps, balms and sachets as well as medicinally for its calming effect. My local ice cream shop makes the best honey lavender ice cream.  Grow it in full sun, well drained soil, in climates that don’t go below 20 deg F.

2. Salvias: In the sage family there are many herbal and ornamental varieties of Salvias.  Bees and hummingbirds love them and they come in many colors.

Salvia Hot Lips

This bi colored Salvia, Hot Lips, is just one of many varieties. (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

3. Lemon Balm, Melissa officinale – In the mint family, Lemon Balm has a wonderfully lemony flavor for tea. It is considered one of the premier bee plants. Melissa is a Greek word meaning honeybee.

Lemon balm

In the mint family, Lemon Balm has a wonderful lemon flavor and is easy to grow

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Ceanothus– California lilac (many varieties). Many native plants are helpful to the bees. The California Lilac grows on the hills in California and as its name suggests is wonderfully fragrant. It flowers in the blue, purple and whites and  can be a very low growing shrub or up to 15 ft. Well drained, sunny sites are what it needs to thrive. It requires very little care.

Rosemarinus officinalis

This rosemary is planted next to my Apple tree. It brings the bees to pollinate the tree.

5. Rosemary – One of the most loved herbs for cooking, rosemary is easy to grow and long lived.  The bees love it. In my garden it starts to bloom early in Spring and is under the apple trees which are just starting to bloom.  This companion planting encourages the bees to pollinate my fruit trees.

In the herb family you can plant Basil, Catnip, Dill, Fennel, Hyssop, Lavender, Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, and Sage to encourage your friendly bees.

In the ornamental flowers, try Agastache, Salvia, Bachelor Button, Black Eyed Susan, Clematis, Coreopsis, Lantana, Larkspur, Sweet William , Yarrow, and Zinnias.

In shrubs, Ceanothus, Manzanita, Arbutus, Mahonia and Philadelphus are beautiful and useful.

The Crab Apple tree blooms early and is absolutely buzzing with activity.

California lilac

The buds on this Ceanothus are just getting ready to open. (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crab Apple Blossom with bee

The bees adore this Crab Apple which blooms in early spring

Coming in for a landing

Coming in for a landing

 

Jan 042012
 
A garden full of herbs for birds, butterflies and humans

by Avis Licht

A garden full of herbs for birds, butterflies and humans

Herbs are wonderful plants for the edible landscape -beautiful and healthy

 Herbs have many uses in the landscape.  Many have a culinary use, many are used medicinally, they are generally easy to grow, their flowers are an excellent source of pollen and nectar for birds, bees and insects, often drought resistant and long lived.  Well, it doesn’t get much better than that for a multi use plant.

In the two previous posts, I talked about making garden design decisions based on your climate and place and on your desires. When choosing plants to fill in the landscape you not only want to use plants that are pretty and useful, but also “belong” there.  By belonging I mean that they fit in with the style of your garden, whether formal or informal, that they will thrive in the conditions and that they work in the scale of the garden.

A mixed herb and ornamental garden

Herbs are interplanted with ornamentals near the house for easy access

This is a newly planted garden.  The herbs are young and small. When mature they will fill in the area and create a feeling of beauty and lushness. When the herbs have been harvested at the end of the season, there will still be ornamental plants in the garden that keep it looking good over the winter. This is one of the best tricks in an ornamental edible landscape design.  Combine your annuals with shrubs and perennials so that you don’t have periods in the garden that look bare.

Purple and Green Basil

Mix your foliage colors for interest

Salvia, basil, parsley and thyme

Multiple herbs, both annual and perennials work together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This particular herb garden has thyme, sage, oregano, tarragon, dill, chives, parsley, cilantro and several varieties of  basil. We also used rosemary and thyme to cascade over the wall, with nasturtiums for added color.  Many of these plants have edible flowers. The herbs grow quickly and fill in the garden.

The ornamental plants in this bed include Azalea, Pieris, ferns, and Polygala. These are shade loving plants, which we put closer to the tree. We put the herbs in the sunniest part of the bed.  It was a little tricky, but you can see by the photos that the herbs grew well even in part shade.

Rosemary is larger and long lived

Give your Rosemary plenty of sun and room to grow

Nasturtiums cascading over wall

Mixed annual and perennial herbs cover the retaining wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few of the herbs that are planted more for beauty than culinary use include lavender, salvias, yarrow and ornamental oreganos.  By going to your local nurseries you will find appropriate herbs for your garden’s beauty and health. Peruse some of the catalogs in the Resource page of my website and you will find many herbs both common and unusual that will be just right for your garden.

Pink Yarrow - Achillea millefolium

Pink yarrow lives a long time and requires little care or water

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 262011
 

All plants do not require the same care.  This may seem like an obvious statement, but really how much do you know about what your plants really need?

Salvia is a sage

Hot Lips Salvia requires little water and poor soil

Many herbs that we commonly grow and use are from the Mediterranean area.  They need lots of sun and low rainfall and well drained, rocky soil.  Lavender, rosemary, thyme and sage: these plants do not want rich, high nitrogen soil or plenty of water.  You can literally kill your plant with kindness. Misplaced love, I call it.

The flavor and fragrance of these plants depend on their tough conditions, which favor the essential oils that give the plants their strength.

When you’re standing there with the hose in your hand waiting to give your plant love, think twice and check the soil moisture first.  

Many California native plants live in dry, hot conditions.They  don’t need too much water or rich soil.

Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn"

California Manzanita shrub (click to enlarge)

There is virtually no rain for at least six months of the year. Plants like the Manzanita in the picture on the right, do not need or want too much water.  Don’t treat them like your English perennials.

When you are grouping your plants in the garden, be sure to put plants that have similar water needs together on one station. Try not to mix up plants with very different requirements.  The same goes for soil, sun and light requirements.

Even in an Edible Landscape, your food producing plants will have different needs. Be sure to investigate your plant’s needs before putting them in the ground.

Sep 102011
 


$20 off $40

The Fall season in Northern California is the worst time for deer in the gardens. The grasses and other forage in the wildlands have dried up and intrepid deer come wandering into our gardens, looking for something good to eat. If you don’t have a 6 foot fence surrounding your garden, you’ll want to know some herbs that you can count on to be deer resistant.

lavender in the Edible landscape

Lavender (click to enlarge)

Lavender is one of my favorite herbs.  It is fragrant, easy to grow, doesn’t need much water and deer really don’t eat it. It does need sun and good drainage.  It is a perennial plant, that in mild climates, meaning no heavy snow cover, can live for 5 – 7 years.  After that, it starts looking worn out and old, and needs to be replaced.

I was surprised to taste how good a glass of ice cold water from a pitcher that had a sprig of mint and a sprig of lavender in it was.  As long as you don’t over do it with the lavender, it is really a wonderful flavor.

rosemary in the edible landscape

Rosemary at the bottom of steps (click to enlarge)

Rosemary is another absolutely fantastic herb for the edible landscape.  It is a multi purpose plant. It is also easy to grow, liking full sun and little to moderate water and doesn’t need much care. It’s evergreen and cold hardy to 20 deg. although some varieties are more tender. You can use it in many styles of cooking.  I’ve never seen a deer eat a Rosemary plant, which can’t be said for many plants.

Rosemary varieties can be found as upright shrubs to 6 ft tall, and as low as 1 ft. cascading over walls. The flowers attract birds, butterflies and bees and produce excellent honey.  I call this plant the work horse of all herbs.

Yarrow in the edible landscape

Free blooming pink yarrow (click to enlarge)

Yarrow, called Achillea millefolium, is a beautiful and carefree herb.  It grows in all zones in full sun, with little or no water.It has finely toothed leaves and a flower that can be used for fresh or dried bouquets.

You can find varieties of Yarrow with white, pink, red or yellow flowers. There are creeping varieties and ones that grow to 3 ft tall.

Thyme is a well known herb which comes from the Mediterranean. It is a low growing, plant in the mint family.  There are some wonderful flavors of different thymes, including lemon, lime, caraway scented and orange scented. I use it as a ground cover between stepping stones.  It has a beautiful flower as well as being fragrant when you step on it.  As with the other herbs I’ve talked about, this one also doesn’t need rich soil or much water. For maintenance it is best to shear or cut back plants after they flower.

Thyme in the edible landscape

Thyme between stepping stones (click to enlarge)

These are a few of my favorite herbs for the edible landscape.  But I promise there are more to come just as wonderful.

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