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The Case for Mason Bees

posted by: CharlieBoring on 02.22.2013 at 12:40 pm in Bees and Beekeeping Forum

I am by no means a master gardener nor am I very experienced in keeping bees. When I was a teenager, I kept honey bees because my grandfather was a beekeeper and told me that honey bees were the best pollinators around. However, my research on the internet and my discussions with other gardeners has shown me Grandpa was wrong.

I grow lots of fruit. Recently, I started a small orchard to my yard. I have persimmons, apricot, Asian pears, plums, jujubes, peaches, cherries, paw paws, raspberries, figs, blue berries, huckleberries, goji berries, strawberries and kiwis. My vegetable garden includes eggplants, melons, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, squash, and pole beans and all need bees.

So you can see I have an interest in pollinating all of the above, otherwise my garden would be adversely affected.

Since honey bees are a social bee, they communicate with each other about where to find the sources of pollen, nectar and water. Therefore the first blooms to open get the first attention. If you watch closely, the bees will exit from the hive and go straight to the blooms that opened first during the season. Bees become fixated, when a nectar source opens, the bees concentrate on that source, becoming fixed on that and little else until the bloom period for that plant is over. If your blossoms open a few days after your neighbor’s blossoms, by the time your neighbor’s blossoms have finished, your blossoms are half over, and old blossoms do not pollinate well, if at all.

A bee that flies in cool, damp and cloudy weather, which honey bees don't, is also needed. It is also important that the maintenance of the bees doesn't require a great deal of time, which most gardners do not have. Since the blooming period is often short, the bees need to be able to work quickly and not get fixated on one nectar source. Mason bees are the ideal solution. Mason Bees only fly approximately 300 yards from its nest site, thus helping to ensure pollination of your blossoms, not your neighbor’s.

Mason Bees (MB) are solitary and there are numerous strains. They do not need a nest site with thousands of worker support. While they do prefer others of the same strain around, mainly for mating purposes, the females do most of the work in provisioning the nest tube. The males are good pollinators in their own right, but their forage is for their own use, and not for their offspring.
MBs nest in tubes, under natural conditions, mainly those left by burrowing insects. With the removal of mature trees there has been serious habitat loss, so MBs are in short supply and nest sites should be encouraged.

These nest sites can be simple blocks of wood up to 6 inches deep, holes drilled approximately 5/16ths inch in diameter. The females will first close off the back of the nest tube with mud on the bottom plug she will use pollen as the feed plus a small amount of nectar, and lay an egg. This section is then sealed with a mud plug, then immediately she will start on a second nursery cell and so on till she gets towards the front of the tube at which time she will lay unfertilized eggs, creating males. Under good conditions MB females will lay at least 3 females and 2 males per tube, after which she will seal the end and move to a second nesting tube.

Unlike honey bees, MBs carry the pollen in a sac beneath the abdomen. When a female lands on a flower she dives in belly first, right in the middle of the blossom stamens. Whereas a honey bee lands on the side and walks down looking for the nectar site, possibly brushing past the stamen in passing. Each blossom needs up to eight visits to effectively pollinate them. MBs will do a better job, purely because of their approach to each blossom.

It should be obvious that MBs main interest is pollen whereas honey bees interest is nectar for honey making. So with honey bees pollen transfer is accidental, but with MBs, transfer is deliberate. As the honey bee carries the pollen in baskets on the back legs, brushed there when the bee cleans itself, so transfer is accidental.

The MB is a hard worker, visiting hundreds of flowers to charge each egg site with pollen and the increase in fruit crops using them is well documented, in some cases up to a 4 fold increase. Unlike honey bees, they will start earlier in the morning, finish flying later in the day and cool damp weather doesn't prevent them working.

In a few short weeks, the nest tubes are sealed and the larvae then eat through their stores, pupate, then wait in the tubes till next spring before emerging. The outer eggs turn into males, which emerge a few days before the females, then hang around waiting to mate with the emerging females.

Caring for MBs cannot in any way be considered labor intensive. They work without supervision, sealing off their young from predation with mud plugs. Some provision should be made to stop wood peckers accessing the nest site and then late in the fall the nest site should be taken in, opened and the cocoons cleaned to prevent infestation by pollen mites. This is a learning experience and ideally a search on the internet for Mason bees or Blue Orchard bees will supply sites where more information is available and where bees can be purchased.

I personally decided not to purchase MBs, but to construct bee boxes to attract the native ones. I have two nest boxes so far and one is populated from last spring. Another is located very close to the old one and is ready to accommodate MBs this spring.

My intention is to cover the populated box with a cardboard box, with ½ inch holes in it, on or about March 15 to allow the MBs to exit but to discourage them from using the old box during this spring and encourage them to use the new box.

Next, I will remove the old box around May 15 and clean it to kill mites and put it up again the next spring.


clipped on: 01.20.2014 at 12:28 am    last updated on: 01.20.2014 at 12:28 am

RE: Has anybody tried baking soda to prevent powdery mildew (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: gardengal48 on 10.01.2013 at 05:23 pm in Hydrangea Forum

This is essentially the same as the Cornell Formula, a fungicide developed by a plant pathologist at Cornell University some 30-40 years ago. Unfortunately, via word of mouth and the Internet, the precise formulation has morphed into something other than the original and these 'revised' recipes may not have the same impact and can even become harmful to plants.

The correct formulation is 2-3 tsp. of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to 1G of water with 1 tsp. insecticidal or castile soap (not dish soap or detergent) and/or 1 tsp. horticultural oil (vegetable oil works as well). The baking soda actually alters the pH of the leaf surface, making it inhospitable to the survival of the fungal spores (milk accomplishes much the same process). The oil and soap act as surfactants, helping the mixture adhere to the foliage. You do not necessarily need to add both, however. It is as effective as any other commercial fungicide when mixed and applied properly

Newer research has indicated that potassium bicarbonate is somewhat more effective than the baking soda - baking soda just is a lot simpler to get one's hands on. And it is important to remember that like virtually all other fungicides, this is a preventative, not a curative. It can help to keep the disease from spreading to unaffected foliage but will not remove or eliminate any existing problems.

And it is always a good practice to combine a spray for powdery mildew together with good cultural controls that limit the incidence of the disease in the first place.


clipped on: 10.25.2013 at 11:37 pm    last updated on: 10.25.2013 at 11:37 pm

RE: Heather bed design (Follow-Up #6)

posted by: thane on 05.09.2010 at 04:58 pm in Heaths & Heathers Forum

I used the design more or less as it was shown in my document. The heathers are filling in nicely.

For my silvery heather I used 'Silver Knight' instead of 'Silver Queen', and it has been overall the best-performing heather I have. It has filled in quickly and blooms well every year, and I love the silvery foliage. It goes quite well with the pink flowers, and it takes a purplish hue in the winter.

A few lessons I have learned:

1. Dark flowers are not eye-catching. I love heathers with very dark flowers, like 'Larissa' and Erica cinerea 'Velvet Night'. However, I have found that the flowers are almost completely lost when viewed from a distance. I am keeping a small patch of the 'Velvet Night' that I added, but 'Larissa' is going to be replaced.

2. Pay attention to the stated future height and width of the plants. (The online catalog at is a wonderful source of information - and plants.) I have found that I need taller heathers for most of my bed, with some shorter ones in front.

3. Don't forget the 'average' heathers. I like the heathers with orange, red, and silver foliage, and unusual flowers, but I have noticed that you still need to have some heathers with medium green and the more usual flower types in order to set off the striking foliage of your other heathers.

4. Don't neglect the spring tips. Some of my favorite heathers are the ones with striking new growth in the spring. 'Kerstin' has wonderful cream-colored new growth, and looks very nice the rest of the year. It's one of my favorites now. 'Spring Torch' is a wonderful fiery red. These heathers later fade into a more normal appearance, and can fill the role of the 'average-looking' heathers from #3 above.

5. I think it's worth the money to buy large plants. These plants take a while to get established and fill in. Many of mine still look kind of small after two years. The 'Silver Knight's I bought were 1-gallon, and they have done the best.

6. Experiment. By all means, come up with a plan before you start - but know that you can move them around within the first two years, and also that some of the varieties that you are most excited about will be disappointing, and others will surprise you with their wonderful performance. I filled in some of the extra spaces with single plants of a few different varieties, and later decided to expand those selections to become major parts of the planting. ('Kerstin' being one of the major examples.)

Hope that was helpful! I'd post a photo, but I just trimmed them all back for spring, so they look their worst right now. Maybe in August when they are all blooming.


clipped on: 10.11.2013 at 09:58 am    last updated on: 10.11.2013 at 09:58 am

End of August blooms

posted by: shive on 08.31.2013 at 11:14 pm in Daylily Forum

Here are my last daylilies of August, blooming over the past week.


BLAST FROM THE PAST is my latest blooming daylily

MISS GOLDIE GOLD DIGGER's last bloom - This daylily bloomed for 7.5 straight weeks this season!



clipped on: 09.03.2013 at 03:17 pm    last updated on: 09.03.2013 at 03:17 pm

Pics of my garden

posted by: miriam_in_ga on 06.10.2005 at 04:39 pm in Hydrangea Forum

Donna had asked to see pictures of my 50+ varieties so I thought I'd post some of them. Not all 50 varieties are blooming but here are some that are. Sorry about the sideways ones, I should have rotated before loading!

serrata miranda, orange dream jap maple, quer.snowflake and snowqueen
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serrata miranda and mac pia
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unknown macs and mac merritts supreme (purple)
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serrata pretty maiden
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mac sibilla
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unknown light blue:
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various oakleafs, miranda, lilacina, pia:
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unknown pink in pot(was blue last year!)
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charm, madame emile mou. penny mac, pretty maiden:
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mac jogasaki:
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mac lilacina, serrata miranda, mac pia (the lilacina will get much darker):
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unknown mac light blue, mac sister theresa, mac beni-gaku?:
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mac Lanarth White (in a very dark corner):
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my deck viewed thru a paniculata limelight that hasn't bloomed yet:
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climbing up the tree is a Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight' :
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serrata blue billows, preziosa, mac Nachtigall:
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my deck:
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Hope you enjoy. Those of you in the Atlanta area, the American Hydrangea Society's Garden Tour is tomorrow. You can go to their website to get more info.


clipped on: 07.01.2013 at 12:57 pm    last updated on: 07.01.2013 at 12:57 pm

RE: Hydrangea 'Shooting Star' (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: yellowgirl on 07.06.2006 at 10:05 am in Hydrangea Forum

I bought mine at Publix last year too. Shooting Star aka Fuji Waterfall was absolutely gorgeous in my yard this year. Knowing that this was a florist grown (forced)hydrangea (any you buy in the supermarket will be) and not necessarily garden worthy, I'll tell you what I did. Immediately, after I brought it home, I took it out of it's pot and put it into a larger container with the best soil I could find. (Miracle Grow w/Moisture retainers). I left it there (protected from too much sun) in hopes that it would receive maximum nutrition, adapt to my outdoor climate and develope a healthy root system. It did wonderfully, putting out one new shoot after another, so in Fall, I planted it in my garden in a relatively shadey spot. It came through winter (only a few days below freezing mind you) without one bud lost and bloomed it's head off this year. I was expecting much smaller blooms than were on the plant when I bought it but to my surprise, they were equally beautiful this year. I am very happy with this plant to say the least.
The dark glossy emerald green leaves stay in perfect condition and although I just deadheaded it a few days ago, I am looking forward to a possible re-bloom.

Now as far as how winter hardy it will be in your zone 7...

Both Wilkerson Mills (in GA) and Hydrangea Plus (in OR) list it as hardy from zones 6 - 9 and neither site recommends winter protection or mentions tenderness, so I don't see why it would need extra protection in 7b GA.

The worst that could happen if you don't winter protect it, is that you will sacrifice some blooming for one season and then you will know to start protecting it, but I wouldn't go through that hassle without knowing for sure that the plant needed it. Why look for more work? Maybe someone from 7b will chime in.

Good will really enjoy this hydrangea that's like no other.....yg


clipped on: 06.30.2013 at 01:37 pm    last updated on: 06.30.2013 at 01:37 pm

RE: Lorapetalum 'Sizzling Pink' (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: Gyr_Falcon on 06.29.2013 at 04:54 pm in Shrubs Forum

Pruning does not mean shearing. What you want to do is selective, or staggered, pruning. You take some branches and prune them deeper, so that the foliage of the remaining branches hide the cut. Then when the cut branch's new growth fills out to where you want the plant's edge, you trim some of the longer branches back; the previously cut branch's growth will now cover the new pruning cut.

You can choose to rotate the amount of trimming by quarters(1/4 of the total branches of the shrub), thirds or halves, depending upon the size, type and vigor of the shrub
your frequency of pruning, and the look you want to achieve. I sometimes switch from fewer trims during heavy bloom to enjoy the flowers, to heavier trims after the bloom period. Experience is the teacher. The idea is to never have the plant look pruned, but it will still be kept to the size you desire.

When I prune my garden, several bins-worth of green waste may be removed. But you won't be able to visually see where it came from. Unless you are digging into the center of my plants for some reason. ;)


clipped on: 06.30.2013 at 11:02 am    last updated on: 06.30.2013 at 11:02 am

RE: How far can I cut back bush without damaging (Follow-Up #6)

posted by: deviant-deziner on 12.02.2012 at 03:49 pm in Landscape Design Forum

My maintenance experience has been the same as the others, you can prune it back hard and it will respout beautifully in spring.
In my mild zone 9 climate I like to cut it back in late summer or very early fall so that it has a chance to leaf out and there is no loss of bloom.

I've also cut in in spring and have loss some bloom but it is so prolific it really didn't matter that much.

I have never seen a true dwarf loropetalum until I attended a horticultural trade show in SE Asia.
The Chinese nurserymen had an astounding variety of loropetalums that would blow your mind. I hope that someday a fraction of them make it to the US nursery trade.
I do understand that Monrovia is offering a true dwarf lorapetalum called Pixie Purple. It is said to reach 1 to 2 feet tall and about 3 feet wide. I am currently brokering in a dozen for a project. I am hoping that they maintain the max. 2 foot height.

attached is a photo of a loropetalum hedge that is about 12 years old. It is kept at a sloping height of 3 to 4 feet tall.


clipped on: 06.29.2013 at 02:47 pm    last updated on: 06.29.2013 at 02:47 pm