Columbine

Home/Tag: Columbine

Earth Day 2019: Protecting Earth’s Species

“In nature, nothing exists alone.”
— Rachel Carson, 1962

 

Butterfly

Butterfly

From whales to elephants, coral reefs to pollinators, this year’s Earth Day (Monday, April 22) will be focused on protecting the earth’s species. And while not everyone is quite prepared to, say,  set up bee hives in their yards, there is a pollinator almost everyone does want to attract and protect — the butterfly.

“We’re frequently asked by our clients to create settings that will attract these beautiful insects,” says Dave Stockwell. And we’re not the only ones. Local nurseries have seen a large spike in purchases in recent years of pollinator-friendly plants. 

Whether or not you are a gardener yourself or prefer using a landscaper (we can recommend one, should you need it (smile), creating butterfly-friendly areas in your yard is a very easy way to do your part In the Earth Day celebrations. 

“Hummingbirds are another pollinator you will wish to attract,” adds Dave. “When attracting pollinators, you might also attract some bees, but if you plan your yard’s landscape design well, you can enjoy all these small visitors, but at a comfortable arm’s length. This is good for both you and the insects.”

Another consideration, of course, is avoiding toxic chemicals in your plant care.

“Earth-friendly lawn and plant care is very possible,” says Dave. “It not necessary to go for a fast kill of plant disease and pests. Besides, you might also hurt helpful organisms in the process. Not to mention that toxic chemicals in large amounts are also dangerous to pets and children. A more organic approach is a much healthier way to control them — and protect butterflies and other pollinators in the process while you’re at it.”

caterpillar

caterpillar

 

Let’s start with the basics.

It’s just as important that caterpillars have a safe habitat on your property as it does the full-grown insect.

Consider such herbs as Dutchman’s Pipe or Dill which not only give the larvae something to munch on but also provide protective cover.

 

Moving on to food.

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

Umbrells (or tubular-shaped plants) are a great example of a protective sanctuary for butterflies. It’s a great landing plant and its nectar is just what these insects love.

Also consider a variety of plantings throughout the seasons to create friendly habitats:

— in spring, plant Columbine, Bachelor Buttons, Bleeding Hearts, and Dianthus;

— in summer: there’s a large number of choices including Butterfly Weed, Butterfly Bush and Black Eyed Susan;

— in fall, consider Asters (see feature photo at top of page), Golden Rod and Sedums.

 

Special Treats for Butterflies

Butterflies Love Oranges

Butterflies Love Oranges

 

“Humans and birds aren’t the only species who love orange juice,” says Dave. “In addition to the liquid butterflies get from from leftover sprinkler droplets and morning dew, they love a bit of orange.”

One of our contacts at Hicks Nurseries in Westbury suggests that, “if you want to keep ants away from the sliced fruit, put it on a smaller dish and insert it into a larger one with water. Also, cut fresh slices into the fruit every day, he says.

 

 

“As we go about our daily work,” says Dave, “we’re happy to meet so many Long Islanders who are helping the environment, in their own quiet way. They, in fact, celebrate Earth Day, every day, by creating safe, beautiful habitats for butterflies and other pollinators.”

 

By |2019-04-11T12:23:11-05:00April 11th, 2019|Backyard Refurbishments, Creative Design, Landscaping, Living Landscapes, Outdoor Living, Plants, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on Earth Day 2019: Protecting Earth’s Species

April Gardening is For the Birds: Some “To Do’s” and “Not To Do’s”

Today’s garden planning goes well beyond simply color and texture. Some of the delights of outdoor living are the amazing creatures our gardens and water features attract.

With that in mind, below are some “to do” and “not to do” lawn/garden ideas for the month of April that we put together with the help of Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at Suffolk County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension.

 

April “To Do’s”

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

During March and April many birds migrate back up north. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, for example, make their home in Mexico and Central America during winter, and are already en route to our neck of the woods.

So if you want to invite them to your yard, it’s time to fill hummingbird feeders etc. As for blooms, Vultaggio says that these hummingbirds particularly love rhododendrons and azaleas. “They also love Columbine, which they track as they move north.”

 

Oriolefest feeder

Oriolefest feeder

Other delightful birds — e.g., the Baltimore Oriole and certain Warblers — also arrive on Long Island and other areas of the Northeast in April.

Oriole migration coincides with that of hummingbirds, says Vultaggio — arriving usually a week ahead of their smaller rapid-flapping friends. For the Orioles, she puts out oranges, which they love.

Like hummingbirds, Orioles winter in Mexico and Central and South America. It’s worth planning for their arrival because they don’t stay around long. They begin migrating south again in August. So get your Oriole-feeders out early.

 

 

“When it comes to bees, which have been on the decline in alarming numbers, some suggest that we leave dandelions in our lawns for them,” says Vultggio. For while hummingbirds, etc. are going after nectar, the bees are in search of pollen,” she says.

This means it’s a good idea to cultivate both pollen and nectar producing plants, adds Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

“Indeed, we recommend sufficient seasonal plantings so that the right blooms appear from early spring into late fall. We also suggest that you plant them in clusters to provide havens for birds and pollinators.”

Dave says that early April is also a great time to clean and repair any bird houses so they’ll be ready for birds to nest.

 

April “Not to Do’s” 

 

“April is a good time of year to postpone any severe pruning you might want to do,” says Vultaggio. “This time of year is usually mating season, and squirrels and birds are busy building their nests.”

“You don’t want to be cutting down trees while these creatures are nesting. Also, it’s helpful to the birds if you don’t make a thorough clean up of your yard during spring maintenance. Leave behind loose twigs and leaves for them to build their nests.”

During April, gardeners often find it necessary to go after insects and pests that might destroy their garden. This can mean applying fungicide or spraying insecticides.

“Be sure that when you do this, not to spray the blooming trees and shrubs. You don’t want to harm birds, bees and other pollinating insects,” adds Dave Stockwell.


 

Finally, Vultaggio says that doing a few things — and not doing some others — will help attract all the beautiful creatures we want to enjoy when outdoors. In fact, right now, she is daily tracking the 2017 migration of hummingbirds to our area in the Northeast.

“I went to hummingbirds.net just this morning. And guess what? They were already in Virginia.”

 

 

2016 Baltimore Oriole Sighting on Long Island:

2016 Baltimore Oriole Sighting on Long Island:

This photo of a Baltimore Oriole was taken by Sandra Vultaggio last spring. Note: yellow/orange Helianthus and pink Zinnias in her garden make a perfect spot for her feeder. “The feeder is actually a hummingbird feeder,” says Vultaggio, “but Orioles will feed from it as well.”

 

Earth Day 2016: Attracting Butterflies to Home Gardens

 

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

As landscapers, Deck and Patio’s team is frequently asked by homeowners to plant flowers that will attack butterflies. Yet even we were surprised at how widespread the desire for butterfly gardens has become.

In speaking recently with our friends at Hicks Nurseries, in Westbury, we learned that they have seen a huge spike in the purchase of pollinator-friendly plants, as well as a large uptick in the size of audiences attending seminars on the subject.

“Those interested are outdoor people, who traditionally enjoyed creating gardens that brought in birds to feeders and provided opportunities to watch butterflies,” says Caldwell. “More and more, however, we’re seeing a desire to create safe havens for butterflies, as well as other pollinators, including bees and hummingbirds.”

Caldwell says the growing awareness in how pesticides has affected the pollinator populations has helped stir this awakening. “Butterflies and other animal groups are having trouble with repopulation because it is so hard for them to find pure food sources. Butterflies, for example, often use too much energy hunting for food.

“It’s also key to create a safe habitat for their caterpillars. Some herbs are ideal for that; Dill and Dutchman’s Pipe, for example, not only provide caterpillars food, but also protective cover before they turn into butterflies.”

Organic gardening and environmentally-friendly lawn care products go hand-in-hand with protecting and attracting the pollinators, Caldwell adds. Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio, agrees.

“Earth-friendly lawn and plant care is very possible,” he says. “It isn’t essential to go for a fast kill of plant disease and pests. In doing that, you might also hurt helpful organisms in the process. Heavy use of toxic chemicals are also dangerous to pets and children. It is much healthier to control them — and protect butterflies and other pollinators in the process — through a more organic approach.”

As for ideal food, tubular-shaped plants or “Umbrels” provide a wonderful sanctuary for butterflies. “These give them a landing plant filled with nectar just waiting for them,” says Caldwell. She also suggests a seasonal approach that not only provides multi-seasonal color in gardens, but extra months of safe, bountiful habitats.

“In spring, you can plant Columbine, Bachelor Buttons, Bleeding Hearts, and Dianthus, for example. In summer, there’s 30-40 plants to choose from, including Black Eyed Susan, Butterfly Weed, Butterfly Bush to name just a few. In fall, there’s Sedums, Joe Pye Weed, Asters, and Golden Rod.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butterflies will get plenty of moisture from droplets left from sprinklers, morning dew, etc. “However, they do seem to love oranges, not only for food, but to quench their thirst,” says Caldwell. Note: To keep ants away from the fruit, put the slice on a smaller dish and insert it into a larger one with water. Also, cut fresh slices into the fruit every day.

“We were delighted to learn that so many Long Islanders are helping, in their own quiet way, to help the environment” says Dave Stockwell. “They’re celebrating Earth Day, every day, by creating safe, beautiful habitats for butterflies and other pollinators.”

 

 

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

As the name implies, Butterfly Bush is a great choice for attracting butterflies in the summer. “They can reach up to 6-8 feet in height,” says Caldwell. “They’re fast growing and don’t need a lot of care.”

 

 

Lavender and Butterflies:

Lavender and Butterflies:

Dave Stockwell (Deck and Patio) says that Lavender (shown here) is another plant butterflies love. “It also gives off a calming peaceful scent. There are several types of lavender that bloom at different times — so you can have its perfume from spring nearly through fall.”

 

 

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Great for attracting butterflies, these biennials are also a haven for other pollinators like bees. Their bright yellow petals and dark centers can’t help but make you smile.

 

 

Earth Day 2016 Earth Day coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Photo from WMO

Earth Day 2016 Earth Day coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Photo from WMO

This is the first of a two-part series in honor of Earth Day 2016 (April 22nd). Next week, our blog will cover sustainable water features and rainwater harvesting.