Friday, April 13, 2007

Where Have All the Flowers Gone (and the fruits and nuts and vegetables)

It has recently been reported in the news media that the bee population is under attack. Not only are we reducing bee and other wildlife habitat, and increasing use of pesticides, a new crisis has arisen– Colony Collapse Disorder. Although the origins of this problem are not well known, it is thought to be caused by a mite. Bees are unbelievably important to agriculture. According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, they and other insect pollinators are responsible for “every third bite of food we take.” One hundred thousand plant species are dependent on bees for pollination and 130 commercial crops depend on them as well.

What Can We Do?

First off, be careful when using garden chemicals of all kinds. Be sure to read the label, including the precautions, and follow the directions. Do not use more than you need. Make sure the product you are using is what you actually need. The horticultural staff here at Countryside attends training sessions put on by our vendors and we can answer or find the answer to questions you might have regarding garden chemicals. Many insecticides are non-selective, which means they will kill any insect that comes in contact with the chemical. Do not spray on a windy or even breezy day. In July and August, I am constantly battling Japanese beetles on my roses. I use a pyrethrin-based product (pyrethrins are an extract from chrysanthemums) and spray the Japanese beetles directly every evening when I come home from work (as I often say I am a martyr to my roses), but this way I am assured that only the beetles are getting killed and not other beneficial insects.

Second, we can provide habitat for bees by planting species that bees like and by putting out “bee houses.” There is a type of non-aggressive bee called a mason bee that pollinates fruit bearing plants, does not make hives and does not make honey. They are safe around children and pets. They build their nests in holes in wood. (Coincidently, we have mason bee houses for sale here at Countryside. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be so blatantly commercial, but since I figured you would call here anyway to see if we had them, I thought I’d save you the trouble.) So, “bee” part of the solution to the bee crisis. Plant bee friendly flowers and put out some mason bee houses.

Perennial Plants That Bees Like
These are just a few. Bees also like many herbs and annuals.
Allium Malva
Anemone Nepeta
Campanula Russian Sage (Perovskia)
Centaurea Rudbekia
Clematis Salvia
Coreopsis Scabiosa
Echinacea Sedum
Gypsophila Verbascum
Lavender Veronica

Fun Facts To Know and Tell

Bees have five eyes.
Bees must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey.
Average per capita honey consumption in the US is 1.3 pounds.

Farther Afield

Last week several of the greenhouse staff took time off for spring break. Laura Fergus and her family traveled to Washington, D.C., while Jana Tyk went west to Arizona. While in Arizona, Jana and her husband took in the Desert Botanical Garden ( in Phoenix. This 50-acre garden was founded in 1939 to “encourage an understanding, appreciation and promotion of the world’s deserts...” It is home to over 21,000 plants, including 139 rare, threatened and endangered plant species. Numerous trails take you past several specialty gardens. The Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert promotes the interaction between man and desert plants. The Desert Wildflower Garden includes hummingbird, bee and butterfly gardens. The DBG promotes desert landscaping and conservation through seminars and classes. The most interesting tree Jana found was the Palos Verdes tree (cercidium microphyllum) with its green trunk and branches.

The Fergus family enjoyed Washington D.C., though they were a little early for the cherry blossoms. If you do get to D.C. at any time of the year, be sure to visit both the US National Arboretum ( and the US Botanic Gardens ( The National Arboretum is operated by the US Department of Agriculture and is located in the northeast section of Washington, D.C. and accessible by Metrobus. The mission of the arboretum is to “serve the public need for scientific research, education, and gardens that conserve and showcase plants to enhance the environment.” The arboretum staff conducts basic and wide-ranging research on trees, shrubs, turf and floral plants. The woody plant collections at the arboretum include azalea, dogwood, boxwood, holly and magnolia and a dwarf and slow growing conifers. Also located there are perennial and herb gardens, a knot garden, a rose garden and Asian gardens.

The US Botanic Garden is located on the National Mall across from the US Capitol. It is accessible by the Metro. The genesis of the gardens began in 1816 and it has been at its present site since 1933. The garden includes a conservatory and 2 acres of outside gardens. In 2006, the newly created National Garden was opened on 3 acres just west of the conservatory. So, if you do get to our nation’s capitol, don’t forget a visit to our national gardens.

For any one interested in seeing more of the world’s great gardens, I just picked up a book titled, “1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die.” It is modeled after the book, “1000 Places to See Before You Die, which I am slowly ticking my way through, and details gardens on just about every continent. If you’d like more information, stop by Countryside and ask for Leslie.

The Garden Clubs of Crystal Lake

Have you ever wondered who takes care of the Triangle Garden at Minnie and Brink Streets, by the post office boxes, or the garden at the train station or the Blue Star marker by the Chamber Office on Virginia Street and who sponsors a scholarship in horticulture at MCC? Well, the answer to all those questions is the garden clubs in Crystal Lake. We have four hardworking clubs and over the next several months we will highlight each of them and their contributions to our community. In the meantime, here is a list of the clubs and a contact name and number, if you want more information on how to join.

Countryside Garden Club (no relation) Kathy Fueger 815.455.0707
Green Twig Judy Olson 815.459.0540
Garden Gate Marlene Filskov 815.356.0771
Wedgewood Jeanette Muench 815.444.1622
(Wedgewood Garden Club is limited to residents of the Wedgewood subdivision)

Gardening Success Begins at Countryside
Mark your calendar for April 21 and 22 when Countryside presents four seminars on gardening. Titled “Spring Success,” the day begins at 10:30 with a presentation on installing a garden pond. At 12 noon, Michael Fedoran will give a talk on spring containers, followed by a program on out of the box vegetable gardening at 1:30. Kim Hartmann talk about new and exciting perennials at 3:00pm. These presentations will be given on both Saturday and Sunday. See you then!

Until next time, Happy Gardening!

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