The Grancy Graybeard, also known as the fringe tree, grandfather graybeard, snow flower tree, old man’s beard and a number of other colorful names is a perfect addition to both large and small yards across the state.
The grancy graybeard is one of the last flowering trees to bloom each spring in the Peach State. For the past couple of weeks, my wife and I have been enjoying both the tree’s strikingly beautiful blossoms and aroma produced by a myriad of flowers.
This small native tree grows only ten to thirty feet tall. I personally have never seen one more than fifteen feet tall.
Before the tree’s oblong leaves appear, a riot of snow-white flowers erupt on its bare branches. This startlingly beautiful floral show is created by literally thousands of slender flowers (up to an inch long and 1/16th of an inch wide). Oddly, the male flowers are larger than the female blooms.
If that isn’t enough to catch your attention, the delicate, sweet, clean perfume given off by these flowers will. When in full bloom, the delicate sweet scent of the blossoms will waft many yards away from the tree.
These unique blooms attract nectar feeders such as small beetles, bees and others.
Later in the year female trees, bear a crop of blackish-blue fruit that are gobbled up by mockingbirds, cardinals, blue jays and other wildlife.
In addition, this demure tree is a host plant for both rustic and laurel sphinx moths.
This tree requires little, if any care. Although it does best in moist, rich soils, once established it will grow in dry areas too. The tree’s ability to live in both partial shade and full sun is another plus.
With that in mind, I hope you will consider adding it to your landscape. This tree is definitely a keeper.
Along about this time of year, when I walk out into my backyard and a gentle zephyr is blowing in from the east, I can often catch the lemony scent of a winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima).
Although this shrub is only about eight feet wide and seven feet tall, it is very special to my wife and me. We moved this shrub from my wife’s Alabama home well more than three decades ago. My wife fondly remembers a winter honeysuckle that grew just outside her bedroom window. When should would open her window on warm winter days, the scent produced by the plant’s small, white flowers would fill her room with their fresh, lemony fragrance. Like her mother, we bring winter honeysuckle branches adorned with flowers into our house simply to enjoy to pleasant aroma that given off by the small, showy blossoms.
There was a time when plants like winter honeysuckle and abelia were commonly found in yards throughout the South. Today, in spite of the fact that both are attractive and used by wildlife, more often than not, they are missing from home landscapes.
We are fond of our winter honeysuckle for a number of reasons. First, it has sentimental value. In addition, a provides a touch of floral beauty at a time of year when few plants are blooming. That would be enough to earn a spot our my yard; however, it is also a source of nectar and pollen for wild pollinators during a time when they find food extremely scarce.
Winter honeysuckle was introduced into the United States from China during the middle of the 19th century. Those that brought the plant here touted its merits as an ornamental and hedge plant. It proved to be so popular that it first showed up in plant catalogs in 1860.
It is a deciduous shrub that grows to a height of around ten feet. The leaves are oval in shape. This woody shrub blooms from late winter to early spring in most parts of the state. Its half-inch, creamy white flowers are arranged in pairs. They are followed by a crop of small, red berries that are frequently eaten by birds.
Although the plant grows best in rich soil types, it will also grow in dry sites. While it does best in full sunshine, it will grow in partial shade too.
If you want to add winter beauty to your backyard, as well as provide a food source for wild pollinators, you my might want to consider adding this shrub to your home landscape.
If you want to learn more about the important relationships that exists between pollinators and plants, you should consider attending the upcoming Bees, Butterflies and Beyond Symposium 2016: Pollinators and Plants.
The symposium will be held September 17, 2016 from 8:30 A.M.-3:00 P.M. at the Atrium in downtown Douglas.
The $30 registration fee includes lunch. Folks wanting to attend the event must register by September 6.
The symposium is sponsored by the Douglas Garden Club, Green Thumb Garden Club, General Coffee State Park, UGA Extension, Douglas-Coffee Chamber of Commerce and Kelly McDonald Photograph.
For more information, go to Google Search and type in Bees, Butterflies and Beyond Symposium 2016: Pollinators and Plants.
Recently while walking across my yard, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a common buckeye, bumblebee and honeybee visiting the white flowers blooming in a small island of white clover growing in the green sea of grass growing between my home office and barn.
Stumbling across these insects moving from flower to flower was a gentle reminder that, in spite of the fact that many consider white clover to be nothing more than a lawn weed, it can be important to a wide range of wild pollinators such as bees and butterflies. In fact, in many yards it can be a major source of food.
In addition, white clover serves as a host plant for a number of moths and both the clouded and orange sulphur butterflies.
Realizing this, I will often refrain from mowing a few small patches of white clover until the plants have stopped blooming. I view this as an easy, inexpensive way to add a little bit of habitat diversity to my yard.
The downward spiral of many of our native bee populations is something that we should all be concerned about. The plight of these insects was recently highlighted by a study conducted by researchers with the University of Vermont’s Grand Institute of Ecological Economics. Their findings suggest that between 2008 and 2013 native bee populations declined 23 percent across the United States.
If you would like to learn more about native bees and what you can do in your backyard to promote native bee populations, I strongly urge you to read the April-May issue of the National Wildlife Federation’s magazine National Wildlife. This special issue is titled Garden For Wildlife – NURTURING NATIVE BEES.