ShadyGardens Blog

April 11, 2014

Native Bees ID Chart

Filed under: bees, chart, description, ID, identification, native, plants, pollination, pollinators — shadygardens @ 1:43 pm

Identifying the bees on the poster “Join the Conversation about Native Bees”
Written by Stephen Buchmann, Ph.D., Interim NAPPC Coordinator, Pollinator Partnership

  1. Macropis nuda. There’s oil in some flowers. Flowers including Spotted       Loosestrife (Lysimachia spp.) produce energy rich and nutritious floral oils which some female bees (Macropis nuda) collect using modified leg hairs like “oil squeegees” to enrich their brood provisions. This happens in some tropical bees (especially the genus Centris) but in the northeastern USA, only in these interesting little Macropis oil bees.
  2. Agapostemon texanus. US sweat bee (a male Agapostemon texanus) is especially colorful. Males of this species have a shiny green/brassy head and thorax but a wildly contrasting black and yellow-banded abdomen. Look for these bees on sunflowers and other common plants in the late spring and summer. 
  3. Peponapis pruinosa. Squash and gourd bees (like our Peponapis pruinosa) are common bees across much of the United States. They are specialist pollinators preferring the pollen and nectar of squashes, gourds and pumpkin flowers. The genus Peponapis is a colorful bee about the size of a honey bee. They are solitary; each female constructs her own nest with no help from kin, and nest a foot or more underground, usually in or near patches of their favorite cucurbits. 
  4. Bombus impatiens. The Impatient Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens) is the preferred bumble bee of commerce. Since it can buzz pollinate, while honey bees never do, it is reared in large numbers and its colonies flown to distance localities, greenhouses needing pollinators. Since it does not naturally occur west of the Mississippi, efforts are underway to only allow it to be used in the eastern states as a managed pollinator. Its colors are muted, the yellow hair bands are often more white than a bright yellow. Compare with Morrison’s bumble bee of the western states.
  5. Osmia lignaria. The Blue Orchard Bee (Osmia lignaria) is a member of the leafcutter and mason bee family (Megachilidae). Its distribution includes the Pacific Northwest USA where it is a common visitor to fruit trees in gardens and yards. This bee is often first noticed as females searching for just the right size beetle or nail hole in which to nest and raise their brood. Blue orchard bees are specialists on trees in the rose family and superb pollinator of sweet cherries and other orchard crops. They are currently being tested as pollinators of almonds in California. This bee can be very easily provided for by drilling 7-8 mm diameter holes 5 inches deep into scrap lumber. These “bee condos” can be attached to a garden shed, fence or tree. Nesting females will take up residence and you will be rewarded with bountiful fruit harvests. 
  6. Hylaeus sp. Yellow-faced bees (Hylaeus spp.) usually go unnoticed by most gardeners and hikers. These slender black/brown bees are relatively hairless and most think they are wasps. Under a microscope, they are distinctive with a bright yellow face. The only bees natives to Hawaii are a group of these Hylaeus. Due to habitat fragmentation and loss in the Hawaiian Islands, several of these rare native bees have gone extinct, while others are declining. Hyleaus nests in hollow stems. Unlike most bees, Hylaeus carries its pollen and nectar back to the nest internally, inside the crop, or honey stomach.
  7. Habropoda laboriosa. The Southeastern Blueberry Bee (Habropoda laboriosa) is a digger bee (anthophorid in the family Apidae) from southeastern states including Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. This handsome large gray bee is an efficient pollinator of southern rabbit eye blueberries. This is one of the bees, unlike honey bees, which uses sonication, produced by rapid flight muscle contractions, to eject pollen grains from the blueberry flowers.
  8. Xylocopa varipuncta. Males of the Valley Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) are common in the southwestern states. These bees have striking colors, a large golden amber body with long hairs and brilliant green eyes. During the spring, males leave the nest galleries in which they emerged, inside a large log or tree branch and go courting. They establish hovering territories in a non-flowering shrub or tree and release a pheromone, a rose-scented blend of volatiles from within massive thoracic glands. Passing females decide which male to mate with based up his particular bee “cologne.”
  9. Bombus morrisoni. Morisson’s bumble bee (Bombus morrisoni) is one of the most colorful bumble bees found in western and southwestern states. It’s mostly yellow fuzzy body attracts our attention as it visits diverse flowers in gardens and native wildflower areas. This bee is one of several that turns its body into a living tuning fork on plants with pored anthers, like tomatoes or deadly nightshades (Solanum spp.). Other species are managed for greenhouse pollination of tomatoes which require this form of buzz pollination. 
  10. Perdita minima. The smallest bee in the United States is only 2.0 mm (about 1/16th of an inch) long. These small amber colored bees (Perdita minima) in the andrenid family nest in the soil and visit the small white flowers of mat-forming Euphorbiaceae that come up in sidewalk cracks and along dirt roadways in the southwestern states.
  11. Xylocopa virginica. Many gardeners mistake the Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) for a large bumble bee. Although both bees are large and colorful, they are only distantly related, both belonging to the large family Apidae. Carpenter bees collect pollen and nectar from a wide variety of plants, thus they are known as generalist feeders. Large carpenter bees construct their nests inside dead but sound wood. Sawdust scrapings are glued together to form the first “particle board” separating individual brood cells within their long galleries. In the east, X. varpipuncta is a minor structural timber pest, often constructing its galleries in sheds, outdoor beams or fence posts. On the bright side, these bees are amazing to watch at flowers or at their nests, and it takes decades of residency before there is any serious structural damage to support beams. The females reuse the same nesting tunnels year after year. 
  12. Bombus vosnessenskii. The Yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnessenskii) is a handsome bumble bee mostly black with a yellow face and prothorax and narrow yellow abdominal band. It occurs in the western states of California, into Nevada, Washington, Oregon and into British Columbia. It does not seem to have been affected, in decline, like the formerly widespread Western Bumble Bee (Bombus occidentalis)13. Bombus affinis. The Rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) is a bee that was formerly common across large areas of the United States from the Midwestern states to the northeast. It started to become rare in its former ranges after 1997. The reason(s) for its demise are not entirely settled but may include pathogen spillover from European parasites, contamination in the greenhouse bumble bee rearing industry. 
  13. Bombus affinis. The Rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) is a bee that was formerly common across large areas of the United States from the Midwestern states to the northeast. It started to become rare in its former ranges after 1997. The reason(s) for its demise are not entirely settled but may include pathogen spillover from European parasites, contamination in the greenhouse bumble bee rearing industry
  14. Megachile sp. Leafcutter bees like this handsome Megachile sp. are members of a very diverse family, the Megachilidae, which includes the leafcutter, resin and mason bees. Females of many of these bees get their name from the pieces of leaves they collect. Have you seen neat circles clipped from the edges of rose bushes or other plants? These leaf pieces are used to line the brood cells; literally the bees are usurping the chemical defenses, against microbes, found in the leaves. Please tolerate some non-harmful cosmetic damage that the females cause and you’ll be rewarded with bountiful harvests in your home garden or orchard.
  15. Andrena cornelli. Miner bees, the family Andrenidae, are represented by the huge genus Andrena, with over 2,000 described species. Females of Andrena cornelli are common spring visitors to the large pink flowers of eastern Azalea (Rhododendron canescens). The cobwebby pollen of these flowers are carried away in strings as brood food by the Andrena females.
  16. Anthophora centriformis. Digger bees, or anthophorids like this Anthophora centriformis are members of the large family Apidae. Anthophora species are large, strikingly colored fast-flying bees that visit tubular flowers like Penstemon (“beardstongue”) in gardens and natural areas. Most digger bees nest in the ground and are solitary, living out their lives without any help, like solitary wasps. 
  17. Nomada sp. The Wandering Cuckoo Bee (Nomada sp.) is a type of digger bee (family Apidae) which does not collect pollen to feed its brood. These colorful and nearly hairless bees are cleptoparasites, or cuckoos in the nest of other bees. Like cowbirds, a female cuckoo bee sneaks her own egg in the nest while the host female is away. Once hatched, the cuckoo bee kills the host egg or larva and consumes the pollen and nectar provisions left by the host female. 
  18. Augochorella pomoniella. Sweat bees like this beautiful metallic green Augochorella pomoniella are members of the large and diverse “sweat bee” family, the Halictidae. This southwestern species is a common resident of Arizona and adjoining states. These bees have sparse hairs and their integument is a shiny metallic green.

The above information was borrowed from The Pollinator Partnership.

April 1, 2014

April is National Gardening Month

Filed under: April, children, contaminants, fruit, gardening, month, produce, vegetables — shadygardens @ 1:35 pm
Since April is National Gardening Month, now is a good time to get others interested in gardening. Over the years, I have become increasingly concerned about what contaminants might be in the food I am feeding to my family. Most store bought produce and meat contains some kind of germs or pesticides. And genetically modified foods are very scary to me, since I do not fully understand what all they entail. It is very important to know where our food comes from. I try more and more to grow as much of our own food as possible and what I can’t grow, I try to purchase from another gardener in our area. Unfortunately, our year round farmer’s market sells produce from all over the world, so I can’t trust it for my dinner table. Our true farmer’s markets are seasonal, open only from late Spring to early Fall.

Locally grown food from last summer

It would be difficult to be entirely self-sufficient and feed our families only what we can grow and produce ourselves. It’s true that years ago, families did just that, only purchasing things like grain and sugar. But that was before the days of mothers working full time outside the home and before television, Facebook, and Netflix took over our lives. 





Still, we can grow much of what we eat ourselves, right in our own backyards. I don’t have to worry anymore about where my eggs come from and whether or not some hen was mistreated while producing them, since we have our own backyard flock. But I do worry about salmonella, e-coli, or pesticides hitch hiking into my home and onto our dinner plate via salad greens and fruits I buy at the grocery store. 

I try to do what I can to encourage others to grow their own produce. I’m not suggesting you plow up your whole yard and turn it into a garden. Start small. Purchase a few plants from your locally owned garden center. Most of these home nursery owners grow the plants themselves from cuttings or seeds. You can help them grow their home business and grow food for your family at the same time. 
Children love planting veggies
Get the whole family involved. It is important to teach our children how to grow their own vegetables and fruit. Gardening can be hard work, but it is very rewarding. When your child sees fruits and vegetables actually growing on the plant and learns where food comes from, he will be excited to eat things he wouldn’t normally try.

Although gardening can be hard work, some plants produce with little or no help from us. Plants like blueberries, plums, and blackberries don’t require much intervention from us once they are planted in the ground.

How often have you turned around at the grocery store to find your child eating unwashed grapes or strawberries? That always horrified me when my children were small, but when you grow your own fruits and vegetables at home, your children can pick and eat right off the plant.

March 28, 2014

Attracting Hummingbirds the Natural Way

Filed under: Aesculus, attracts, buckeye, gardens, hummingbirds, nursery, red, Shady, shrub, tree — shadygardens @ 12:34 pm
Many of you put out hummingbird feeders every Spring, having to remember to keep them clean and filled all summer long and into early Fall. I prefer to provide food for hummingbirds the natural way–with plants.

By the way, did you know that because of the high energy of the hummingbird, he eats up to 3 times his body weight every single day?
Hummingbirds can visit as many as 20 flowers in just one minute. In order to have enough food, they must visit hundreds of flowers every day. Woa! That’s a lot of flowers!
Quite a few native plants can provide nectar for the voracious appetite of the energetic hummingbird. We have planted Red Salvia, Turk’s cap Hibiscus, and Red Trumpet Honeysuckle in our garden. But one of my favorite native plants is very important for the early arriving hummingbirds.
The Red Buckeye Tree, Aesculus pavia, blooms in March, or even late February when the Winter is mild. Since the Red buckeye naturally occurs in the edge of a woodland surrounded by large trees, it usually looks more like a bushy shrub. When planted out in the open, it can become a specimen tree up to 25 feet tall. Like most plants, the Buckeye Tree will produce many more blooms when grown in full sun.
March is a great time to plant the Red Buckeye. You won’t see it at the big box stores. Look for it at your local nursery that sells native plants. Young seedlings will begin blooming when less than 3 feet tall.
Your Red Buckeye Tree will become quite a focal point when covered with the large red panicles that come in early Spring. Plant it where all can see and enjoy it.
Source for this plant: Shady Gardens Nursery.

March 23, 2014

Grow Camellia sinensis and Make Your Own Green Tea

Filed under: camellia, green, plant, shrub, sinensis, tea — shadygardens @ 12:50 pm
I’ve been drinking green tea for a few years now. Supposedly it has many benefits, especially for one who is trying to lose weight. A while back I read that the tea bags themselves are sometimes made of harmful materials, so I started using loose green tea instead of tea bags. Although I knew that organic foods are best for many reasons, I had never thought to look for organic green tea until Dr. Oz recently mentioned it on his TV show.

Like many health-conscious Americans, we are trying to grow more and more of our own food. There is no way we can know all the contaminants and pesticides that are in the food we buy. That is why many of us are growing our own food and purchasing what we can’t grow from other local gardeners that we trust. Each Spring we plant as many vegetables as we can, and we try to grow as much salad and other greens as possible to avoid feeding our family contaminated greens. In the last few years we have planted plum, peach, loquat, meyer lemon, apricot, cherry, and almond trees along with blueberry and pineapple guava bushes and blackberries, raspberries, and currants. 
Awhile back I found a grower for Camellia sinensis, the plant that green tea comes from. Did you know you can grow your own green tea?
Growing the Tea Plant
Camellia sinensis grows well in the Southeastern United States. The Tea Camellia is hardy in USDA Zones 7-9, but can be grown in a greenhouse in colder climates. We had some single digit nights this Winter, and our plants suffered some. We had some leaf loss, but they seem to be getting ready to put on new growth. The Tea Plant needs the same conditions as most other camellias: light shade, well-drained acid soil, and regular water.
Camellia sinensis in September
Flowers appear in early Fall and are lovely little white single blooms with a vivid yellow center. Overall size of Camellia sinensis can vary with the site, but it will eventually attain a height of anywhere between 4 and 8 feet.





Harvesting Your Green Tea
Tea can be harvested as soon as it begins to grow in the Spring. That is March or April for us here in Georgia, depending on how soon Winter leaves us for good. Pick 2 leaves and a bud. Leaves will quickly grow back and you can harvest again in a couple of weeks. 
The only difference between green tea, black tea, and oolong tea is the oxidation process or fermentation of the leaves. Green tea is not oxidized at all. Oolong tea is partially oxidized, and black tea is bruised and allowed to dry until leaves turn completely black. 
Drying Your Green Tea
To prevent oxidation of your green tea, steam the leaves a couple of minutes on the stove top before drying. Then spread out your leaves on a baking sheet and place in a 200-250 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Once cooled, the tea leaves can be crushed and placed in an airtight container for storage where they will keep for up to 6 months. 
Brewing Your Green Tea
You will need a tea ball. Put 2 teaspoons of green tea leaves in a tea ball and place that in your cup. Heat water in a kettle. Just when water is about to boil, pour the hot water over tea ball containing your green tea leaves. Let steep for 2 minutes or more. The longer you allow your tea to steep, the stronger it will be. According to Dr. Oz, it’s best to steep longer for the most benefits. You can then drink it however you enjoy it most, hot or cold. I like mine sweetened a little.

March 13, 2014

Camellia, the State Flower of Alabama

Filed under: Alabama, camellia, flower, garden, japonica, sasanqua, shade, state — shadygardens @ 1:21 pm
Although Alabama’s State Flower is the Camellia, this popular Southern shrub is native to Asia. The first Camellias were brought to Charleston, South Carolina, in the late 1700’s by the French botanist Andre’ Michaux. Camellias are one of my favorite winter blooming plants. Camellias are often thought of as the Rose of Winter. There are thousands of different types of camellias, but most often what you see falls into one of two categories: Japonica and Sasanqua.
Camellia Japonica has glossy evergreen leaves and large blooms that may be any shade of white, red, or pick. Some even have “variegated” blooms that are spotched or striped. Blooms which can sometimes be very large come in several forms: single, double, semi-double, or peony type. Flowers hold up well indoors. I like to display them in a clear glass bowl.
Sasanqua Camellias have glossy evergreen foliage too, but the Sasanqua has different characteristics. Blooms are looser and appear more delicate, but the plant itself seems easier to grow. Sasanquas tolerate more sun that the Japanese Camellia, and they grow faster and larger too. 

By having a variety of both Japanese and Sasanqua Camellias in the garden, one can have blooms from Fall all the way into Spring. All camellias prefer some shade. Morning sun is okay, but give your camellias some protection from hot afternoon sun. They are all surprisingly drought tolerant once established, but you’ll need to water regularly the first few years to get your shrubs established.

A good reference book to add to your collection would be Camellias: The Gardener’s Encyclopedia, by Jennifer Trehane.
Although I do love camellias, personally, I think the State Flower should be one that is native to that state. But that’s just me. What do you think?

March 6, 2014

Did our Severe Cold Winter kill the Bugs?

Filed under: Alabama, cold, freezing, Georgia, mosquitoes, severe, ticks — shadygardens @ 4:26 pm
When temperatures were in the 20’s, teens, and even the single digits so many times this Winter, I felt like it would kill off some of the bugs. I’ve heard many people say, “At least we won’t have so many mosquitoes, ticks, and flies this summer!”


Our Birdbath stayed frozen for days
Well, I’m afraid that just isn’t so. Ask any old-timer, and they will tell you the bugs will still be here when temperatures warm up. I didn’t have to ask an old-timer, because early this morning I found a tick latched on under my clothes. And it has been cold outside this week! 
My father told me of a spider he observed from his front sitting room window during the coldest period this Winter. When night time temperatures were 7 degrees and day-time warm ups crept just to the 20’s, the spider remained curled up in a ball, appearing to be lifeless. But when the weather warmed up, the spider would slowly begin wiggling as if waking up from a long nap. Once he seemed satisfied that it was sufficiently warm enough to get to work, the spider would get busy rebuilding his web. 
According to entomologist Xing Ping Hu, research professor with Auburn University, the reason insects are so resilient is that they have adapted strategies for surviving the cold. Hu pointed out that both of our coldest states, Alaska and Minnesota, are bothered by mosquitoes during the summer, so why would mosquitoes be affected by the freezing temperatures in Alabama and Georgia? Yellow Jackets are the only insect population that might be affected here, because they are susceptible to the cold. (See AL.com). That will probably be good news to all the runners who were stung during the Boy Scout Troop Trail Trek in West Point last Fall.

March 1, 2014

Garden Chores for Late Winter

Filed under: chores, fertilize, garden, Georgia, plant, prune, seeds, winter — shadygardens @ 1:32 pm


In my previous post we established the fact that you should wait to prune away seemingly dead stems from winter damaged shrubs. But this weekend promises to be absolutely beautiful, and I know you are anxious to get out in the garden and do something! “What can I do?” you might be wondering.



Well first, one more “don’t.” Do not fertilize. Fertilizing should be done a little later on, when all danger of frost is past. 
But you can top-dress. Top-dressing is when you spread a layer of compost, composted manure, or worm castings around the plants. Top-dressing can be done any time of year, even in the middle of winter. I use the shavings from our hen house.


Poppies bloom in early Spring


You can spread mulch too, being careful not to cover the crown of the plant. Organic mulch is best–either wood chips, shredded bark, or straw. Gravel is not the mulch to use in Georgia, because it will heat the soil too much during summer and damage the plant roots.

You can plant cool season crops like collards, kale, mustard, and turnips. Sugar snap pea and snow pea seeds germinate best in cool soil. We have 3 batches of peas already coming up, and I plan to sow more today. You can broadcast seeds of larkspur and poppies now too.


February 28, 2014

Plant Damage from Severe Cold Temperatures

Filed under: cold, freeze, Georgia, severe, temperatures — shadygardens @ 3:26 pm

I don’t know where Global Warming is, but it certainly is not in Georgia! Wew, it’s cold! Here it is the end of February, and it’s still cold. I have had just about enough Winter to last me for awhile. Although we will certainly have some warm days, we can expect another month of cold weather. All these days and nights below freezing have been too much for some of my plants.

Creeping Fig damaged by Severe Cold
Shrubs and perennials that are normally evergreen here in our climate have lost their leaves this winter. The creeping fig covering our front brick wall has turned brown. The plants climbing a pine tree behind the greenhouse are growing in a more sheltered location, so parts of those vines remain green.
Leaves on our Lady Banks Roses have all given up and fell off. Even the leaves of our Purple Loropetalum have curled up and turned brown in protest to freezing temperatures. The bright fuschia blooms that normally would have opened even during the winter remain on the shrubs but are withered and ugly. Foliage on the Tea Olive is also crispy and brown on the more exposed plants.
This winter has been unusually severe here in the Southeastern United States, so when you walk out into your garden, you might see damage you haven’t seen before. We had nice warm weather this past week. But the cold we feel outdoors today reminds us that winter is not over.
On your next warm day in the garden, don’t be tempted to prune away those damaged stems. Not yet, anyway. Wait until Spring is really here. Pruning encourages new growth, and if you prune now, new growth will appear. That tender vegetation will most certainly be killed with our next frost. Furthermore, those crispy stems that are already damaged can help to protect the undamaged and still green undergrowth. When all danger of frost is passed, you can trim away any dead stems, and you might be surprised at what you find.
Unfortunately, some plants might not recover. We grow several shrubs and perennials that are borderline hardy here in West Central Georgia, and some of our plants might not “come back”, as we say. We will have to just wait and see.

February 24, 2014

National Invasive Species Awareness Week

Filed under: chinese, Honeysuckle, invasive, Japanese, ligustrum, Lonicera, plants, privet, species, wisteria — shadygardens @ 3:36 pm
National Invasive Species Awareness Week is February 23-28, 2014. Invasive species involves more than just plants, but as you know, plants are my thing. Seeing invasive plants being sold in big box stores to uninformed gardeners is my pet peeve. 

I’ve written about these before, but I despise these invasive plants that are still commonly sold and planted right here in Georgia:

Chinese and Japanese Wisteria should never be planted here

Chinese Privet is dispersed when birds eat the berries




Privet in the garden center might also carry the name Ligustrum, so beware.

For what to plant instead of these invasives, please read Alternatives to Invasive Plants in the Garden.



Japanese Honeysuckle and Japanese Privet photos borrowed from Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area.

February 22, 2014

Arbor Day in Georgia

Filed under: arbor, day, food, Georgia, native, plants, trees, wildlife — shadygardens @ 7:40 pm
The day Arbor Day is celebrated differs from state to state due to climate differences. Georgia celebrates Arbor Day on the 3rd Friday in February. I’m running a day late, since that was yesterday. 


If you know me at all, you know I preach planting native plants, and it’s no different with trees. However, we need to take it a step further. Preserving our native birds and insects depends on planting what they need, and they need diversity.






When choosing a tree for your yard this Arbor Day, look around you. There’s no need to plant another of what you already have. Oaks are popular and they are a good tree to plant, with all those acorns for the mammals. But if you are like us, you probably have oak trees all around you. Take note of not only what you have but also what’s growing in your neighbor’s yard. Try to find something different. But native, of course. You might have to do a little research. Try doing a google search for “georgia native tree.” You could stay on the internet all day if you click every link you find.




The University of Georgia has an excellent publication on Native Plants for Georgia

There are some beautiful native trees you might not have considered. If you don’t already have one, I recommend you pick from these:

Sourwood in Fall



Sourwood, 
Oxydendrum arboreum
White fragrant summer blooms with vibrant red fall foliage. A much better choice than Burning Bush.







American Chestnut – Almost extinct, so if you find one for sale, buy it and plant it.

Red Buckeye in March



Red Buckeye
Aesculus pavia
Red panicle blooms in early Spring   develop large buckeye nuts that are food for wildlife. This tree might bloom as early as February when our Winter is mild. Looks like it will be March this year.





3 Grancy Graybeard Trees massed, Shawmut, AL







Grancy Graybeard
Chionanthus virginicus
Fragrant fluffy white blooms in early Spring with blackish drupes on female plants. Unfortunately the trees shown here were cut down to make way for the new burger joint.
We love wildlife of all kinds, pollinators, birds, and even deer and squirrels, so I consider them when I choose a new plant for our garden. We enjoy the blooms as much as the bees do, but I like to see berries, nuts, or some other kind of fruit develop later on that is not only beautiful, but food for wildlife. I hope you will also think of the birds and the bees along with furry friends when you choose what to plant for Arbor Day.

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