Your Garden Orchestra
Listen to your Garden’s song
…Can you hear it? A gentle spring tide of sound beginning first with a few brave singing frogs. Freshen up your Hummingbird feeders now. The faithful males await their wives real soon and the territorial zinging sound of dive bombing will also return! And, as much as the seasonal orchestra of blooms that begins now for our eyes, and extra early this year by human calendars, so do the sounds of spring begin for our ears with Mr. Robin’s trills. So as you plan your favourite tastes and flowers of the season to come, add in a few extras for your garden companions; birds, hummers, all varieties of bees and silent drifting butterflies.
You will pleasantly surprized to know most of these visitors don’t require the newest exotic ruffled, and possibly pricey, 2015 plant tempting introductions... Hummingbirds want flowers with deep throats of nectar; most bees want “plain Jane” open disked flowers to nuzzle their noses, properly called proboscises, into nectar rich centers ~ butterflies want landing pads as they flit from flower station to station. And then, not forgetting the native beneficial bugs: they want your weeds! (…Another time these garden buddies are worth a whole other article.)
Herbs can be an easy start to all these wild garden visitor’s requests starting with traditional thyme, rosemary, oreganos and marjoram, savory, sages, sorrel and mints. Add in the official edible list of herbal flowers like borage, calendula, coriander, chamomile, chives, dill, pansy, viola, bergamot, nasturtium and agastache or anise hyssop. In fact most blooms of any common culinary herbs you use, are yes, edible to us AND very useful for nectar and pollen “eaters”. So…you may already have a jump start on your list of desired “Orchestra planting” without realizing the big picture for all!
Spring is a great time for yes tulips next; also sweet violet, bleeding heart, columbine, fragrant azalea, foxglove, dianthus, sweet william and sweet alyssum, alstroemeria, clarkia, cosmos, fuchsia, nicotiana, petunia, daylily, roses, phlox, zinnia, sunflower, snapdragon, penstemon, common yarrow, tagetes and marigolds: even scarlet runner bean flowers and strawberry blossoms in the veggie patch! Add a vine or two like passiflora, honeysuckle, wisteria or eccremocarpus, an easy to grow “Chilean Glory vine” I treat as a half-hardy annual. There is a huge tree and shrub list that begins in the orchard with apples, pears or plums then moves into your perennial border plantings; with the familiar buddleia or “Butterfly bush”, mock orange, both kinds of lilac ~ common and California ceanothus and on to, perhaps new to you, koelreuteria or “Golden rain tree” a lovely late blooming nectar treat and arbutus unedo or “the Strawberry tree”… I have hummers dropping in to dine on an arbutus unedo in a big urn on a rooftop garden, 9 floors up!
As the season rolls on, the planting list only gets fatter and I’ve probably missed quite a few. I am hoping you can fit a couple more of these easily found plants and shrubs listed above into your 2015 dream garden.
All flowers and blooms aside: for Swallowtail butterflies do include angelica, fennel and any parsley, flat or curly, for them to lay their tiny eggs on the foliage and munch away as hatch and they grow. Their resulting caterpillars are unmistakeable: bold lime green, yellow and black “eyed” alien looking and BIG just before they pupate. You won’t regret a blind eye on the foliage damage for the next generation of adults ethereally drifting through your yard, and your host herb plants will recover I promise!
One last suggestion~ please leave your over wintered greens; like Kale, Broccoli, Swiss Chard and such, even into the raggedy stage for the nectar of their very early spring blooms for all your garden winged visitors to feast on.
For the last couple of seasons I have not rototilled my veggie patch and miss my accompanying Brewers Blackbird that used to do their own rototilling in my wake. Robins now follow my leaf mulch raking off instead. Fat Robins!
In mid-July when my Lavender fields bloom I invite visitors to lay between the rows; leaving noses open, yet closing eyes and let the bees sing to them! Similarly when my 25 year old Linden tree blooms on the driveway, I pause in my rush to get anything done and listen for the world’s largest bee orchestra, numbered in the thousands…no instruments required!
I wish I had wings to join them.
Originally published in the April 2015 edition of the Metchosin Muse