Playing in the dirt.

Posts tagged ‘wildflowers’

Signs of Spring…Maybe

First up, some recent photos of the seedlings, which are growing sturdier by the day:

Arugula sprouts in a light green planter box.

Arugula in the indoor salad planter.

Chile peppers, leggy kale, and a tomato seedling in peat starters.

Chile peppers, leggy kale, and a tomato seedling.

Two tomato seedlings and a pepper seedling in large yogurt tubs.

Tomato, tomato, pepper, potted up to keep growing strong.

I also found some signs of spring out in the yard over the last couple of very nice days:

Tulip leaves about four inches high.

Tulip greening up.

Unknown groundcover wildflower with tiny white flowers.

Small groundcover wildflower; name unknown, flowers the size of a pencil eraser.

Small groundcover wildflower with closed pink flowers.

Small groundcover wildflower with closed pink blooms. When open, the petals of the quarter-sized daisy-style flowers are white and the centers are bright yellow.

Now? It’s snowing.

If anyone has any ideas as to the identity of either of the two wildflowers, please feel free to hazard a guess in the comments!

UPDATE: The white flowers appear to be Spiny phlox (Phlox hoodii) or another native relative.  My research this evening has also identified Scarlet Globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea, native) and Yellow Salsify (Tragopogon dubius, introduced, can be invasive) that I photographed last summer.  I hope it doesn’t take a whole year to ID these little blossoms!

I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

Content note: This post contains images of insects, specifically bees and butterflies, which may be distressing to readers who have insect-related phobias.

A monarch or monarch-mimic butterfly sits on a dandelion.

A gardener might do the heavy lifting, but some of the most important work in the garden is done by some unusual staff members: pollinating insects.  These tiny garden helpers are happy to work for free, but it’s kinder to offer them some compensation in the form of food, water, and/or shelter.  That’s why I’m happy to see the bright faces of humble dandelions each spring.  These early flowers are an important food source for wakening hives of bees after their winter hibernation, at a time when little else is blooming.  Migrating butterflies are also well-served by these plants that so many consider weeds.  The shy monarch or monarch-mimic to the right declined to be photographed with open wings.

The current crop of dandelions look like tiny airports, with a variety of small bees and bee-mimicking flies zooming in to land briefly and rummage among the petals before taking quick flight to the next flower, while sleepy bumblebees bounce slowly between clusters and have a leisurely me

The bee in the below photo has a greenish tint, and it was humming merrily among the dandelion patches, doing as bees do.  In this close-up view, there are tiny flecks of yellow pollen caught in the hairs on the bee’s legs and abdomen, which will be carried to the next flower.  There, some bits of pollen will be transferred to the new flower, and more pollen from the new plant will stick to the bee, some of which will become bee food, and some of which will be transferred to a different flower.

A bee collects pollen and nectar from a dandelion.

Besides the obvious of leaving dandelions alone, you can encourage pollinators by planting a variety of nectar-producing flowers that bloom at different times of the year, providing an on-going source of food for such beneficial insects.  You can also make sure there is a source of clean water with a water feature or a small, shallow saucer that you fill each day.  If you have room and no nearby neighbors with bee allergy, you can also consider keeping bees or providing nest-boxes for solitary bees, such as described by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Service.  Your county extension office will have information on how to support pollinators in your area.

Blog note: My schedule is still somewhat chaotic due to the previously mentioned family emergency.  Construction has started, but the going is slow, and I haven’t had the time to turn my notes and photos into coherent posts as yet.  Things should begin to normalize this weekend.  Thanks for your patience.

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