Mountain mint

I’ve got a second year of Narrowleaf Slender Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium)  growing, and usually it pulls in every pollinator around. But on June 18, it was quite cool (76 degrees F), and not a single bug could be seen on the mountain mint. Yesterday afternoon, I had my camera out in the hot afternoon (90 degrees) and it was covered. Whew! Here’s some the visitors.

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Echinacea purpurea - purple coneflower, white version

Pollinator week!!

National Pollinator Week is here! In 2007, the U.S. Senate designated a week in June to help our declining pollinator populations. This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior designated June 19-25 as National Pollinator Week.

A local event that promises lots of ideas is the Durham Pollinator Garden Tour. This is the inaugural tour, and tickets and maps can be found at The tour is another production of Keep Durham Beautiful, Inc., which has great programs all year long. Tickets can be bought by the car, so gather some of your friends and make a day of it!

swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata
swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata

You can find other events at Pollinator Partnership.

To kick off the week, I found a stand of swamp milkweeds (Asclepias incarnata) in RTP on Sunday, but only one monarch caterpillar was in sight. I wasn’t dressed to go wading in the stand to find more—snake boots are a must!

Monarch caterpillar, Danaus plexippus
Monarch caterpillar, Danaus plexippus

 Nearby was a stand of Indian hemp, which is also a native popular with pollinators, but rather aggressive; I’ve got a stand of it on my property that grows exponentially each year. It’s related to mikweeds and even exudes milky sap that is irritating to human skin.

Indian hemp, Apocynum cannabinum
Indian hemp, Apocynum cannabinum

In Raleigh, Helen Yoest’s nonprofit, Bee Better, is having a raffle of a beautiful  photo encaustic work by Jayne Walther. Look for her post on June 15 on FaceBook. Bee Better’s mission is to “help homeowners build better backyards for birds, bees, & butterflies. Our work focuses on ecoregion 231, Southeastern Mixed Forest Province, including the States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and parts of Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Maryland.” I’m a member of this group, and we have interesting workshops and meetings about every month.


So get out there, get some ideas, and plant a small garden for the pollinators!

Common Box Turtle, Terrapene Carolina

Box turtles in the meadow

While I was weed-whacking outside the fence, I uncovered a small common box turtle (Terrapene carolina)—thankfully I was aiming high! Then I found another, larger one inside the fence on a path.

Common Box Turtle, Terrapene Carolina in clover
Common Box Turtle, Terrapene Carolina

She (I think) gave me a stink eye.

I’ve seen a few on roads and such lately, so I wondered when they lay eggs, here is what I found out. Interestingly, females can store sperm for up to four years, so they don’t have to meet up every year. Females dig a hole in the leaf litter and lay up to 11 eggs between May and June. Around 70 days later, the babies hatch slowly and spend the next three to four years under the leaf litter and rotten logs, eating pill bugs, spiders, crickets, etc. After they start going “above ground”, they transition to a mostly vegetarian diet.

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Visiting the Chatham Mills Pollinator Paradise Garden

Debbie Roos is the Chatham County Agricultural Extension Agent and is building a showcase garden at Chatham Mills in Pittsboro. Designed to show local gardeners and farmers how to use native plants to increase their pollinator population and diversity, it’s also a lovely place to visit. Then you can grab lunch at the Chatham Marketplace co-op, or have a drink from Starrlight Mead, and sit on the patio surrounded by beauty.

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The Dung Beetles among Us

Today, I tackled the strip of pine, blackberry, and tulip popular growth behind the fence with the weed-whacker, armed with a blade. Then I spotted one of the sweet spires laying on its side, dug up. I cut off the weed whacker and redug the hole, promising to bring it some water when I went to get my own. Then I heard something moving on the end of the woods. It paused, then another rustle through the pinestraw. I saw a plant waving and cautiously took a look. Two large beetles with a ball of something!

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Rubus hybrid - Blackberry 'Kiowa'

I have blackberries!

I made a quick walk around the garden tonight – the ‘Kiowa’ blackberries (Rubus hybrid) are ripening. This is their second year, a passalong from a friend in Orange County who was thinning them out. Don’t believe the descriptions about “upright canes”; they desperately need to be staked. kiowa-blackberry-rs

That’s an elderberry leaf in the picture, and they are in full bloom. There’s a Sambucus canadensis ‘York’ that I bought last spring, and ‘Ranch’, from a cutting sold by Norm’s Elderberry Farms each spring. I bought four twigs each of four varieties three years ago, and this was the only one that made it – live and learn. I bought two each of two varieties last year and they have done much better; I just need to figure out where to plant them. elderberry-flower-rs

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is looking good this year; grown from NCBG seed and planted last spring.


Somehow, the seeds I planted for purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) have come up white:


Last thing I did was plant brown-eyed susan (Rudbeckia triloba) from the NC Native Plant Society’s picnic last weekend in the meadow, and an evergreen dwarf form of hobblebush (Agarista populifolia) named ‘Leprechaun’ from a sale at NCBG, planted along the front porch on the eastern side.

I’ve got the Blues…

Five of them, to be exact. I picked up  ‘The Blues’ little bluestem grass in gallon containers last fall, usually on clearance. Schizachyrium scoparium is a clumping grass that you may have noticed in the fall, when it turn an orangey-gold color that lasts all winter. It gets about two feet tall and can be either green or blue. I really like blue grass, so I chose a cultivar.

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Visit to a Plant Conservation Preserve

Did you know that Butner, NC sits on some rare rock? Diabase rock has a fairly high pH and lies close to the surface; it’s often quarried as gravel, and that’s why Sunrock operates a quarry there. Most of the Piedmont has acidic soil (low pH), so that rare rock has uncommon plants for this area that grow over it.

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