This spring as I toiled with all the beautiful perennial plants we sell, I studied flowers kinda like Einstein studied the heavens.
I wondered why flowers have the shapes they have, the colors, the flower parts. Some flowers look similar, some look entirely and uniquely different, and I began to wonder “why” on a deeper level.
Bumblebee view of a foxglove blossom at the nursery last spring. Why the tube (keeping unwanted pollinators out)? Why the colors (visible spectrum of bumblebees?)? Why the spots (advertising to bees that there is lunch at the end?)? So many questions but where to find answers??? Harder to see on the top of the tunnel is a band of hair- function unknown.
It all started when I saw a bumblebee vibrate it’s way up and into a foxglove blossom- colorful, intriguing, and mesmerizing. It was a perfect fit, like when my foot slides perfectly into my six month boots before work- made for each other.
Because the relationship seemed preordained, I wondered how many years it took for this particular flower to become so cozy with this particular insect. Knowing the glacial pace of evolutionary change, I concluded that it must be MILLIONS OF YEARS.
My relationship with bumblebees dates back decades. I used to pet them as they pollinate. THEY DO NOT CARE. They go on about their business uncaring about the world around them- single minded, focused. Pretty cool characters, maligned in the human’s uneducated uncaring world, the unsung hero pollinators, with honey bees getting all the positive press.
My questions about insect/flower evolution continued from flower to flower. This echinacea offers lots of feeding stations for every conceivable insect leaving well-fed.
Echinacea flowers do not seem to attract insects with specialized body parts, unlike this knifofia perennial. There’s no place to land. Whomever pollinates this flower has to hover in the air and stick its probiscus way down deep whilst flying. Which insect? Why? Where did this specialized evolution occur, how long did it take to evolve? These and other questions bounce around inside the questioner’s brain with no clear understanding in sight.
Out of focus honeybee toiling away last spring on campanula. It’s hard to slow down time long enough to capture some pollinators.
Campanula blossom seems pretty easy to land and pollinate. ANY insect can do it.
Balloon flower. What the hell? Why does it do this? After it opens, it’s a normal flower but before then, it’s out of this earth wonderfully interesting.
Evening primrose flower blindingly stunning. Obviously this flower uses just one attribute to advertise to insects.
Delphinium flower with tangled up body parts. How does an insect pollinate it??? Why so complex? It must be to keep out some and attract others, but WHY?
Groundcover perennial geranium with your mesmerizing veination, can’t wait for your return!
Sexy veronica, belly dancing your way skyward for the pollinators!
Black eyed susan, OBVIOUSLY! I wonder whom you were named after???
Pollinator pathways are made up of people and municipalities who have taken environmentalism into their own hands. If Washington won’t take any steps towards saving endangered insects and birds, well, we’re gonna do it ourselves!
ONE PROPERTY AT A TIME.
I killed my weedy crappy lawn out front that would have taken toxic chemicals to rejuvenate and reseeded it with clover and tall fescue. In SIX DAYS it came up and this pic is three weeks later. It’s NEVER BEEN FERTILIZED, because the clover fertilizes it for FREE. For forever!!! No more buying food for your lawn. No more STUPID ASININE “four step lawn programs.” This lawn will never ever need fertilizer, weed killers, insecticides, and because lawns with clover are dwarfed from the clover effect, it does not need to be mowed as often. Less time spent babying your lawn. No TOXIC CHEMICALS EVER AGAIN. Less mowing No feeding. NO MORE $$$ spent on your grass. Best of all, native insects eradicated by human selfishness have a place to get something to eat.
I started my own “movement” at the nursery fifteen years ago when I realized that I hadn’t seen a honey bee in decades at the nursery. I had been spraying acephate (systemic insecticide) on everything preventatively. Why? So customers could get insect free plants. What was I spraying to kill?
I dunno. I was just doing what we in the industry do. For the customers.
To hell with that, I said to myself! That first year, the honeybees returned, and I saw three monarch butterfly larvae for the first time in my life. I captured them, gave em to my kid who took them to school to pupate, nurture, and release in the courtyard with the class.
I just woke up- it’s sunday morning and the sun looks like it’s been up for HOURS. What a total waste because this afternoon around four thirty it’s going to be DARK. DEPRESSING. SAD! Why do they waste sunlight before people get out of bed? This time of year, I slither into bed a few hours after dark which seems like a pretty pitiful lifestyle! It’s time to get rid of this STUPID practice that only seems to benefit power companies and early morning construction crews.
I’m continually impressed with our sod quality. I’ve just gotta say that you just CANNOT find sod grown under better conditions than our Yankee Stadium supplier. After it’s delivered to us, NOBODY takes better care of it than we do. The sod is two years old, 90%bluegrass, 10% fescue. It’s unrolled within a few hours of delivery and after that treated with love and respect. At places like Home Depot, you better get it immediately after it’s delivered or don’t buy it. It generates its own heat and starts to decompose immediately. I’m astounded what those places charge for it considering they never roll it out, water it, or do anything to it at all.
Fall planting occurs until the ground is frozen, which may never happen thanks to global warming (a disturbing fact laughed at by tRUMP), or could happen next month, one never knows. What I DO KNOW, though, is planting any time this side of Christmas is better than spring planting when blazing summer droughts results in high watering and post-installation labor. Our industry has done a POOR JOB of getting this point across. Just know that the above is a fact you can bank on. Do all horticultural things in the FALL, not in spring. You’ll thank me later.
Did you ever get to inspect a white face hornets nest? Bet not. They are a nasty insect to encounter in a dark alley yet they are an incredibly complex and important insect. Their life cycle ends with the first few freezes and then (and ONLY then) can one inspect the pure genius of their construction industry. They chew trees and make paper out of the cellulose from which their basketball-sized nests are made of. There are air conditioning vents throughout, with nurseries for raising offspring, living quarters, maintenance shops, etc.
They eat a broad array of insects for which they never get any credit. When threatened, they act as one- fearlessly attacking aggressors hundreds of thousands times bigger than they are. I know this for a fact. I would always destroy these nests every time I found them. It was FUN. Then I grew up and saw them for what they really are, and my transition from a stupid ignorant human was complete.
If someone like me can turn the corner from stupid to more aware, so can (and should) you.
Humans SUCK. Period. We are quickly eradicating most other forms of life on this planet, and we aren’t doing a god damned thing about it. Most disturbing is that from what I can tell, people JUST DONT CARE. Most people don’t even know!
Not fun facts:
American native insect populations have plummeted to 25% of what they were in 1970 (ramifications of this? If you do not know, shame on you).
German insect populations are down 90% (home to Bayer chemical company). Boycott Bayer chemical company-Satan of the planet’s environments.!
North American bird populations have been ERADICATED to the tune of three BILLION birds. Who cares?
WHO THE HELL CARES, as long as we have a good economy, right? As long as we see football on weekends, and our kids are doing well in school.
Its like we live in this fantastic parallel universe right next to the universe where our own destruction is playing out one invisible extinction at a time. We are placated by the nonsensical in our lives, as the truly important drama is playing out right there for all to see and be ignored. We have no time left to do anything at all- it’s now or never. These organisms are the tip of the iceberg- indicator species. When their numbers reach the tipping point, it’s over for us too.
Funny how the corrupt tRUMP administration is deregulating environmental regulations at a time when we need to be doing the OPPOSITE.
Global warming induced erosion in RI. What we gonna do about this?
Columnar ginkgo trees expressing their glee at the arrival of cooler weather.
I HATE mums in fall- sick of them. The varieties they use now are grown for their fullness but they AIN’T hardy- wont regrow next spring, so WHATS THE POINT? I know what the point is- to color up your yard, but for me I like plants that last decades, not weeks. If I can never sell them again, fine by me.
The plant in the photo is a thirty year old “amsonia hubrectii” that Junebug planted there to show people what it does during the year. It’s common name is blue star but it should be named after it’s golden school bus yellow fall color instead.
This plant never gets water, food, or any sort of love ever- never has. It endures stress, drought, neglect with no complaints, and performs like clockwork each and every year.
The gentlest breezes makes this plant look like it’s on the bottom of the seabed, waving gently back and forth moving as if with the tides.
Deer proof, colorful, looks pruned when never pruned, soft like moss to the touch- a more trouble-free perennial you will never meet. Nobody owns these, which makes them a unique addition to your yard.
WHO NEEDS MUMS? Not me, that’s for sure.