One of the things I really enjoy about gardening for wildlife is that it has made me more attuned to the parade of plants that bloom and are replaced by others that begin flowering somewhat later during the course of a year. Currently, in my yard it is the time for Georgia mint (Clinopodium georgianum) to be in the spotlight.
Georgia mint (also called Georgia savory) is a sub-shrub that grows in clumps 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide. The plant features upright stems. In addition, when you crush the leaves, they give off a pleasing peppermint-like scent. Each plant produces scores of small pinkish white blossoms.
Georgia mint requires little, if any, maintenance. In addition, it does well with little water and grows in direct sunlight. Throughout most of the year, you would hardly notice it. However, when it comes time for it to bloom, scores of blooms seemingly magically appear.
The Georgia mint that is growing alongside a section of my driveway is now in full bloom. While I do have a number of other plants that are also blooming, the sheer number of pollinators they are attracting pales in comparison to those visiting the Georgia mint. By far the most common visitors are small bumblebees. However, carpenter bees are also present. Butterflies such as gulf fritillaries, ocolas, fiery and long-tailed skippers, cabbage whites, and cloudless sulphurs are visiting the floral show. In past years, I have also seen monarchs nectar at the tiny blooms.
If you are looking for an attractive, native plant that is a great source of food for pollinators at this time of the year, Georgia mint might prove to be a great addition to your yard.
Throughout this summer’s unprecedented heart wave, many of the plants my wife and I have planted for pollinators are requiring regular watering. Such has not been the case with a native plant named mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum ssp.). We have not watered our three patches of mountain mint a single time. In spite of this, the plants in all three spots have flourished and are attracting more pollenators than other plant growing in our yard.
This was dramatically illustrated week when we participated in the Great Southeast Pollinator Count. We selected the two plants (mountain-mint and butterfly bush to survey. During the 15-minute count at the mountain mint plants, 39 individual pollinators were recorded. This list included bumblebee – 1, carpenter bee – 2, small bees – 2, wasps – 8, flies – 7, butterflies – 18, and ant -1.
We saw two juniper hairstreaks and 16 red-banded hairstreaks. To put this in perspective, the day before I surveyed butterflies on the Annual Fall Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge/Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area Butterfly Count. In spite of the fact that the team I was assigned to spent 7.5 hours in the field and walked some 2.2 while visiting a number of sites scattered across much of the eastern side of Monroe County and a small piece of Jasper County, we spotted only three red-banded hairstreaks.
The value of mountain-mint to wild pollinators has been long recognized. For example, Penn State conducted a research project to determine the value of a number of pollinator plants o wild pollinators found mountain-mint to be the plant most attractive to these special insects. In addition, it tied with stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida) for the top spot for its ability to attract the greatest diversity of pollinators.
This fragrant plant grows up to six feet tall. The plants blooms appear in clusters of small white to lavender tubular-shaped flowers arranged on a button-like base. Each flower cluster is surrounded by a cluster of bracts (modified leaves) that appeared to be covered with flour or powdered sugar. In addition, it blooms for weeks during the summer.
Mountain-mint is easy to grow. Like most folks that have it growing in their yards, a friend gave me, a handful of plants several years ago. They did not produce any flowers the first year they were in the ground but have bloomed ever since.
Keep in mind that the plant spreads rapidly, so place put it in a spot where it has room to spread. If they do venture into areas where you don’t want them, they can be easily controlled.
Like so many plants, they seem to attract more pollinators when planted in large groupings. This is in partly because a large number of plants are more easily seen by pollinators. In addition, larger patches of plants such as mountain-mint produce scents that can be more easily detected by potential visitors. This appears to be particularly true in urban areas suffering from air pollution.
If you do not have a friend or two that is willing to give you a few mountain-mint plants, I am sure that a nursery that deals in native plants can provide you with all that you need.
Container gardening for wildlife is rapidly gaining popularity throughout the Peach State. This novel approach to gardening allows folks to combine their love for wildlife and gardening by planting a combination of native and ornamental plants in containers to create mini wildlife habitats that are beneficial to wildlife and enhance the beauty of their yards. The Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia carolinensis) is a Georgia native plant that does well in containers.
Although you may not have heard of the Carolina wild petunia, there is a chance that you have seen it. This is due to the fact this attractive native perennial wildflower grows in natural settings as well as in our yards. However, since it sometimes pops up in lawns, some consider it a weed.
This plant is definitely far from being a weed. Although the blooms of this plant look much like the blossoms found on the ornamental petunias we commonly raise in our gardens, the only thing the two plants have in common is the similarity of their flowers.
While Carolina wild petunia grows in dry soils, it much prefers to sink its roots in moist loam. It will also grow in soils containing clay. The plant grows in spots ranging from full shade to sun. As such, it will grow in most garden situations. Consequently, this plant can be a great addition to practically any container garden.
The plant grows in areas ranging from full shade to full sun.
Georgia gardeners should appreciate the fact that it blooms all the way from spring into fall.
In addition to being beautiful, Carolina wild petunia also yields pollen and nectar for many pollinators including the ruby-throated hummingbird, and a wide range of butterflies, bees and wasps.
It is also a host plant for the common buckeye butterfly.
Gardeners are successful growing Carolina wild petunia from transplants, stem cuttings, and seeds. Plants can also be obtained from nurseries that deal in Georgia native plants.
The Georgia Wildlife Conservation Section and the Garden Club of Georgia are jointly promoting container gardening for wildlife. For a list of the many other wildlife-friendly ornamentals and native plants that can grow in containers to create small habitats that are both beautiful and beneficial to wildlife, email Abbie Young at email@example.com You will also receive a copy of an application you can use to apply to have your container garden certified in the Community Wildlife Project’s Container Gardening for Wildlife category.
One of my favorite spring flowers is heal-all (Prunella vulgaris). Over the years, whenever I have participated in the Annual Spring Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge/Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area Butterfly Count my count team always find butterflies nectaring on this stunning wild plant.
Two years ago, I rescued a few plants from a spot that stood the chance of soon being destroyed by a bulldozer. I rescued a few of these plants and my wife planted them in a large container. Under her skillful care, the plants survived and flourished.
The next year the plants sprouted and grew far larger than they had been the previous year. In fact, they spread and filled the container. To top it all off, they bloomed creating an incredibly beautiful bouquet of light lavender blossoms. The flowers also attracted butterflies.
When the flowers and plants eventually withered during the summer, she scattered seed she had collected from these plants and scattered them in another container.
This spring heal-all plants reappeared in the original container. In addition, the seeds sown in the second container sprouted. Those plants are rapidly growing. We hope that they will bloom this year. Meanwhile, some of the plants growing in the original container are already beginning to bloom.
It does appear that heal-all is one of the many wild plants that thrives in containers. By growing them in pots, my wife and I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the plants themselves, as well as the butterflies, and other pollenators that visit them. This would have been much more difficult if we had to rely on occasional observations made when stumbling across heal-all in the wild.
Our next experiment is to see if we can establish a stand of heal-all on our property. I hope I will be able to report the success of our efforts next spring.
For more information on this fascinating plant, go to the search engine bubble on the right side of the blog page and type in Heal-All. Immediately the blog I wrote concerning this plant will immediately appear.
If you are searching for an attractive shrub that attracts hummingbirds, you should give serious thought to buying a weigela (Weigela x Florida); it produces a crop of long-lasting, red, trumpet-shaped blooms. The blossoms grow singly and in clusters.
The shrub’s blooming period extends from late spring into summer.
This shrub is capable of becoming 6 to 8 feet tall and 9 to 12 feet wide. However, none of the weigelas my wife and I have grown in our Middle Georgia yard has ever grown that large.
The only weigela we have planted also goes by the name Old Fashioned Weigela. This variety bears red flowers. A dozen or more different varieties of weigela are on the market. While they may attract hummingbirds, I personally cannot vouch for them.
Weigela produces the most flowers when planted in full sun, however, it also grows in partial shade. Once this shrub is established, it is quite drought-tolerant.
If you have a problem with deer pruning your plants, you will be pleased to know that weigela is not high on the white-tailed deer’s list of preferred browse plants.
If you are looking for an attractive native wildlife friendly plant that blooms early in the spring, Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) is a plant you should consider.
Normally the Chickasaw plum reaches a maximum height of only 15 feet (most I encounter are much shorter). In March-April, the plant produces a bounty of delicate, fragrant flowers well before the plant’s leaves burst forth.
Since it is an early bloomer, it is an important source of for pollinators such as butterflies. Some of the butterflies I find nectaring on the flowers are hairstreaks like the great purple hairstreak, and the eastern tiger swallowtail. However, other pollinators are also drawn to the woody plant’s pollen.
From May to July, the plant is laden with small drupes. These tasty plums can be range in color from red to yellow. If you want to eat your share of these sweet morsels, you had better do so early as they are also relished by a host of birds and mammals such as the red-headed woodpecker, quail, gray catbird, American robin, wood thrush, northern mockingbird, gray fox, raccoon, white-tailed deer and others.
Insectivorous birds feed the insects drawn to the large shrubs especially when they are in bloom.
If allowed to form a small thicket, birds such as catbirds, loggerhead shrikes, brown thrashers are others will nest and among this native plum’s thorny branches.
Butterfly enthusiasts will be happy to know that a number of butterflies such as the eastern tiger swallowtail, coral hairstreak, and spring azure lay their eggs on the Chickasaw plum.
Chickasaw plums do well in most soil types, are drought tolerant, and grow best in partial shade to full sun.
Should you decide to transplant this valuable native plant in your yard, set out a couple. This ensures cross-pollination will occur.
Also, be aware that Chickasaw plum produces suckers. This is great if you want to create a thicket. However, if you prefer to grow the plant as a single tree, simply cut down the suckers.